Although most spine injuries are minor, all require immediate care. If you suspect someone has a back or neck injury, call 911.
Duke’s spine specialists use the latest advances and technology to treat spine fractures and spinal cord injuries. Spine injuries can range from mild to severe, and there are many treatment options. Regardless of how serious your injury is, our goal is to help minimize your pain, avoid serious complications, and improve your quality of life.
About Spine Injuries
When one or more bones in your spine (vertebrae) cracks or breaks, you have a spine fracture, or what’s sometimes called a broken back or broken neck. If your fracture is stable (meaning the spine is still structurally sound), more conservative treatments like temporary bracing may be all you need. If the fracture is unstable, you are more likely to need surgery.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs along the center of your spine. Spinal cord injuries can be the result of trauma like a car accident or sports injury or other medical issues, such as arthritis or cancer. These can be very serious, even resulting in paralysis in some rare cases, and usually require surgery.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
Tests for Spine Injuries
Your back doctor may use one or more of these imaging tests to determine the location and severity of your spine injury. In the case of emergency surgery, our operating room has intraoperative CT and MRI so your surgeon can quickly evaluate your condition. Imaging tests include:
X-rays produce pictures of bones and joints in your back. Your doctor will use this test to locate bone fractures, but a CT or MRI may be needed as well. This test takes about 15 minutes and is virtually painless.
Magnets and radio waves create detailed pictures of your spine, including your discs, nerves, and spinal cord. Images can help identify disc, ligament, and spinal cord damage and injured nerves. This test takes about 30 to 60 minutes and is virtually painless.
A series of cross-sectional pictures produce detailed, 3D images of the bony anatomy of your spine. This test takes about 30 to 60 minutes and is virtually painless.
Why Choose Duke
Highest Level of Emergency Care for Spinal Injuries
Duke University Hospital is a Level I Trauma Center, meaning we provide the highest level of emergency care for spinal injuries. Our trauma center is a regional and national referral center for neck and spine injuries and disorders. Our trauma neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons know how to respond to all types of injuries for the best possible outcome.
Highly Experienced Spine Center
Research shows that hospitals and surgeons who perform more surgeries tend to have better outcomes. Our surgical team performs more than 3,000 spine surgeries every year and sees over 40,000 patients.
Intraoperative Imaging Technology
We offer advanced, intraoperative capabilities with CT and MRI. In the operating room, our surgeons use detailed, 3D pictures of your spine and the tiny nerves and roots of your spinal cord as they work, saving time and increasing accuracy.
It’s not easy to recover from any type of traumatic injury, physically or emotionally. Our psychologist and counselors can help you cope with any emotions you may be experiencing -- such as anger, sadness, anxiety, or grief -- and specialize in working with patients who have suffered traumatic back injuries.
We often have clinical trials in progress to help us learn more about how the spine works and how to minimize the effects of traumatic injuries. There may be opportunities for you to receive treatments that are not yet widely available.
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our orthopaedics, neurology, and neurosurgery programs are nationally ranked, and are the highest ranked programs in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.