Risk of thoracolumbar fractures doubled in victims of motor vehicle collisions with cervical spine fractures

J Trauma. 2006 Sep;61(3):686-7. doi: 10.1097/01.ta.0000196925.99822.37.


Background: An association between cervical fractures and thoracolumbar fractures after blunt trauma has long been assumed, but not adequately demonstrated. We sought to determine the actual association between these injuries in a large nationwide data set.

Methods: The National Trauma Databank (NTDB) was queried for victims of blunt vehicular trauma with at least minimal injury. An odds ratio was calculated for the association between cervical spine fractures and thoracolumbar fractures.

Results: Overall 190,183 NTDB patient records met the criteria of a motor vehicle crash with more than minimal injury. Of these 7.51% (14,292) had cervical spine fractures, 4.73% (8,996) had thoracic spine fractures, 5.93% (11,280) had lumbar spine fractures, and 9.79% (18,623) had either thoracic or lumbar fractures. Of patients with a cervical spine fracture, 13.06% (2,433) also had a thoracic or lumbar fracture, whereas among patients without cervical spine fracture only 6.91% (11,859) had a thoracolumbar fracture. The odds ratio (OR) for a thoracolumbar fracture in the presence of a cervical spine fracture was 2.02 (p < 0.0001) (95% confidence interval 1.9318-2.1201).

Conclusion: These data confirm a strong association between cervical spine fractures and thoracolumbar fractures after blunt vehicular trauma, and support the practice of imaging the complete spine when a cervical fracture is identified.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Multiple Trauma*
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Spinal Fractures* / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / injuries*