Age-related differences in factors associated with cervical spine injuries in children

Acad Emerg Med. 2015 Apr;22(4):441-6. doi: 10.1111/acem.12637. Epub 2015 Mar 16.


Objectives: The Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) investigators previously identified risk factors associated with cervical spine injuries (CSIs) in children. Anatomic maturation and age-related variation in mechanisms of injury suggested the need to explore factors separately for younger versus older children. The purpose of this substudy was to investigate CSI risk factors in age subgroups within the PECARN study cohort.

Methods: This was an age-stratified case-control analysis of children younger than 16 years presenting to 17 PECARN hospitals following blunt trauma between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2004. Data were abstracted for children with CSIs and randomly selected CSI-free children. Age-stratified multivariable logistic regression was performed to identify factors associated with CSI within three age groups: younger than 2, 2 to 7, and 8 to 15 years. Sensitivity and specificity for CSI were estimated for both the age-specific and original (altered mental status, focal neurologic findings, neck pain, torticollis, substantial torso injury, predisposing conditions, diving, and high-risk motor vehicle crash [MVC]) models.

Results: Among 540 children with CSIs, 27 were younger than 2 years, 140 were 2 to 7 years, and 373 were 8 to 15 years. Focal neurologic deficits and high-risk MVC were associated with CSIs in all age-specific models. Other age-specific factors included the following: younger than 2 years, none; 2 to 7 years, altered mental status, neck pain, torticollis; and 8 to 15 years, altered mental status, neck pain, diving. Age-specific models had comparable sensitivity to the original model among the older groups, but had lower sensitivity and higher specificity among the youngest children.

Conclusions: While this analysis supports the original PECARN model for CSI, there were subtle age variations in factors associated with CSIs in children that warrant future investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Neck Injuries / etiology
  • Neck Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spinal Injuries / etiology
  • Spinal Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications