Incomplete burst fractures of the thoracolumbar spine: a review of literature Academic Article uri icon


  • The purpose of this review was to analyze the biomechanical basis of incomplete burst fractures of the thoracolumbar spine, summarize the available treatment options with evidence from the literature, and to propose a method to differentiate fracture severity.The injury pattern, classification, and treatment strategies of incomplete burst fractures of the thoracolumbal spine have been described following a review of the literature. All level I-III studies, studies with long-term results and comparative studies were included and summarized.Details of five randomized control trials were included. Additionally, three comparative studies and two studies with long-term outcomes were detailed in this review. The fracture severity reported in the included studies varied tremendously. Most classification used did not adequately describe the complexity of fracture configuration. A wide variety of treatment strategies were outlined, ranging from non-operative therapy to aggressive surgical intervention with combined anterior-posterior approaches. Thus, the treatment of incomplete burst fractures of the thoracolumbar spine is quite diverse and remains controversial.Incomplete burst fractures can differ tremendously regarding the degree of instability they confer to the thoracolumbar spine. Based on a detailed review of the literature, it is clear that good results can be obtained with both non-operative and operative strategies to treat these injuries. In the authors' opinion, the intervertebral disc plays a key role in determining the long-term clinical and radiological outcome. Thus, an incorporation of the intervertebral disc pathology into the existing classification systems would be a valuable prognostic factor.

publication date

  • 2017