Quantification of pediatric and adult cervical vertebra-anatomical characteristics by age and gender for automotive application

Traffic Inj Prev. 2014;15(6):572-82. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2013.843774.


Objective: The cervical anatomy has been shown to affect injury patterns in vehicle crashes. Characterizing the spine anatomy and changes associated with growth and gender is important when assessing occupant protection. In this study, selected cervical characteristics were quantified.

Methods: Computed tomography (CT) scans of 750 patients were selected from the University of Michigan trauma database; 314 were children and 436 were adults. Four variables were obtained: the maximum spinal canal radius, vertebral body depth, facet angles, and retroversion angles.

Results: The cervical spine measurements varied with age and gender. The body depth increased nonlinearly with age. The average vertebral body depth at C4 was 9.2 ± 0.38 mm in the 0-3 age group, 15.7 ± 0.29 mm in the 18-29 age group, and 17.2 ± 0.46 mm in the 60+ age group. Pediatric and adult males had larger vertebral body depth than females overall, irrespective of vertebral level (P <.001). Compared to females, the vertebral body depth was 8-9 percent greater in male children and 13-16 percent greater in adult males. The average radius varied with gender, with male children generally having a larger radius than females irrespective of vertebral level (P <.001). Overall, spinal canal radius was smallest in the 0-3 and 60+ age groups and largest in the 18-29 age group. The C4 radius was 5.91 ± 0.17, 6.28 ± 0.14, and 6.73 ± 0.17 mm respectively. The radius was larger in the 4-7 age group than in the 0-3 age group, irrespective of vertebral level (P <.0001). There were nonsignificant radius changes between the 4-7 and 8-11 age groups and the 8-11 and age 12-17 groups, suggesting that the size of the spinal cord reaches near maturation by the age of 7. Facet angles decreased with age in children and increased with age in adults. The average facet angles were largest in the 0-3 age group (P <.1, C2-C6). Adult facet angles were greater in the 60+ age group than in the 18-29 age group (P <.0001, C2-C6). Males had larger facet angles than females overall (P <.01 at C2, C5-C7). The retroversion angles were largest at C6 and C7. They increased with age in children and decreased in the adult population; they were larger (5-22%) in the 18-29 age group than in the 60+ age group (P <.0001, C2-C6).

Conclusions: The results obtained in this study help explain variations in cervical anatomical changes associated with age and gender. The information is useful when assessing differences in injury patterns between different segments of the population. Anatomical measurements of the cervical spine should be considered for the development of models used to assess injury mechanisms for various occupant age groups.

Keywords: age; crash safety; gender; models; spine injury.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cervical Vertebrae / anatomy & histology*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Young Adult