NASCAR driver Aric Almirola, 33, fractured his T5 vertebra in a crash last Saturday at the Kansas Speedway. He is expected to fully recover and return to racing in 8 to 12 weeks.
Any sooner than that and he risks further injury and potential paralysis if he’s in another accident.
Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine in Charlotte, NC is treating him for his back injury. There is no information on the type of procedure, in any, Almirola will undergo to treat his back.
There are several non-surgical treatments for a compression fracture. Rest, bracing to immobilize the spine and physical therapy is often all that is needed to heal a broken vertebra, especially in someone as young as Almirola. If non-surgical treatments fail to heal the compression fracture, surgeons may perform a procedure known as a kyphoplasty.
Patients who have osteoporosis – a condition where the bones become brittle and fragile – are more likely to have a spinal compression fracture, making them prime candidates for a kyphoplasty.
What is a Kyphoplasty?
The purpose of a kyphoplasty is to reduce pain, stabilize the vertebra and restore it back to its normal height. During a kyphoplasty, the surgeon uses X-ray imaging to guide a narrow tube through a small incision into the collapsed vertebra. A balloon is inserted through the tube and into the vertebra. The balloon is inflated to restore the collapsed vertebra. The balloon is deflated leaving behind a cavity. Bone cement is injected into the cavity until it is full. When the cement hardens it creates an internal cast inside the vertebra. Most patients notice an immediate improvement following surgery.