Doctors use the term ‘Lumbar burst fracture’ as a phrase to describe a spinal injury in which the vertebral body becomes significantly compressed.

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Lumber Burst Fracture

Definition of a Burst Fracture

  • Lumber Burst Fractures describe a type of high-energy traumatic vertebral fracture induced by flexion of the spine, which causes a compression force across the anterior and middle column of the vertebrae, causing the bone to enter into the spinal canal and crush the nerve components.
  • A CT scan of the spine will confirm a fracture and provide information to repair the fracture by surgery.
  • Depending on whether the patient displays nerve damage and the stability of the fracture, the doctors will consider bracing or surgical decompression and stabilization.

A Lumbar burst fracture describes a spinal injury in which the vertebral body becomes compressed. These injuries usually occur because of significant trauma, such as a car accident or a fall from a height. A vertebra can become crushed if a lot of force gets applied vertically to the spine. When only the front section of the spine gets crushed, a wedge-shaped compression fracture results. A Lumbar Burst Fracture, on the other hand, occurs when the vertebral body gets compressed in all directions. The word “burst” refers to the vertebral body’s edges spreading out in all directions.

For two reasons, doctors consider a burst fracture far more serious than a compression fracture. The spinal cord can get injured because the bony edges stretch out in all directions. A bone fragment that pushes out and bruises the spinal cord might cause paralysis or partial nerve damage. The spine also becomes less stable than a compression fracture because the whole border of the vertebral body gets crushed.

Questions and Answers

What constitutes a Lumbar Burst Fracture?

A lumbar burst fracture refers to a type of spinal fracture that typically occurs in the lower back (lumbar spine). It involves the vertebral body, where the front and middle portions of the vertebra become compressed or shattered, while the back part remains intact. The cause normally relates to high-energy trauma, such as a fall from a height or a car accident.


What symptoms does a person with a Lumbar Burst Fracture show?

Symptoms of a lumbar burst fracture can vary depending on the severity of the injury, but common signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe back pain localized to the lower back
  • Limited mobility and difficulty bending or twisting the spine
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the lower extremities
  • Muscle weakness or difficulty walking
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control in severe cases.

Please note that the presence and severity of symptoms may differ from person to person, and therefore, a spine expert’s medical evaluation becomes necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

How do doctors treat a Lumbar Burst Fracture?

The treatment approach for lumbar burst fractures depends on several factors, including the extent of the fracture, the presence of neurological symptoms, and the overall health of the patient. Treatment options may include:

  • Non-surgical management: For stable fractures without significant spinal cord compression or neurological deficits, our doctors will suggest non-surgical treatment. This can involve pain management with medications, back bracing to provide support and immobilization, and a period of rest followed by a gradual return to activity.
  • Surgical intervention: In cases of unstable fractures or when spinal cord compression or neurological deficits exists, our doctors will recommend surgery. Surgical options can include decompression (removal of bone fragments pressing on the spinal cord or nerves) and stabilization (fixation of the fractured vertebrae with instrumentation, such as rods, screws, or plates). The specific surgical approach will depend on the individual case and the surgeon’s expertise.
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Nerve Injury

A Lumbar Burst Fracture can cause nerve damage ranging from no harm to total paralysis. The amount of force present at the moment of the injury and the level of spinal canal damage determines the severity of nerve damage. When more bone fragments penetrate the spinal canal, more spinal cord function occurs. Below the level of the damage, this might result in a loss of strength, feeling, or reflexes. Paralysis of the legs and loss of bowel and bladder control occurs as a result of a burst fracture at the intersection of the thoracic and lumbar spines. Only partial paralysis or reflex loss occurs with a minor spinal cord injury. And transitory symptoms or partial nerve damage occur with moderate burst fractures.

Severe Pain From a Lumbar Burst Fracture

Severe Lower Back PainBurst fractures produce a lot of pain. The pain usually comes from the area where the fracture occurs in a person’s back. However, pain in the legs may occur as a result of the damaged nerve network. When the spinal cord becomes compressed, many patients experience an electric shock-like sensation in their legs. The majority of individuals with a  fracture can not walk right away due to the horrible pain.

