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J Pediatr Surg. 2008 Sep;43(9):1718-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2008.06.002.

Cervical spine injury in young children: a National Trauma Data Bank review.

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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



Blunt cervical spine injury (CSI) is rare in the pediatric population. The objective of this study was to better characterize the incidence and type of CSI in young children (age <3 years) using a large, trauma center-based data set.


The National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) was reviewed for the period January 2001 to December 2005 for patients younger than 3 years of age with a blunt CSI (International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, 805x, 806x, 952x). Demographic, injury, and outcome information were reviewed. Data management was performed using SAS (SAS, Cary, NC) and Stata (Stata Corp, College Station, TX). Patients with CSI were compared to patients without CSI of similar age. Means were compared with the Wilcoxon rank sum test, medians were compared with a nonparametric test, and count data were compared with the chi(2) test, with significance set at <.05.


For the period of review, 95,654 young children (age <3 years) with blunt trauma were identified in the NTDB. The overall population had a median Injury Severity Score (ISS) of 4, and most patients (77.01%) had a Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) of 15. There were 1523 (1.59%) patients with a CSI (spinal cord and/or column), including 366 patients (0.38%) with a spinal cord injury (with or without column injury) and 182 (0.19%) with an isolated spinal cord injury (SCIWORA). The CSI and non-CSI populations did not differ regarding median GCS (15 for both groups), but the CSI population had a significantly higher median ISS (14 vs 4, respectively; P < .001). Compared to patients without CSI, the CSI population was more likely to die in the emergency department (2.04% vs 1.25%; P = .007) or be admitted to the intensive care unit (45.3% vs 16.9%; P < .001). Nearly half of all cervical spine fractures (48%) and more than half of cervical spinal cord injuries (53%) were in the lower cervical spine (C5-7). MVCs were the most common injury mechanism (66%) followed by falls (15%). A CSI was observed in 3.2% of all motor vehicle crashes (MVCs).


In this trauma center population, these findings confirm the infrequency of blunt CSI in the youngest (age <3 years) trauma patients. The frequency of injuries to the lower cervical spine is higher than previously appreciated. MVCs are the most likely injury mechanism for this potentially devastating injury.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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