Stabilization devices such as cervical collars and backboards protect the spine from further injury when an accident victim has suffered a vertebral fracture. It is difficult for an EMT in the field to judge the extent of injury to an accident victim's neck and back. Spinal fractures can only be diagnosed in the hospital. So, until a complete evaluation is done in the emergency room, the rescue worker must assume there has been an injury and act accordingly.
In the hospital, imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs, and x-rays are used to detect vertebral fractures. The doctor will also perform neurological tests to determine if there has been an injury to the spinal cord or nerves.
Extension fractures are the second type of vertebral fracture. The name refers to the fact that these injuries occur when the spine is extended - the vertebra is literally pulled apart. Extension fractures commonly occur when the upper body is violently thrown forward in a Kansas City head-on car crash while the lower body is held in place by a lap-only seat belt.
Symptoms include pain and swelling around the site of the fracture. If the nerve was damaged, the injury victim may feel weakness, numbness or pain in the arms and legs. If there is severe nerve damage, there may be difficulty walking or moving, difficulty controlling the bowels or bladder, or paralysis.
In many cases, vertebral extension fractures are treated non-surgically. The victim's spine is immobilized in a cast or back brace for about 12 weeks. However, if there is damage to the nerves, ligaments, or discs of the spine, surgery is necessary. After either type of treatment, the accident victim will need extensive physical therapy before he can resume his normal activities. In some cases, the Missouri accident victim is left partially paralyzed.
Vertebral extension fractures are severe car crash injuries that require months of treatment. However, after a Kansas City car crash, it may be difficult to make recovering from your injuries your first priority - especially if you are worried about the increasing amount of medical bills.
Read more about Spinal Fractures in Part 3 of this series.
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