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Eur Spine J. 2010 Mar;19 Suppl 1:S2-7. doi: 10.1007/s00586-009-1114-6. Epub 2009 Oct 23.

Classification of thoracolumbar fractures and dislocations.

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MEM Research Center for Orthopaedic Surgery, Institute for Evaluative Research in Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Berne, Stauffacherstrasse 78, 3014, Bern, Switzerland.


A classification of injuries is necessary in order to develop a common language for treatment indications and outcomes. Several classification systems have been proposed, the most frequently used is the Denis classification. The problem of this classification system is that it is based on an assumption, which is anatomically unidentifiable: the so-called middle column. For this reason, few years ago, a group of spine surgeons has developed a new classification system, which is based on the severity of the injury. The severity is defined by the pathomorphological findings, the prognosis in terms of healing and potential of neurological damage. This classification is based on three major groups: A = isolated anterior column injuries by axial compression, B = disruption of the posterior ligament complex by distraction posteriorly, and group C = corresponding to group B but with rotation. There is an increasing severity from A to C, and within each group, the severity usually increases within the subgroups from .1, .2, .3. All these pathomorphologies are supported by a mechanism of injury, which is responsible for the extent of the injury. The type of injury with its groups and subgroups is able to suggest the treatment modality.

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