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Sacral Fracture

What is a sacral fracture?

A sacral fracture is a break in your sacrum. The sacrum is a triangle-shaped bone that is found at the bottom of the spine.

What causes a sacral fracture?

Sacral fractures are usually caused by an injury to the sacrum.

  • Intense activities, such as long distance running or high intensity athletic training

  • Car accidents

  • A fall from a great height

What increases my risk for a sacral fracture?

  • Older age

  • A sacral defect, such as spina bifida or legs that are different lengths

  • Diseases that affect your bones, such as osteoporosis, Paget disease, or bone cancer

  • Leg surgery, a liver transplant, or radiation therapy

  • Thyroid disease

  • Use of certain medicines, such as steroids

  • Increased activity, a sudden change in an athletic training program, or use of poor fitting or improper footwear

What are the signs and symptoms of a sacral fracture?

  • Low back, buttock, or hip pain

  • Pain in the front of your thigh and your groin

  • Bruising and swelling around the sacral area

  • Bowel or bladder conditions, sexual problems, or weakness of the lower limbs

How is a sacral fracture diagnosed?

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your sacrum. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your sacrum. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with any metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • X-rays: You may need x-rays of the sacrum to check for broken bones or other problems in your hip.

  • Bone scan: This is a test done to look at the bones in your body. The bone scan shows areas where your bone is diseased or damaged. You will get a radioactive liquid, called a tracer, through a vein in your arm. The tracer collects in your bones. Pictures will then be taken to look for problems. Examples of bone problems include fractures (breaks) and infection.

How is a sacral fracture treated?

Treatment will depend upon the kind of fracture that you have. Mild sacral fractures that were caused by increased activity may be treated with rest alone. Medicine to decrease pain may be given so that you can return to your usual activities as soon as possible. After your fracture has healed, you may need an exercise program to increase your flexibility. Severe sacral fractures may require surgery to place your bones in their normal positions. During this surgery, caregivers may check for spinal cord problems.

What are the risks of a sacral fracture?

Limited movement may increase your risk of a blood clot in your leg or arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Any injury to your vertebrae (bones in your spine) may also affect your spinal cord. Your spinal cord lies in the center of your vertebrae. Without treatment, a sacral fracture may lead to bladder or bowel problems, sexual problems, or weakness of the lower limbs.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have pain or swelling in your low back area, hip, or buttock that is worse or does not go away.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have problems controlling your urine or bowel movements.

  • You have increased swelling, pain, or redness in your lower back.

  • You have trouble moving your legs or they feel weak.

  • Your legs are numb, or you cannot feel them.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.

  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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