Evaluation and management of acute cervical spine trauma

Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2010 Nov;28(4):719-38. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2010.07.003.


The evaluation and management of cervical spine injuries is a core component of the practice of emergency medicine. This article focuses on evaluation and management of blunt cervical spine trauma by the emergency physician. Pertinent anatomy of the cervical spine and specific cervical spine fractures are discussed, with an emphasis on unstable injuries and associated spinal cord pathology. The association of vertebral artery injury with cervical spine fracture is addressed, followed by a review of the most recent literature on prehospital care. Initial considerations in the emergency department, including cervical spine stabilization and airway management, are reviewed. The most current recommendations for cervical spine imaging with regard to indications and modalities are covered. Finally, emergency department management and disposition of patients with spinal cord injuries are reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Orthopedic Procedures / methods*
  • Spinal Injuries* / diagnosis
  • Spinal Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Spinal Injuries* / therapy
  • Trauma Centers / organization & administration*
  • United States / epidemiology