Fracture and Complete Dislocation of the Thoracic or Lumbosacral Spine: Report of Three Cases

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Severe fracture/dislocation of the thoracic (T) or lumbar (L) spine is usually associated with complete neurological dysfunction below the level of injury. Three cases of severe spinal fracture/dislocation are presented in this report. Two of these patients suffered only partial neurological deficit, which improved after open reduction, internal fixation, and bone fusion. Severe fracture/dislocation of the T or L spine may be quite obvious on lateral roentgenograms. Occasionally, however, the fracture site may be obscured by the overlying shoulders, hips, or soft tissues. If no lateral displacement is evident on anteroposterior (AP) films, a false impression of normal alignment may be given, as was the case in two of our patients. A careful interpretation of the AP view will provide the diagnosis in such cases. The subtle AP radiographic changes suggesting fracture/dislocation of the T or L spine are detailed. The mode of injury, physical findings, prognosis, and surgical treatment of such severe injuries are also briefly reviewed.

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