Human body is an engineering marvel and like any other machine, the efficiency of the human body decreases with age. The skeletal system is no exception to it and our bones get weaker with age making them prone to fractures. Osteoporosis is a disease that fast forwards the bone weakening and people with this condition are more likely to get spinal fractures.
Dr. Manish Vaish, Director Neurosurgery, Max Super-Specialty Hospital, Vaishali, Ghaziabad, says, “Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which there is a continuous weakening of bones without any visible symptoms until there is a fracture. Osteoporosis most commonly results in spinal fractures which are also known as vertebral compression fractures. Approximately 17.9% of people above 50 years of age suffer from vertebral fractures.”
Though spinal fractures are often seen in the elderly, they can affect any person with low bone mineral density. 31 pairs of spinal nerves that control motor and sensory functions connected with the spinal cord, which is protected by vertebrae. Any change in vertebrae anatomy directly has a neurological impact, which can make a person disabled.
“Spinal fractures often result in back pain, which gets worse with any movement and relives on rest. These fractures mostly occur in the lower spine and if the fracture is severe enough it can result in neurological symptoms like radiating pains. Pain radiation often depends on the affected nerve. Physical examination is important in spinal fracture patients. It helps in determining whether nerves are involved or not. People with nerve involvement often have symptoms like loss of sensation, muscle weakness, and changes in reflex.”, added Dr. Vaish.
Back pain in old age must not be ignored as it can be a sign of osteoporosis and a spinal fracture. It is always wise to seek a doctor’s opinion at the earliest to prevent long-term disability.
Elaborating on Diagnosis & Management, Dr. Vaish said, “Imaging tests such as X-ray & MRI are often required to confirm the diagnosis. Once confirmed, the management depends on the extent of the fracture. Some people may qualify for medication only while others may need surgery. Earlier extensive procedures were the only option for the patients. Scientific advancements have provided a minimally invasive alternative for these patients in the form of vertebral augmentation. Kyphoplasty and Vertebroplasty are two vertebral augmentation procedures available for the treatment of vertebral fractures. In kyphoplasty, the surgeon makes a small incision to insert a balloon tamp at the fracture site. By inflating the balloon, a bone cavity is created, which is filled with bone cement to correct the deformity. The cement hardens quickly and acts as an internal cast. In contrast to Kyphoplasty, balloon tamp is not used in vertebroplasty, and cement is inserted directly at the fracture site. Choice of surgery depends on the patients’ condition and the operating surgeon. Both surgeries have an excellent prognosis and patients return to normal life soon after surgery.”