Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Upper Spine FAQ

Question:

I just found out my father is in the hospital with three vertebral compression fractures. The doctors are discussing whether or not to operate. Dad is very resistant to the idea. What would happen if he didn't have the surgery?

Answer:

Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs)can be completely asymptomatic. Asymptomatic means there are no symptoms. The person doesn't even know they have the problem until it shows up on an X-ray. In such cases, there is no pain but deformity of the spine is possible. Over time, the shape of the spine changes because of the bone that is collapsed.

Other patients experience severe back pain that motivates them to try anything for treatment. In many cases, the pain and deformity result in loss of sleep, weight loss, and decreased quality of life. Activites are curtailed by the pain and discomfort. Breathing and respiratory function are also limited by the pain and deformity.

For these reasons, most doctors are treating VCFs more aggressively than in the past. Conservative care may be tried at first. But if pain persists and/or deformity occurs, then surgery is recommended. Bruce M. Frankel, MD, et al. Percutaneous Vertebral Augmentation: An Elevation in Adjacent-Level Fracture Risk in Kyphoplasty as Compared with Vertebroplasty. In The Spine Journal. November 2007. Vol. 7. No. 5. Pp. 575-582.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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