Background: Patients with cervical spine injuries are a high-risk group, with the highest reported early mortality rate in spinal trauma.
Methods: This cohort study investigated predictors for cervical spine injury in adult (≥ 16 years) major trauma patients using prospectively collected data of the Trauma Audit and Research Network from 1988 to 2009. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to determine predictors for cervical fractures/dislocations or cord injury.
Results: A total of 250,584 patients were analyzed. Median age was 47.2 years (interquartile range, 29.8-66.0) and Injury Severity Score 9 (interquartile range, 4-11); 60.2% were male. Six thousand eight hundred two patients (2.3%) sustained cervical fractures/dislocations alone. Two thousand sixty-nine (0.8%) sustained cervical cord injury with/without fractures/dislocations; 39.9% of fracture/dislocation and 25.8% of cord injury patients suffered injuries to other body regions. Age ≥ 65 years (odds ratio [OR], 1.45-1.92), males (females OR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.86-0.96), Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score <15 (OR, 1.26-1.30), LeFort facial fractures (OR, 1.29; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05-1.59), sports injuries (OR, 3.51; 95% CI, 2.87-4.31), road traffic collisions (OR, 3.24; 95% CI, 3.01-3.49), and falls >2 m (OR, 2.74; 95% CI, 2.53-2.97) were predictive for fractures/dislocations. Age <35 years (OR, 1.25-1.72), males (females OR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.53-0.65), GCS score <15 (OR, 1.35-1.85), systolic blood pressure <110 mm Hg (OR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.02-1.31), sports injuries (OR, 4.42; 95% CI, 3.28-5.95), road traffic collisions (OR, 2.58; 95% CI, 2.26-2.94), and falls >2 m (OR, 2.24; 95% CI, 1.94-2.58) were predictors for cord injury.
Conclusions: 3.5% of patients suffered cervical spine injury. Patients with a lowered GCS or systolic blood pressure, severe facial fractures, dangerous injury mechanism, male gender, and/or age ≥ 35 years are at increased risk. Contrary to common belief, head injury was not predictive for cervical spine involvement.