Why An X-Ray May Not Show Fracture After an Auto Injury

If one of your family members or friends suffered from an auto injury in the past and was taken to the emergency room, the staff most likely ran x-rays and other diagnostic tests. In a small percentage of these cases, the patient with the auto injury is sent home with palliative measures – use cold packs, take an aspirin, and instructions to call in a week if the pain worsens.

But then the inevitable happens. The pain does worsen and now requires one more visit to the doctor. This time the x-ray shows there was a fracture of a vertebrae, and it most likely occurred as an auto injury.

What’s going on here? Did the original doctor in the Emergency Room miss the fracture? After all, there wasn’t another trauma in the week after the auto injury/auto accident.

The problem is that many fractures don’t show up on x-rays immediately after an auto injury is sustained. Here’s a list of reasons:

• The fracture is a hairline fracture, so thin that the x-ray doesn’t show it until the body starts healing it, bringing in cells and creating inflammation to start the repair. (The added cells and inflammation may increase the density of the tissues and alert the physician that there has been a break, although the actual cells will not be seen on x-ray.)

• The fracture is through the growth plate of the bone.

• A small part of the bone ‘buckles’ but there’s no official break.

There are other ways to determine if a bone has been broken. One old-time method is where a tuning fork is placed on the suspected bone. When the receptors for vibration that are activated when there’s a broken bone, the patient will have sudden pain. The pain subsides quickly.

Your Portland chiropractor is an excellent resource for you after an auto injury. If you are experiencing pain after an auto accident come in to our Portland office to see Dr. John Helton today!

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    Dr. Helton, a Portland chiropractor, has been providing chiropractic health care and treatment for accident injuries for over 30 years. Dr. Helton specializes and is an expert in the evaluation and treatment of injuries from auto accidents. He has passed advanced certification training and testing by the Spine Research Institute of San Diego in the evaluation, treatment, and management of injuries from whiplash and brain traumatology.