What types of vertebral injuries can happen?

The two main types of injuries to the spinal bones (vertebrae) are fractures and dislocations. A fracture is a break to any part of the vertebrae. A dislocation is when the vertebrae do not line up correctly or are out of place. These may cause damage to the spinal cord. There are many types of fractures and dislocations that can happen.

Compression fracture

Compression fracture

This often results from a hyperflexion (front to back) injury where part of the spinal column is forced forward and downward.

 

Burst fracture

Burst fracture

This is a very serious form of compression fracture. The bone is shattered from the injury. Bone fragments may pierce the spinal cord. It often happens from a downward or upward force along the spine. It often results in serious SCI.

 

Subluxation

Subluxation

The joints in the back part of the vertebrae are weakened by the abnormal movement of the bones. It is a partial dislocation of the vertebrae. This happens if the muscles and ligaments in the spine are injured. It may also cause injury to the spinal cord.

 

Dislocation

Dislocation

This may happen when ligaments are torn or badly stretched from an injury. It causes too much movement of the vertebrae. The vertebrae may “lock” over each other on one or both sides. An SCI can happen; it depends on how much extra movement the torn ligaments allow. The vertebrae that are not lined up correctly are returned to a normal position by a “reduction.” Traction or surgery is often needed for a reduction. A brace, halo vest, or surgery to fuse the vertebrae is sometimes needed to keep the vertebrae lined up correctly.

 

Fracture-dislocation

Fracture-dislocation

This happens when there is a fracture and a dislocation of the vertebrae. There is often serious ligament and soft tissue injury. It may also cause injury to the spinal cord.

Last reviewed: 
March 2018

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