Cervical spine fractures are potentially deadly conditions that arise after trauma, exaggerated extension or flexion. Gravity depends on the location, stability, and pattern of the injury.
Patients present with symptoms like pain located on the posterior side of the neck, spontaneous or induced by palpation, leading to a decrease of the motion range and paresthesias in the territories of the affected nerves. Neck muscles may be spastic  and tender and an ecchymosis may be present at the fracture site. Muscular spasticity may be persistent if the condition remains undiagnosed . Vertebral malalignment may be visible or palpable.
Clinical examination may find one or more of the following: spinal or neurogenic shock, hypotension with paradoxical bradycardia, fecal incontinence, urinary retention, ileus, priapism, poikilothermia, areflexia, flaccidity, weakness or paresthesias of the arms or legs. Pain may also radiate to the arms and legs and be associated with proprioceptive deficiency and deep tendon reflex loss if spinal cord injury exists. In this case, patients also have difficulty breathing. Distal pulses remain uncompromised.
Unstable fractures are characterized by involvement of more than one vertebral column and increased intervertebral disc space height or interspinous distance. The intervertebral disc space height may also be increased, with having the same significance.
Clinical examination can observe specific cord syndromes. Central cord syndrome is characterized by greater upper extremity deficit compared to lower limb impairment. In anterior cord syndrome, patients present with paralysis that sets in immediately after the injury, while posterior cord syndrome causes disruption of the dorsal nervous columns. Complete spinal cord injury has the worse prognosis and consists of a complete absence of motor and sensorial function.
A frequent type of injury after automobile accidents is whiplash, that may become symptomatic immediately or 6-12 hours afterward. Accuses consist of neck, jaw, interscapular, shoulder or arm pain, reduced motion range of the neck, headache, vertigo, nausea, vision abnormalities and paresthesia in the arms and legs, as well as dysphagia caused by a retropharyngeal hematoma. In this case, neurologic examination reveals reflex hyperactivity and abnormal plantar response .
While evaluating a suspected cervical spine fracture patient, the clinician should not forget to evaluate cranial nerves . The patient should be alert during the examination, and even if so, neurological examination sensitivity may be inadequate , therefore clinical protocols should be followed  and injury severity score should be calculated .
Entire Body System
- Arm Pain
Although the patient certainly sustained a cervical strain/sprain, there was no explanation or diagnosis for the arm pain/numbness/tingling. [chiro.org]
Accuses consist of neck, jaw, interscapular, shoulder or arm pain, reduced motion range of the neck, headache, vertigo, nausea, vision abnormalities and paresthesia in the arms and legs, as well as dysphagia caused by a retropharyngeal hematoma. [symptoma.com]
This condition can cause neck pain/stiffness, arm pain, weakness in the hands, muscle spasms, loss of coordination and sometimes loss of bowel or bladder control. [centerforneuroandspine.com]
- Neck Pain
A 40-year-old woman sought chiropractic care for neck pain and weakness in both arms after a motor vehicle accident. Neck flexion worsened the weakness in her upper extremities, her radiating neck pain, and upper extremity pain. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Consider other serious causes of neck pain. See separate Neck Pain (Cervicalgia) and Torticollis article. [patient.info]
- Spine Pain
The cervical spine has openings that allow arteries to pass blood to the brain. What Cervical Spine Pain Could Mean Neck pain can be debilitating and there is a wide range of possible causes. [centerforneuroandspine.com]
Upon arrival to the emergency room approximately 20 minutes later, the patient was no longer complaining of cervical spine pain and right shoulder weakness, but instead was complaining of left hip pain. [ispub.com]
- Chest Deformity
Cervical spine fractures occasionally cause severe kyphotic deformities, such as chin-on-chest deformities. In such cases, the patients typically exhibit a chronic progression of hyperkyphosis after the traumatic event. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Autonomic hyperreflexia The chronic phase in which spinal reflexes reappear is characterized by autonomic hyperreflexia in a high proportion of patients. [trauma.org]
Hyperreflexia, clonus, Babinski signs, and Hoffmann signs indicate spinal cord compression, although areflexia is common initially in an emergency injury. [orthopaedicsone.com]
- Cervical Radiculopathy
If the nerve is affected, neurological symptoms such as pain and weakness can radiate down the path of the nerve into the arm and/or hand ( cervical radiculopathy ). [spine-health.com]
[…] of a 36-year-old man diagnosed with an isolated cervical spine fracture, where an associated carotid artery lesion was initially overlooked and diagnosis was made after development of a neurological deterioration secondary to a posterior reversible encephalopathy [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Although patients may have no complaints related to neck tenderness, they need to have a radiological evaluation if they have a neurologic deficit, altered sensorial function or other significant injuries, according to Canadian C-Spine Rules and National Emergency X-Radiography Utilization Group  . These rules also apply to children. If sitting and walking are possible and the patient can rotate the head by 45 degrees both ways, the level of suspicion of cervical fracture is diminished.
