Spine trauma

Radiol Clin North Am. 2011 Jan;49(1):129-63. doi: 10.1016/j.rcl.2010.07.019.


Spinal fractures represent 3% to 6% of all skeletal injuries. Spine trauma is a complex diagnostic area in which the radiological assessment is crucial. Plain radiography is often used as the initial diagnostic modality. However, stabilization of the acutely injured spine is a primary concern. In this respect, computed tomography (CT) is vastly superior to plain film in terms of speed and accuracy. In many trauma centers, CT has replaced plain film as the primary modality for evaluation of spinal trauma. Magnetic resonance imaging is not indicated for all cases of spinal trauma but provides detailed information about soft tissue structures including the intervertebral disc, the ligaments, the epidural space, the blood vessels, and the spinal cord. MR imaging provides information on these structures not obtained from other modalities. Patients with spinal cord injury may suffer devastating long-term neurologic deficits, so prompt and efficient spinal imaging guidelines are necessary in all trauma centers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery
  • Fractures, Compression / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Compression / surgery
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Spinal Cord / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord / surgery
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / surgery
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnosis
  • Spinal Fractures / surgery
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Injuries / surgery
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Spine / pathology
  • Spine / surgery
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / injuries
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / pathology
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*