4 Common Car Accident Injuries That May Require Back Surgery
Fact checked by Clayton Hasbrook J.D. | Updated on February 22, 2016
Even a low-speed car accident can cause debilitating back injuries, some of which may ultimately require one or more surgeries to repair or alleviate. In this article, we will count down four of the most common back injuries (and related surgeries) caused by crashes and collisions – including their average medical costs.
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), Vertebral Fractures, Bulging Discs, and Herniated Discs
The spinal cord is a long, tube-shaped bundle of nerves whose role is to transmit messages between the brain and the rest of the body. When the spinal cord is damaged, this functionality is diminished, often resulting in partial to full paralysis.
According to Mayo Clinic, one of the country’s best-known and most highly regarded nonprofit medical research groups, automotive accidents rank among the leading causes of spinal cord injury (SCI), accounting for about 35% of all SCI cases in the United States. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates that about 12,500 people sustain spinal cord injuries annually, so if Mayo Clinic’s figures are accurate, that means car accidents are responsible for roughly 4,375 new cases of SCI in the United States every year, or about a dozen new cases every day.
Depending on which portion of the spinal cord an injury affects, the medical consequences of SCI may include incontinence, paralysis, chronic pain, loss of sensation, reduced mobility, difficulty balancing, respiratory problems, sexual dysfunction, and depression.
Other than SCI, common back injuries resulting from car crashes include:
- Bulging Disc – Between each vertebra is a structure called a disc: a squishy pad filled with viscous, jelly-like fluid, which functions primarily as a shock-absorber. When a car accident victim sustains a powerful blow to the back, as often happens in rear-end collisions, one or more discs can start to bulge outward, a condition which can lead to numbness, weakness, and pain.
- Herniated Disc – There’s a common misconception that the terms “bulging disc” and “herniated disc” are interchangeable and refer to the same condition, which is inaccurate. When a bulging disc ruptures, causing the fluid inside to be physically squeezed out, it becomes a herniated disc.
- Vertebral Fracture – A vertebral fracture is a broken or cracked vertebra, causing the bone to sink into itself or crumble into pieces. Effects may include reduced mobility, reduced sense of balance, and chronic back pain, which can lead to chronic insomnia and/or depression.
Back Surgeries Associated with Car Accident Injuries
Unfortunately, people who suffer serious back or spine injuries often require surgery to repair or alleviate the problem. Some common examples of back surgeries after a car accident include:
- Discectomy – In a discectomy, the surgeon completely removes the injured portion of a herniated disc, which relieves pain by alleviating pressure on the spine. The cost of a discectomy can range anywhere from $15,000 to $75,000 depending on whether the procedure also necessitates spinal fusion surgery (see below).
- Kyphoplasty – In medical terminology, the suffix “-plasty” refers to reshaping or remodeling a body part. The prefix “kypho-” means a hump, as in a slouching back. To perform a kyphoplasty, which is used to repair vertebral fractures, the surgeon will puncture your skin and use a fine needle to insert a medical-grade balloon into the damaged vertebra. The balloon is then inflated, creating a hollow space which can be filled with bone cement. Once the cement has been injected, the balloon is removed. The average cost of a kyphoplasty is about $16,000.
- A vertebroplasty is a similar procedure which doesn’t use a balloon. The average cost of a vertebroplasty is about $14,500.
- Laminectomy – The purpose of a laminectomy is relieve pain caused by spinal stenosis, where the spinal cord narrows and puts pressure on spinal nerves, which can occur due to back trauma or a herniated disc. The surgeon will remove a portion of the vertebra called the lamina. A laminectomy can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $90,000 on average.
- Spinal Fusion Surgery – Spinal fusion surgery is just what it sounds like: the fusion of damaged vertebra into one single, sturdy bone. Once the associated expenses like MRI scans and physical rehabilitation are factored in, spinal fusion surgery generally costs at least $100,000, in some instances closer to $170,000. A spinal fusion is a major procedure that generally takes about one to three months to recover from.
If you suffered a back injury after a car accident in Oklahoma City or the surrounding area, you may be entitled to compensation for your current and anticipated medical bills, lost earnings, and other expenses. Call the automotive accident injury lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 to learn more about your legal options in a free and confidential legal consultation. We have over 45 years of combined experience handling injury claims in Oklahoma City, Norman, Edmond, and more, including truck accidents and motorcycle accidents.