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Thoracolumbar spinal fracture classification systems

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 12 Feb 2020

Thoracolumbar spinal fracture classification systems are numerous and represent attempts by various authors to create systems that allow uniform and reproducible classification and description of thoracolumbar fractures which in turn can help with treatment decision making and prognostication. 

Despite numerous systems being proposed over the past century no universally accepted and clinically implemented system has yet been devised 2.  

The two most commonly used systems are:

  1. AO classification of thoracolumbar injuries
  2. thoracolumbar injury classification and severity score (TLICS)

Each has benefits and drawbacks and each incorporates various features of prior systems in an attempt to classify thoracolumbar fractures in a clinically meaningful way. 

As always, it is not so much a question of which is 'best' but rather which is most suited to accurate communication between members of the treating team. 

Other classification systems that introduced important terminology still used in clinical practice include 2,3:

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