The pediatric trauma C-spine: is the 'odontoid' view necessary?

J Pediatr Surg. 2000 Jun;35(6):994-7. doi: 10.1053/jpsu.2000.6951.


Background/purpose: The "odontoid view" is a difficult and often hazardous film to obtain in young children. The aim of this study was to determine if the transoral roentgenogram is necessary in the evaluation of the pediatric cervical spine.

Methods: A retrospective, multiinstitutional review was performed of all patients 16 years of age and under with documented cervical spine injury in a large metropolitan area during the past decade. Fifty-one children with cervical spine injury were identified from the medical records at 4 hospitals.

Results: The 0- to 8-year-old age group had a significantly higher incidence of upper (occiput to C3) cervical injury than the 9- to 16-year-old age group (67% v 39%; P < .05). In the 0- to 8-year-old group the initial lateral/anteroposterior radiograph made the diagnosis of cervical spine injury in 13 of 15 patients (87%), and in no patients was the transoral odontoid view used to make the diagnosis of cervical spine injury. In only 1 patient in the 9- to 16-year-old age group with a type III odontoid fracture was this view deemed useful. The overall mortality rate in this series was 7.8% with all deaths secondary to associated head injury.

Conclusions: In the 0- to 8-year-old age group in whom the incidence of cervical spine injury is rare but frequently involves the upper cervical spine, the transoral odontoid roentgenogram may be of little value in the evaluation of the spine and should not be considered necessary in "clearing" the pediatric cervical spine. An alternative evaluation of these patients would include an initial lateral and AP radiograph, followed by computed tomography scan.

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Joint Dislocations / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Odontoid Process / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnostic imaging