Cervical spine injury in pediatric trauma occurs rarely; however, there is significant potential for considerable morbidity when it does occur. Screening for cervical spine injuries has been shown to be most sensitive in adult trauma centers when combined with reliable physical examination findings. Because pediatric trauma patients suffer from a different range of injuries than adults, and often are not reliable due to age limitations or associated head injury, the same strategies employed in adult trauma do not always hold true in children. We look at the differences in adult and pediatric cervical spine anatomy and traumatic mechanisms, as well as the differences between cervical spine injury in infants/children and adolescents/teens. In addition, we examine the literature currently available in each population and derive consensuses on the issues that are important in managing the pediatric cervical spine. We hope to provide a framework that trauma centers can use to develop safe and effective cervical spine clearance protocols.
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