Flexion/extension cervical spine views in blunt cervical trauma

Chin J Traumatol. 2012;15(3):166-9.


Objective: To examine the contribution of flexion and extension radiographs in the evaluation of ligamentous injury in awake adults with acute blunt cervical spine trauma, who show loss of cervical lordosis and neck pain.

Methods: All patients who presented to our emergency department following blunt trauma were enrolled in this study, except those with schiwora, neurological deficits or fracture demonstrated on cross-table cervical spine X-rays, and those who were either obtunded or presented after cervical spine surgery. Adequacy of flexion and extension views was checked by the neurosurgery and radiology team members. All these patients underwent cross-table cervical spine view followed by flexion/extension views based on the loss of lordosis on cross-table imaging and the presence of neck pain.

Results: A total of 200 cases were reviewed, of whom 90 (45%) underwent repeat X-rays because of either inadequate exposure or limited motion. None of the patients with loss of lordosis on cross-table view had positive flexion and extension views of cervical spine for instability.

Conclusions: Our results show that in patients who underwent acute radiographic evaluation of blunt cervical spine trauma, flexion and extension views of the cervical spine are unlikely to yield positive results in the presence of axial neck pain and/or loss of cervical lordosis. We can also hypothesize that performing flexion and extension views will be more useful once the acute neck pain has settled.

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries
  • Humans
  • Radiography
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Spinal Injuries*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating* / diagnostic imaging