Oh my aching neck!
September 17, 2013 7:49 PM   Subscribe

A friend was injured in a fall a few days ago. We were told by family members that he had broken his neck and might be paralyzed. His spouse has given some puzzling information about his treatments and my question is if these treatments seem plausible. YANHD etc.

So our very good friend fell about eight feet off a ladder about four days ago, landing mostly face first. He was air-lifted to the hospital. The first night we were told by family that his chance of survival was slim as he had broken his neck at C1-C3 and most of the bones in his face. He had undergone surgery. The next day we were told that he was off the respirator and doing much better, and that they had removed the three broken vertebrae. He was able to talk and move both arms and was lucid. After another surgery today, he has some tingling in his legs so all in all, things are looking much better.

However, we are very puzzled about the statement about the removal of the vertebrae. Is this even possible? He is not in a halo or a cervical collar of any kind. YANHD (you are not his doctor) but does this scenario seem plausible? We don't have access to the doctor ourselves or we would ask. We are just trying to figure out if maybe they have misunderstood. We don't intend to interfere in any way.
posted by tamitang to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible that they removed bone fragments?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:06 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Perhaps he broke the vertebrae at the spineous process (as might happen in whiplash), and they removed those bone fragements?
posted by anonymisc at 8:07 PM on September 17, 2013

Also possible they removed the discs (not the vertebrae) between C1 thru C3 and fused?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:31 PM on September 17, 2013

My neighbor had a vertebra removed and replaced with a cadaver model. So if they've got him somehow stabilized, I could see how it's possible.
posted by notsnot at 8:34 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here is a medical report of a cancer sufferer having three vertebrae removed to excise a tumour; they were replaced with bone grafts. So it's possible.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:53 PM on September 17, 2013

My friend who broke his neck had two vertebrae removed (C4 and C5, I think, but am not positive). They were replaced by new vertebrae crafted from his hipbone.
posted by scody at 10:54 PM on September 17, 2013

While uncomplicated cervical spine fractures are usually treated conservatively, more complex fractures that are offset or displaced will require operative treatment. These procedures can include discectomy with or without partial or full corpectomy. This is a video of a similar procedure. Halos have a very specific place in therapy for c-spine fracture and aren't necessarily used all the time, as they have some important drawbacks including patient discomfort and osteomyelitis.
posted by The White Hat at 7:24 AM on September 18, 2013

I am missing L1.

It was removed after I burst-fractured it (Dashy, meet ground. Ground, meet Dashy). In its place is a titanium cage, which is screwed into the vertebra above and below, T12 and L2. The cage is filled with bone fragments, and the idea is that the whole thing fuses together into a unit over a time. Though many people are given a brace to wear post-op, I was not.

Best wishes to your friend. It's encouraging to hear that he has sensation.
posted by Dashy at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

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