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Paediatr Child Health. 2008 Apr;13(4):279-83.

The spectrum of seat belt syndrome among Canadian children: Results of a two-year population surveillance study.

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Department of Pediatrics, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec.



Seat belts have been proven to save lives. However, if they are not properly fitted, 'seat belt syndrome' can occur. The aim of the present study was to describe injuries encountered in Canadian children with seat belt-associated injuries.


Canadian paediatricians and paediatric subspecialists were surveyed monthly through the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program. Children younger than 18 years of age who were restrained in motor vehicles at the time of a collision, with abdominal or thoracolumbar spine injuries, were included. The children may have been restrained in child safety seats, booster seats, or two- or three-point seat belts.


Twenty-eight children, between two and 16 years of age, with injuries compatible with seat belt syndrome were reported in Canada between September 2003 and August 2005. Although 12 children were younger than eight years of age, only one was restrained in a booster seat and only four of the older children were properly restrained with a three-point seat belt. Twenty-four children had abdominal injuries. Of these, 18 had stomach and/or intestinal injuries and 11 had solid organ injuries. Twelve patients had a spinal fracture, including only five Chance-type fractures. Seven patients presented with paraplegia, and none of them recovered.


In Canada, over a two-year period, 28 children were reported to have sustained injuries consistent with seat belt syndrome; seven of these children remained paraplegic. These results emphasize the necessity to review restraints in motor vehicles to adequately protect children.


Abdominal injuries; Booster seat; Child; Seat belt; Spinal cord injury

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