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If you break your back, do you always end up in a wheelchair?

My brother got in a car crash and broke his back in 3 places. He is having surgery next week to try and repair it. It is going to take all day and require 2 nerosurgeons. Will he end up in a wheelchair? Will he live?


Asked by Anonymous at 11:38 PM on Dec. 2, 2010 in Health

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Answers (6)
  • No, of course not.

    If you break your spine, you're dead, straight off.

    If you damage your spinal cord, you may live --paralysed or maybe not.

    If you break the bones in your back (vertebrae) you can survive with nothing but the same problems you get from breaking any other bones --but when they break the bone shards shifting around can do a lot of damage. But they may not. Depends on a lot of factors.

    My fil had 3 neck vertebrae crushed. He's fine. They ache in damp or changing weather.

    Answer by LindaClement at 11:41 PM on Dec. 2, 2010

  • Linda, the spine is the vertebral column and spinal cord. Bones and SC. So breaking it is not necessarily death.
    Do you know what kind of damage? Is his spinal cord in tact? The nerves for the legs leave the spinal cord at the bottom (an area called the cauda equina). If there is spinal damage, there's a good chance it will affect his legs. If the damage is limited to bones, it may not affect his walking. If he wasn't going to survive, he would have passed by now. Some people don't respond well to general anesthesia, and that can be fatal. Only his neurologists can tell you the likely outcomes, because they know what's going on. They won't know anything for sure until they've gotten in there, and even then, it varies. Everyone is different. Hopefully, he'll be fine. Sending positive thoughts your and his ways! Good luck!

    Answer by musicpisces at 11:49 PM on Dec. 2, 2010

  • My FIL fell down the stairs and broke his back in three places, one being the middle, last year, and he's walking on his own, WITH prosthetics that he's always had.

    Answer by Musicmom80 at 11:50 PM on Dec. 2, 2010

  • I have a friend that broke his back skiing and he's just fine now. It all depends on what structure is damaged, if there is any spinal cord/nerve damage, etc. Each case is different.


    Answer by Crafty26 at 12:01 AM on Dec. 3, 2010

  • "If you break your spine, you're dead, straight off." - this is not true. If you break your neck above certain point and damage your spinal cord you can die b/c you sever the nerve innervation to the lungs. But you can sever your spinal cord at the thoracic or lumbar level and live!!


    Answer by Crafty26 at 12:04 AM on Dec. 3, 2010

  • My dad was in a car crash that broke his in two or three places and he's just got pain and stuff, now. The first poster nailed the specifics, though.

    Answer by Mrs.BAT at 12:15 AM on Dec. 3, 2010

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