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J Neurotrauma. 2011 Aug;28(8):1515-24. doi: 10.1089/neu.2009.1153. Epub 2011 Jun 9.

Spinal cord injury in the pediatric population: a systematic review of the literature.

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  • 1Research Center, Hôpital Ste-Justine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. stefan.parent@montreal.ca


Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) in the pediatric population is relatively rare but carries significant psychological and physiological consequences. An interdisciplinary group of experts composed of medical and surgical specialists treating patients with SCI formulated the following questions: 1) What is the epidemiology of pediatric spinal cord injury and fractures?; 2) Are there unique features of pediatric SCI which distinguish the pediatric SCI population from adult SCI?; 3) Is there evidence to support the use of neuroprotective approaches, including hypothermia and steroids, in the treatment of pediatric SCI? A systematic review of the literature using multiple databases was undertaken to evaluate these three specific questions. A search strategy composed of specific search terms (Spinal Cord Injury, Paraplegia, Quadriplegia, tetraplegia, lapbelt injuries, seatbelt injuries, cervical spine injuries and Pediatrics) returned over 220 abstracts that were evaluated and by two observers. Relevant abstracts were then evaluated and papers were graded using the Downs and Black method. A table of evidence was then presented to a panel of experts using a modified Delphi approach and the following recommendation was then formulated using a consensus approach: Pediatric patients with traumatic SCI have different mechanisms of injury and have a better neurological recovery potential when compared to adults. Patients with SCI before their adolescent growth spurt have a high likelihood of developing scoliosis. Because of these differences, traumatic SCI should be highly suspected in the presence of abnormal neck or neurological exam, a high-risk mechanism of injury or a distracting injury even in the absence of radiological anomaly.

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