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Inj Control Saf Promot. 2003 Sep;10(3):155-64.

Neck injuries among the elderly in Sweden.

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Department of Aeronautics, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.


Neck injuries are some of the most important injuries as they have the potential to influence the spinal cord. A previous national survey of neck injuries in Sweden revealed that injury incidence was increasing for the population over 65 years of age, although it was decreasing for the population as a whole. The aim of this study was therefore to further clarify the magnitude, severity, and external causes of neck injuries in the elderly people in Sweden. A national incidence study, with focus on the age group above 65 years, was undertaken with data from the injury surveillance program at the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. The investigation includes cervical vertebral fractures reported between 1987 and 1999, and cervical soft tissue injuries from 1997 to 1999. Data in the hospital discharge register were reported in ICD9 from 1987 to 1996, while data from 1997 to 1999 were reported in ICD10. During the study period 4168 cervical injuries occurred of which 341 were fatal. People above 65 years of age made up 17% of the population and sustained 30% of all cervical injuries and 43% of all fatal cervical injuries. Half of the cervical injuries were axis (C2) fractures. Lower vertebral fractures occurred in 16% of the cases and atlas (C1) fractures in 11%. The cervical soft tissue injuries amount to 19% of all injuries. Fall accidents account for the majority (71%) of the accidents. There is an increasing trend for fall accidents resulting in neck injuries. The male population has a higher incidence for neck fractures than females, disregarding the external cause of injury. The upper cervical injuries are the most common, have the longest hospital treatments, and seem to be caused mainly by low energy falls. Further research is needed to understand the mechanisms of these injuries and in this aspect engineering could contribute with valuable knowledge, through accident simulations with numerical models. The increasing incidence of fall injuries calls for further preventive actions. The public sector should implement preventive strategies to reduce the number of extrinsic accidents, while the health care sector should focus on preventing intrinsic accidents with individual actions for each patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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