Types of Spinal Fractures

Written by Jason M. Highsmith, MD

There are many different types of spinal fractures: Compression, Burst, Flexion-distraction, and Fracture-dislocation. Each of these types of fractures are described. Other terms your doctor may use to describe a fracture include stable, unstable, minor, and/or major.

Stable and Unstable Fractures

Major and Minor Fractures

One Method to Classify Thoracic and/or Lumbar Spinal Fractures
One method doctors use to classify a spinal fracture in the thoracic, lumbar or thoracolumbar regions of the spine is the Denis Classification method. This method divides the lateral (side) spine into three sections: back, middle and front.

Denis Classification: The Three-column Concept

The three-column concept makes it easier to visualize the extent or severity of a spinal fracture. It also makes it easier to understand why some fractures are more stable than others. For example, if the fracture only affects the front (anterior) column (eg, wedge fracture), the stability of the spine may be sufficient to carry the body's weight. Spinal fractures that affect the anterior and middle column are typically not stable.

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Anatomy of Spinal Fractures