Spine Injury

Spine Fracture and Spinal Cord Injury

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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. Regardless of how serious your injury is, our goal is to help minimize your pain, avoid serious complications, and improve your quality of life.

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About Spine Injuries

Spine Fractures
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 result from trauma like a car accident or sports injury or from medical issues such as arthritis or cancer. These injuries can be very serious, even resulting in paralysis in some rare cases, and usually require surgery. 

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Treatments for Spine Injuries

Bracing and Collars

Immobilizing your spine may be all you need to promote healing and reduce pain. We offer many different braces, depending on the location and severity of your spine injury. We use braces for stable fractures, which means your bone is not likely to move after we immobilize it.

Spinal Fusion Surgery

We offer several surgical options to restore the integrity of broken vertebra. Our surgeons use bone grafts and screws or rods to form a single, solid piece of bone that is more stable. Whenever possible, we use minimally invasive techniques, meaning we operate through tiny incisions so that you can recover faster and experience less pain and fewer complications. 

Kyphoplasty and Vertebroplasty

These minimally invasive procedures use bone cement to stabilize certain fractures. With kyphoplasty, a small balloon is first inserted into the spine and inflated to create space for the cement. Both surgeries involve X-ray guidance to help spine surgeons be as accurate as possible. These procedures last about an hour and require minimal anesthesia. You will need to lie flat for about an hour afterward but should be able to go home the same day.

Physical Therapy Rehabilitation

After surgery, it’s important to begin physical therapy and occupational therapy to maintain and build strength and function. A physical therapist will educate you on ways to use your spine properly while sitting, standing, and lifting. Physical therapy can also help prevent back pain by teaching core strength exercises, helping to maintain flexibility, and demonstrating proper body mechanics, also known as ergonomics.

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.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

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. 

CT (Computed Tomography)

A series of cross-sectional pictures produce detailed, 3D images of the bony anatomy of your spine. 

Best Hospital for Orthopaedics, Neurosurgery in NC

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 2024–2025.

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, allowing 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 30,000 patients.

Intraoperative Imaging Technology
We offer advanced, intraoperative CT and MRI capabilities. 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. 

Emotional Support
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.

Clinical Research
We have multiple clinical trials -- more than most centers -- in progress to help us learn how to minimize the effects of traumatic injuries. There may be opportunities for you to receive treatments that are not yet widely available.

This page was medically reviewed on 06/07/2022 by