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Snowboarder Danny Davis Out of the Olympics, Spine Center Tells us What can be done for a Broken Vertebra

Snowboarder  and Olympic hopeful Danny Davis was recently released from a Utah hospital after surgery to fix a broken vertebra.  According to the New York Times, he would have been one of four members of the US halfpipe team.  But that dream ended after he crashed an all-terrain vehicle last month.

While Davis’ exact injury and surgical procedure were not published, he is said to be recovering well and engaged in a “comprehensive rehabilitation program.”   Surgeons at  CUMC’s Department of Neurosurgery Spine Center explain what can be done to fix a broken vertebra.

Until recently, when someone broke a bone in their spine, the only treatment option was rest, pain medicine and a back brace. This isn’t always enough though, particularly when the break is unstable, threatens the spinal cord, or is severe. Luckily, advances in spine surgery have made repairing these fractures more effective, less painful, and with a much quicker recovery time.

When an XRay shows that a vertebra has been fractured, it is imperative that an MRI be taken right away to see if the spinal cord is in danger.  The image at right shows how a bone can break off, move into the spinal canal and compress the spinal cord.

In this case surgeons can go in, clean up bone fragments and stabilize the area by doing a spinal fusion.  Titanium spacers can replace lost bone and segments of the spine are stabilized with screws and rods.

For less severe, but still unstable fractures, surgeons can inject them with cement.  This instantly stabilizes the area and can provide immediate pain relief.

Spinal surgery has come a long way in just this last decade.  More options are available now and the outcome is better than ever.  The Spine Center wishes Danny Davis all the best and a speedy recovery.

To learn more see the Spine Center’s pages on Spinal Compression Fractures and Lumbar Fusion and Fixation.

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