Symptoms of a Lumbar Burst Fracture

Symptoms of a Lumbar Burst Fracture include the following:

  • Back pain that appears moderate to severe and becomes worse with movement
  • Fatigue, numbness, and tingling
  • Change in bowel control loss


Doctors find burst fractures during a patient’s exam in the emergency room at a hospital or medical institution after serious trauma. Doctors will need to know how the injury happened and will also look for any hidden injuries. To confirm a diagnosis, the doctor may conduct the tests listed below:

  • X-ray (also known as plain films): An X-ray test produces pictures of bones using X-rays. X-rays do not show spinal nerves, discs, and ligaments, as well as most cancers, vascular problems, and cysts. X-rays analyze bone anatomy, as well as the curvature and alignment of the vertebral column. X-rays can check for spinal dislocation or slippage (also known as spondylolisthesis), kyphosis, scoliosis, and local and general spine balance.  Also, X-rays can also detect specific skeletal anomalies including bone spurs, disc space constriction, vertebral body fracture, collapse, or erosion. Dynamic, or flexion/extension X-rays (X-rays that show the spine moving) evaluate whether any abnormal or excessive movement or instability exists.
  • CT scan: a diagnostic imaging method that employs X-rays and computer technology to create pictures of any region of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. General X-rays appear less detailed than CT scans.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) generates pictures of organs and structures within the body using a combination of powerful magnets, radiofrequency, and a computer. MRIs accurately view the spinal cord.

Risk Factors

Major trauma, such as a car accident or a hard fall, can produce a Lumbar burst fracture in a healthy spine. Burst fractures occur after a traumatic incident to the spine and often when the spine previously underwent a disease.

Treatments for a Lumbar Burst Fracture

Doctors see a Lumbar burst fracture as an injury that usually needs quick medical attention. If the burst fracture does not cause nerve or structural damage, the doctor may choose a nonsurgical treatment. If the burst fracture weakens the spine or caused compression of the spinal cord or nerves — leading to nerve damage — the doctor may suggest surgery. The treatment must always prioritize the patient’s needs based on the following choices.

  • Decompression surgery involves the physician removing a bone compressing against the spinal cord or adjacent nerve roots.
  • By removing the lamina (a technique known as a laminectomy) or the vertebral body (a procedure known as a corpectomy), the doctor will reduce pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
  • A spinal fixation and fusion provide the tools for a surgeon to restore the spine’s strength. The surgeon applies grafting material to allow bones to fuse together in these procedures. Doctors use Implants, such as screws and rods, to keep the spine in place while the bones fuse.


Lumbar burst fractures occur frequently. So, a thorough physical exam along with imaging tests should provide the doctor with enough information to correctly diagnose a lumbar burst fracture. In terms of a healthy spine and its nerves, lesions, and potential for kyphosis, doctors will classify the lumbar spine as stable or unstable. Each patient gets treated based on the severity of the lesions. Patients with stable fractures, no nerve damage, and kyphosis of fewer than 35 degrees should get non-surgical treatment. If a ligament appears as a problem, patients should undergo an MRI scan. Surgical treatment for unstable fractures should follow standard procedures. However, several surgeons lately proposed using instrumentation without fusion.  This treatment and its outcomes have not yet been analyzed using a large population. Finally, regardless of treatment, the doctor’s goals remain the same — stabilizing the spine, preserving function, and restoring balance. 

Choose the experts at the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute

The Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute with offices in DallasPlano, and Frisco, Texas is a Premier Scoliosis Treatment Center.  We have top-rated, board-certified, fellowship-trained doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating Scoliosis, Complex Spine Issues, and Spine Revision for both children and adults.

Finally, our doctors specialize in providing solutions even when other specialists claim nothing can be done.  Please note that we have successfully treated over 100,000 patients and carried out over 16,000 surgeries. We offer hope and deliver solutions.  Call us today.


Health Central: Burst Fracture



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