Objective: We assessed the role of cervical spine flexion-extension radiographs in the acute evaluation of pediatric trauma patients.
Material and methods: We performed a retrospective review of all pediatric trauma patients who underwent static cervical spine radiography followed by flexion-extension radiography during a 22-month period. We reviewed the mechanism of injury, physical examination findings, and patient age, and tabulated the results of initial and follow-up imaging studies.
Results: Two hundred forty seven children (age range, 1.6-18 years; mean age, 11.5 years) with a history of trauma underwent cervical spine radiography followed by flexion-extension radiography. Static cervical spine radiographs revealed normal findings in 224 patients (91%). Flexion-extension radiographs revealed normal findings for all patients with normal findings on cervical spine radiographs. Of 23 children (9%) with abnormal findings on static cervical spine radiographs, seven (30%) had congenital abnormalities visible on flexion-extension radiographs; 10 (43%) had traumatic injuries including fracture, subluxation, or soft-tissue swelling; two (9%) had instability; and six (26%) had questionable abnormalities that were noted on static cervical spine radiographs. In four patients (66%) with abnormal findings on static cervical spine radiographs, flexion-extension radiographs were helpful in ruling out abnormality.
Conclusion: In children with a history of trauma and normal findings on static cervical spine radiographs, additional flexion-extension radiographs are of questionable use.