When the radiological evaluation is considered necessary, all classical five views should be ordered: anteroposterior, oblique, odontoid, swimmer's and cross-table lateral. If available, a computer tomography  or magnetic resonance imaging  examination is useful, being more sensitive. Magnetic resonance is superior in describing ligament and disc lesions. Even if symptoms are limited to the cervical spine, motor vehicle accident victims should have the whole spine examined if a cervical spine fracture is demonstrated . Furthermore, the clinician should keep in mind that C1-C3 spine fractures may be associated with vertebral artery injury .
Individual hospital treatment variation also decreased over the study period. Further clinical studies examining the optimal treatment for spine trauma may lead to continued decreases in treatment variability. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
(The treatments weren't randomly assigned, but were up to the choice of the treating physician.) Dr. Boakye and colleagues compared the short and long-term outcomes of the surgical and nonsurgical treatment groups. [disabled-world.com]
Treatment options Emergency medical care: All victims of trauma should be suspected of a cervical spine injury until proven otherwise and if confirmed, the treatment must be initiated at the scene of the injury. [orthopaedicsone.com]
If there aren’t any neurological symptoms or damage to the brainstem, the prognosis is favorable. [sacramentoinjuryattorneysblog.com]
Incomplete cord injuries (those with some sensory or motor function) have a significantly better prognosis! Perineum examination important as predictor of prognosis! [orthopaedicsone.com]
Complete spinal cord injury has the worse prognosis and consists of a complete absence of motor and sensorial function. [symptoma.com]
(Outcomes/Resolutions) The long-term prognosis of Cervical Fractures depends on the severity of the injury, which can range from complete recovery to total paralysis (quadriplegia) The prognosis is usually good in individuals whose Cervical Fractures [dovemed.com]
[…] and multiple body system manifestations due to the underlying etiology. [icd10data.com]
Reid DC, Henderson R, Sabol L, et al (1987) Etiology and clinical course 0f missed spine fractures. J Trauma 27:980–986 CrossRef PubMed Google Scholar 22. Roberge RG (May 1993) Unstable occult cervical-spine fracture. Letter to the editor. [link.springer.com]
Miller, “Etiology and Clinical Course of Missed Spinal Fractures,” Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care, Vol. 27, No. 9, 1987, pp. 980-986. doi:10.1097/00005373-198709000-00005 [ 13 ] H. Ersmark and P. [dx.doi.org]
(Etiology) Some common causes of Cervical Fractures include: A high-energy impact traumatic event such as an automobile accident A fall from a significant height Participation in any rough or high-impact sport Domestic violence, street fights Location [dovemed.com]
He has since completed further training in emergency medicine, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology and health professional education. [lifeinthefastlane.com]
Mower, “Epidemiology of Cervical Spine Injury Victims,” Annals Emergency Medicine, Vol. 38, No. 1, 2001, pp. 12-16. doi:10.1067/mem.2001.116149 [ 19 ] K. [dx.doi.org]
Patient Population: Prevalence and Epidemiology Knee // Shoulder & Elbow // Hip // Spine // Foot & Ankle // Hand & Wrist Fragility Fractures: Diagnosis and Treatment Shoulder & Elbow The Characteristics of Surgeons Performing Total Shoulder Arthroplasty [amjorthopedics.com]
Ferimento por projétil de arma de fogo na coluna vertebral: estudo epidemiológico [Gunshot wounds of the spine: epidemiological study] Coluna/Columna. 2002; 1(2) :83–7. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
PubMed Google Scholar Leucht P, Fischer K, Muhr G, Mueller EJ: Epidemiology of traumatic spine fractures. Injury. 2009, 40: 166-172. 10.1016/j.injury.2008.06.040. [sjtrem.biomedcentral.com]
Pathophysiology The goals of resuscitation should be stabilization of the cervical spine, prevention of secondary injury, reduction of the fracture as soon as possible and protection of the spinal cord. [trauma.org]
Compared to adults, children have a different fulcrum because of a relatively large head, the vertebrae are not completely ossified, and the ligaments are firmly attached to articular bone surfaces that are more horizontal, making the pathophysiology [emedicine.medscape.com]
The development and use of seatbelts has saved numerous lives and prevented serious injuries in the setting of automobile crashes. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Prevention of Pediatric Spinal Cord and Spinal Column Injury Needless to say, once a spinal cord or spinal column injury occurs in a child, preventive measures are a moot point. [neurosurgery.org]
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