How long does it take to heal from a compression fracture at T7-8?


Physical Therapy in St. Louis West County for Osteoporosis

Q: My granddaughter is typing this for me. I am in the hospital with a compression fracture at T7-8. While I’m waiting for the doctor to come in and talk with me I’m trying to find out how long it takes to heal up from something like this. It’s pretty painful.

A: Compression fractures are the most common type of fracture affecting the spine. A compression fracture of a spine bone (vertebra) causes the bone to collapse in height. Compression fractures are commonly the result of osteoporosis.

But you are not alone. About 750,000 cases of compression fractures due to osteoporosis occur each year in the United States. Spine bones that are weakened from osteoporosis may become unable to support normal stress and pressure. As a result, something as simple as coughing, twisting, or lifting can cause a vertebra to fracture.

Conservative care is often the first line of treatment. Pain relievers, rest, and physical therapy are ordered. The Physical Therapist will help fit you with a brace to support your spine in an upright position so you won’t heal with deformities. The brace will also help offload the spine a bit and bring some pain relief.

The Physical Therapist will also give you some helpful exercises to maintain spinal alignment and strengthen the core muscles of your trunk. If you don’t already have a regular exercise program for osteoporosis, the therapist will help you get started. Preventing future fractures is an important goal of treatment.

The natural course of bone healing is usually four to six weeks for a vertebral compression fracture. Poor nutrition, smoking (or other tobacco use), and health problems like diabetes can slow down your rate of healing, extending this four to six weeks time line.

Many patients obtain fast relief (within one day to one week) from percutaneous vertebroplasty. Your surgeon may offer this procedure as a possible treatment option.

To perform a vertebroplasty, the surgeon uses a fluoroscope to guide a needle into the fractured vertebral body. A fluoroscope is a special X-ray television that allows the surgeon to see your spine and the needle as it moves. Once the surgeon is sure the needle is in the right place, a special bone cement is injected through the needle into the fractured vertebra. A reaction in the cement causes it to harden very quickly. This fixes the bone so that it does not collapse any further as it heals.

There are some complications with the vertebroplasty procedure. If your surgeon thinks you are a good candidate for vertebroplasty, then he or she will go over all the potential problems that can occur. Many studies have shown that the end-results (six months after the incident) are the same whether you opt for the conservative care versus the surgical treatment.

Reference: Vishal C. Patel and Franco P. Cerabona, MD. The Role of Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty for the Treatment of Osteoporotic Compression Fractures. In Current Orthopaedic Practice. July/August 2010. Vol. 21. No. 4. Pp. 375-377.