Traditionally, conservative treatment of thoracolumbar (TL) burst fractures without neurologic deficit has encompassed the application of an extension brace. However, their effectiveness on maintaining the alignment, preventing posttraumatic deformities, and improving back pain, disability and quality of life is doubtful.

The objective was to identify and summarize the evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to determine whether bracing patients who suffer TL fractures adds benefices to the conservative manage without bracing.

Seven databases were searched for relevant RCTs that compared the clinical and radiological outcomes of orthosis versus no-orthosis for TL burst fractures managed conservatively. Primary outcomes were: (1) Loss of kyphotic angle; (2) failure of conservative management requiring subsequent surgery; and (3) disability and pain outcomes. Secondary outcomes were defined by health-related quality of life and in-hospital stay.

Based on predefined inclusion criteria, only two eligible high-quality RCTs with a total of 119 patients were included. No significant difference was identified between the two groups regarding loss of kyphotic angle, pain outcome, or in-hospital stay. The pooled data showed higher scores in physical and mental domains of the Short-Form Health Survey 36 in the group treated without orthosis.

The current evidence suggests that orthosis could not be necessary when TL burst fractures without neurologic deficit are treated conservatively. However, due to limitations related with number and size of the included studies, more RCTs with high quality are desirable for making recommendations with more certainty.