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Isolated multiple lumbar transverse process fractures with spinal instability: an uncommon yet serious association

  • Pouya AlijanipourEmail author
  • Dylan Greif
  • Nathan H. Lebwohl
  • Joseph P. Gjolaj
Case Report

Abstract

Purpose

Isolated vertebral transverse process fractures of thoracolumbar spine without other vertebral injuries and neurological deficit are generally considered as minor injuries with no concern for associated spinal instability. This report describes a case of multiple lumbar transverse fractures associated with an unexpected yet clinically significant spinal instability.

Methods

A young male presented with right flank pain following being pushed and trapped against the ground by a reversing truck. The neurological examination was normal, and computed tomography (CT) imaging revealed multiple fractures at right transverse processes from L1 to L5, a single left-sided transverse process fracture at L2 and subtle facet joint distraction without other spinal lesions or visceral injuries. The injury was initially deemed as stable requiring symptomatic treatment and in-patient observation. However, discharge upright X-rays taken in a brace showed marked subluxation of L2/L3 and L3/L4 levels.

Results

Magnetic resonance imaging revealed significant discoligamentous injuries involving anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments, annulus fibrosus as well as posterior ligamentous complex. The patient underwent posterior spinal instrumentation and fusion of L1 to L5.

Conclusions

This is the first case description of association of multisegmental lumbar transverse process fractures with notoriously unstable injuries of the major soft-tissue stabilizers of the spine presenting subtle changes on CT images. When a seemingly benign spinal injury is caused by high-energy trauma, careful scrutiny for associated instability is needed. In this case, the standing in-brace X-ray was able to avoid a misdiagnosis and potentially unfavourable outcome.

Keywords

Vertebral transverse process Lumbar spine Fracture Posterior ligamentous complex Stability 

Notes

Funding

No funding was required for this investigation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors do not have any particular disclosure with regard to this investigation.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryUniversity of Miami HospitalMiamiUSA

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