Thoracolumbar "burst" fractures treated conservatively: a long-term follow-up

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1988 Jan;13(1):33-8. doi: 10.1097/00007632-198801000-00008.


This report addresses the long-term results of nonoperative treatment for fractures of the thoracolumbar spine. Forty-two patients meeting specified inclusion criteria were contacted and completed questionnaires. In all cases, nonoperative treatment was the only treatment received. The average time from injury to follow-up was 20.2 years (range, 11 to 55 years). The average age at follow-up was 43 years (range, 28 to 70 years). There were 31 men and 11 women in this series. Seventy-one percent of the injuries were the result of motor vehicle accidents. The most common sites of injury were T12-L2, which accounted for 64% of the injuries. Seventy-eight percent of the patients had no neurologic deficits at the time of injury. At follow-up, the average back pain score was 3.5, with 0 being no pain at all and 10 being very severe pain. No patient demonstrated a decrease in their neurologic status at follow-up, and no patient required narcotic medication for pain control. Eighty-eight percent of patients were able to work at their usual level of activity. Follow-up radiographs revealed an average kyphosis angle of 26.4 degrees in flexion and 16.8 degrees in extension. The degree of kyphosis did not correlate with pain or function at follow-up. Based on this review, nonoperative treatment of thoracolumbar burst fractures remains as a viable alternative in patients without neurologic deficit and can lead to acceptable long-term results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orbital Fractures / complications
  • Orbital Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Orbital Fractures / therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Radiography
  • Skull Fractures / therapy*
  • Spinal Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Injuries / therapy*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / injuries