Study objective: We sought to characterize demographics and injury patterns among patients undergoing emergency department cervical spine radiography for blunt traumatic injury.
Methods: All patients with blunt trauma undergoing cervical spine radiography at 21 centers were enrolled in this prospective, observational study. Patients' date of birth, age, sex, and ethnicity were noted before cervical spine radiography.
Results: Demographic factors associated with cervical spine injury, present in 818 of 33,922 patients, included the following: age of 65 years or older (relative risk [RR] 2.09; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.77 to 2.59); "other" ethnicity (RR 1.79, 95% CI 1.46 to 2.19); male sex (RR 1.72, 95% CI 1.48 to 2.00); and white ethnicity (RR 1.50, 95% CI 1.31 to 1.72). Hispanic ethnicity (RR 0.64, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.79), female sex (RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.67), black ethnicity (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.66), and age of less than 18 years (RR 0.39, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.55) were associated with reduced risk of cervical spine injury.
Conclusion: Among patients undergoing ED cervical spine radiography, cervical spine injury is more common among the elderly, male subjects, and patients of white or "other" ethnicity. Because cervical spine injury occurs in patients in all demographic categories, however, this information cannot be used to select individual patients who should or should not undergo imaging.