Thoracolumbar Fracture

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

A thoracolumbar fracture is a break in one or more of your thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. The vertebrae are the bones that make up your spine. The thoracic vertebrae are the 12 bones between your neck and lower back. They are connected to your ribs and help the ribs move when you breathe. The lumbar vertebrae are the 5 bones between your chest and hips.

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.

RISKS:

Limited movement may increase your risk of a blood clot in your leg or arm. This may become life-threatening. A back brace may cause skin problems in the areas where pressure is applied. If you have surgery, you may bleed more than expected, get an infection, or your spine may be injured. Your spine may not heal normally and you may have chronic pain.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Medicines:

  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain.

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain.

Tests:

  • An x-ray, CT scan, or MRI will be done to check for broken bones or other problems. You may be given contrast dye to help the bones show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • A bone scan is a test done to show 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, and pictures will then be taken.

  • A neurologic exam can show how well your brain works after an injury or illness. Your healthcare provider will check how your pupils react to light. He may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.

Treatment:

Treatment will depend on which bones were damaged and the kind of fracture you have. Thoracolumbar fractures that are mild may be treated with bed rest. For support, you may need to wear a back brace or have a cast made for your back. Sometimes a corset (binder) may be used to support a weak spine. To decrease the load on a broken spine, you may need to use a walker. A severe thoracolumbar fracture may require surgery to return the bones to their normal position.

Physical therapy:

You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.

Learn more about Thoracolumbar Fracture (Inpatient Care)

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