<< Cervical Spine Injury: An Evidence-Based Evaluation Of The Patient With Blunt Cervical Trauma (Trauma CME)


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Spinal cord injury is the dreaded result of cervical spine trauma. Spinal cord injury can occur in the absence of cervical spine fractures, and the presence of a cervical spine fracture does not necessarily result in spinal cord injury. The National Spinal Cord Information Database (NSCID) has been collecting epidemiologic data on spinal cord injuries in the United States since 1973.2 According to the NSCID, the number of people living with spinal cord injuries is estimated to be approximately 253,000. The estimated annual incidence of spinal cord injury (SCI), not including those who die at the scene of the accident, is approximately 12,000 new cases each year.2

Historically, spinal cord injuries have been most prevalent in young males. Males are at a much greater risk of suffering from a spinal cord injury than females due to increased risk-taking behavior and alcohol intoxication. Since 2000, 77.8% of spinal cord injuries have occurred in males.2 The average age at time of injury for SCI from 1973-1979 was 28.7 years, with most injuries occurring in patients 16 to 30 years old.2 In recent years, the number of older individuals who suffer from these injuries has been steadily increasing. Since 2005, the average age at the time of injury is 39.5 years, and the percentage of patients older than 60 years at the time of injury has increased from 4.7% before 1980 to 11.5% since 2000.2 The incidence of cervical spine injuries among blunt trauma patients progressively increases with age.2

The pediatric population differs from adults both anatomically and developmentally, which seems to provide some protection against SCI. Children tend to have less exposure to high energy mechanisms of injury and high-risk behaviors when compared to older individuals, which is consistent with the dramatic rise in cervical spine injuries that occur in the late teenage years when most minors are beginning to drive. There are approximately 1000 reported SCIs annually in the pediatric population in the United States.2 Young children are more susceptible to high cervical injuries than older children. Close to 80% of injuries affecting these areas occur in children less than 2 years old.2

Since 2005, the majority of patients with spinal cord injury are victims of motor vehicle collisions or falls. Motor vehicle collisions account for 42% of cases, falls account for 27%, sports-related injuries account for 7.4%, and acts of violence account for approximately 15% of SCIs.2

Publication Information

Lisa Freeman Grossheim; Kevin Polglaze; Rory Smith

Publication Date

April 2, 2009

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