The incidence of injury to the cervical spine in patients with craniocerebral injury

J Trauma. 1988 Oct;28(10):1476-8. doi: 10.1097/00005373-198810000-00013.


Estimates of the incidence of injury to the cervical spine among patients suffering blunt trauma to the head vary widely, and have been reported to be as high as 20%. Since strict observation of cervical spine precautions may delay attempts to gain control of the airway in a patient with an intracranial injury, the risk involved needs more exact definition. In an attempt to quantify this risk, the records of 1,272 consecutive patients with blunt injuries admitted to a Level I regional trauma center were reviewed. Patients with serious craniocerebral injury were at no greater risk for injury to the cervical spine than patients without trauma to the head (1.8% vs. 3.5%, p = NS by Chi-square analysis). Although observance of cervical spine precautions is usually paramount, there may be times when this concern is superceded by the need to gain definitive airway control in a patient with injury to the brain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Injuries / epidemiology*