Send to

Choose Destination
J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Jul;75(1):135-9.

Evaluation of the risk of noncontiguous fractures of the spine in blunt trauma.

Author information

Department of Surgery, Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Washington, USA.



There is significant debate over the risk of additional noncontiguous (NC) fractures among blunt trauma patients with an identified spinal column injury, often prompting routine full-spine imaging. We sought to determine the incidence of NC spinal fractures and the relationship between injury pattern and mechanism.


A review of all adult blunt trauma patients from the 2010 National Trauma Data Bank with a spine fracture. Patient demographics, mechanism of injury, and frequencies of all combinations of spinal fractures were analyzed.


Among 654,052 blunt trauma patients, 83,338 (13%) had a diagnosed spine fracture. The mean (SD) Injury Severity Score (ISS) was 15 (11). Of these, 7% (5,496) sustained spinal cord injury, and 17% (14,413) underwent spinal surgery during their index hospitalization. Among those with spinal column fractures, the overall incidence of NC fractures was 19% and was associated with severe truncal injuries, primarily involving the chest. The relative incidences of cervical, thoracic, and lumbar fractures were 41% (34,480), 37% (30,383), and 43% (35,778), respectively. Rates of NC fractures of the spine included 9% cervicothoracic (7,406), 4% cervicolumbar (3,415), and 10% thoracolumbar (7,929). The slight majority (57%) of patients with spinal fractures sustained high-velocity trauma compared with 43% associated with low-velocity trauma. However, NC fractures of the spine were strongly associated with high-velocity trauma.


Spine fractures are relatively common with blunt trauma, and approximately 20% of patients with a spinal column fracture will have an NC fracture. NC fractures were associated with other severe injuries and should be mainly suspected and investigated in high-velocity mechanisms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer
Loading ...
Support Center