Thoracic and lumbar compression fractures

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  • Also known as a "wedge fracture"
  • Only unstable if posterior ligament complex ruptures (requires a rotational force)
  • Unlikely to cause cord damage

Vertebral fractures and dislocations types

Vertebral anatomy.

Clinical Features

  • Mechanism: axial loading and flexion

Differential Diagnosis

Thoracic Trauma

Lower Back Pain


Compression fracture of the fourth lumbar vertebra post falling from a height.
X-ray of the lumbar spine with a compression fracture of the third lumbar vertebra.
Compression fracture of T12.



  • Suspect instability and obtain CT if:
    • Severe compression (>50% loss of vertebral height)
    • Kyphosis >30deg
    • Rotational component to injury
    • Compression fracture at multiple sites
    • Posterior cortex abnormality


  • Nonoperative:orthosis, calcitonin, biphophanates.
  • kyphoplasty
  • vertebroplasty
  • surgical decompression and stabilization


Home if fracture stable and pain control optimal.

See Also

External Links