The spine team at McKinley Orthopedics, Sports Medicine and Spine is lead by Dr. Kim Driftmier who trained in spine surgery at the world-renowned Harborview Medical Center. This training affords our spine team the ability to see and treat many spine injuries and fractures that have previously needed to be flown out of Fairbanks for proper management. We are pleased to offer Alaskans the ability to remain near home should they need treatment for spinal fractures, dislocations or spinal cord injuries.
Spinal fractures or a dislocation of one or more vertebrae in a spine caused by trauma is considered a serious orthopedic injury. The some of these fractures occur as a result from a high velocity accident and can occur in the neck (cervical spine), mid back (thoracic spine) or low back (lumbar spine). High velocity accidents are associated with trauma from motor vehicle accidents, a fall from height, or sporting accidents.
Fractures of the neck usually occur as a result of high energy trauma and are uncommon in other situations. Any fracture of the cervical spine has serious consequences because of its location in relation to the spinal cord. A cervical fracture can cause bone fragments to pinch and damage the spinal cord or surrounding nerves which branch off of the spinal cord. Damage or injury to the spinal cord can result in paralysis or death. All patients with trauma who develop cervical fractures should be evaluated in an emergency room setting. Patients with high energy trauma or those who lose consciousness also require urgent emergency evaluation and treatment.
Depending on how severe your injury is, you may experience pain, difficulty walking, or be unable to move your arms or legs (paralysis). The most common symptom of a spinal fracture is moderate to severe pain that is increased with movement. Treatment of spinal fractures depends on the type of fracture and the degree of instability. Many fractures heal with non-operative treatment; however severe fractures may require surgery to realign the bones.
Treatment of Spinal Trauma
Treatment for spinal fractures will depend on the location and type of fracture as well as other the amount of neurologic compression. Minor fractures can be treated with bracing. More complex fractures or fractures with spinal cord compression may require traction, surgery, or some combination of the above. For patients with nerve injury or unstable fractures, surgical intervention may be appropriate in order to stabilize the fracture, remove any nerve compression and assist with healing. For most patients, non-surgical treatment is appropriate. Rehabilitation is an essential part to the treatment plan once the spinal fracture has healed. Rehabilitation allows patients to reduce pain and minimize disability with a hopeful return to their functional level before the injury.