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Compression Fractures

What are compression fractures?

A compression fracture is a type of fracture or broken bone that affects your vertebrae, the bones in your back. Compression fractures can cause these bones to collapse, making them shorter in height. In children, compression fractures are almost always due to the use of steroid medications or genetic diseases like osteogenesis imperfecta.

Compression fractures are a sign of weak bones. If your child has a compression fracture he or she is at very high risk of having more fractures.

What are the symptoms of compression fractures?

Sometimes compression fractures cause back pain. Other times they are painless and found only on X-rays. Symptoms include:

  • Slowly worsening back pain - lying on your back may relieve the pain and standing may make it worse
  • Sudden onset of severe back pain

How are compression fractures diagnosed?

Spine X-rays are the most common test used to diagnose a compression fracture. Other possible tests include MRI or a DXA bone density scan.

How are compression fractures treated?

In nearly all cases, children with compression fractures will need to be treated with medications to strengthen their bones and reduce the risk of future fractures.

Types of treatment include:

  • Bisphosphonates to relieve back pain and improve bone density
  • Pain medicine to relieve your back pain
  • Wearing a back brace
  • Physical therapy to help you move better and strengthen the muscles around your spine

Rarely, different types of surgery may be needed if the compression fractures are severe. For instance, a surgeon can inject special cement into the bone through a needle, a procedure called a vertebroplasty. The surgeon may first inflate a small balloon through the needle to help make the vertebra taller, and then fill in the empty space with cement, this procedure is called a kyphoplasty.


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