Burst fractures are rare in the pediatric population. There is limited information available on the best treatment for these injuries. The aims of our study were to evaluate the risk of spinal cord injury (SCI) and the potential for neurologic recovery associated with pediatric burst fractures; to compare sagittal alignment between nonoperative and operative treatment; and to determine whether functional outcomes are improved after surgery.
All pediatric patients who sustained thoracic or lumbar burst fractures at 2 institutions between 1991 and 2005 were identified. The medical records were reviewed for patient demographics, injury, treatment, and outcomes. Health Survey data were collected from a subset of patients in both the operative and nonoperative groups.
Thirty-seven patients met the inclusion criteria. There were 17 male patients and 20 female patients, with an average age of 14.6 years (range, 6 to 18 y). Nine patients were treated nonoperatively and 28 patients were treated operatively. The nonoperative group was treated with hyperextension casting or bracing and showed progression of kyphotic deformity from 16.1 degrees at injury to 23.1 degrees at final follow-up. In patients treated operatively, the kyphotic deformity improved from 17.1 degrees at presentation to 7.2 degrees at final follow-up. Twenty-four patients were neurologically intact at presentation, whereas 13 presented with neurologic deficit. Six of 13 patients with SCI had some improvement. The risk of SCI was highest in patients with thoracic-level fractures. The risk of SCI did not correlate with canal compromise. There were no significant differences in functional outcome between the 2 groups.
The risk of neurologic injury in pediatric burst fractures of the spine may be more closely related to the level of injury (thoracic) than the degree of spinal canal compromise. Prognosis for recovery of neurologic injury is related to the severity of the initial neurologic injury.
Level of Evidence
Prognostic level 2.