Is the anteroposterior cervical spine radiograph necessary in initial trauma screening?

Am J Emerg Med. 1991 Sep;9(5):421-5. doi: 10.1016/0735-6757(91)90206-y.


The usefulness of the anteroposterior (AP) radiograph of the cervical spine in contributing to the diagnosis of cervical spine injuries in the acute trauma patient was examined in a retrospective study. All cases of cervical spine fracture or dislocation seen at a level I trauma center over a 3-year period and at a rehabilitation center over a 10-year period were reviewed. The lateral radiograph, open-mouth odontoid radiograph, and AP radiograph of each case were sequentially examined by a neuroradiologist (blinded to the original diagnosis) to determine the contribution of each view in making a diagnosis of cervical spine injury. Results of these reviews showed that there were no cases of cervical spine injury evident on the AP view without an obvious corresponding abnormality on the lateral or open-mouth view. It was concluded that the AP view could be dropped from the initial screening radiographic study of the cervical spine in the trauma patient. Only an adequate lateral view and open-mouth odontoid view would then be necessary to initially evaluate the cervical spine in the trauma patient, and decisions to obtain further studies could be based safely on only the lateral and open-mouth views.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Joint Dislocations / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Injuries / epidemiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray
  • Traumatology / methods