Detection of cervical spine injuries in alert, asymptomatic geriatric blunt trauma patients: who benefits from radiologic imaging?

Ong, Adrian W.; Rodriguez, Aurelio; Kelly, Robert; Cortes, Vicente; Protetch, Jack; Daffner, Richard H.
September 2006
American Surgeon;Sep2006, Vol. 72 Issue 9, p773
Academic Journal
journal article
There are differing recommendations in the literature regarding cervical spine imaging in alert, asymptomatic geriatric patients. Previous studies also have not used computed tomography routinely. Given that cervical radiographs may miss up to 60 per cent of fractures, the incidence of cervical spine injuries in this population and its implications for clinical management are unclear. We conducted a retrospective study of blunt trauma patients 65 years and older who were alert, asymptomatic, hemodynamically stable, and had normal neurologic examinations. For inclusion, patients were required to have undergone computed tomography and plain radiographs. The presence and anatomic location of potentially distracting injuries or pain were recorded. Two hundred seventy-four patients were included, with a mean age of 76 +/- 10 years. The main mechanisms of injury were falls (51%) and motor vehicle crashes (41%). Nine of 274 (3%) patients had cervical spine injuries. The presence of potentially distracting injuries above the clavicles was associated with cervical injury when compared with patients with distracting injuries in other anatomic locations or no distracting injuries (8/115 vs 1/159, P = 0.03). There was no association of cervical spine injury with age greater or less than 75 years or with mechanism of injury. The overall incidence of cervical spine injury in the alert, asymptomatic geriatric population is low. The risk is increased with a potentially distracting injury above the clavicles. Patients with distracting injuries in other anatomic locations or no distracting injuries may not need routine cervical imaging.


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