Glass Fragment Injury to the Craniocervical Junction with Interatlantooccipital Penetration to the Subarachnoid Space: Not-To-Be-Missed Important Aspects of Craniocervical Trauma Even in the Middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Case Report and Review of Literature

World Neurosurg. 2020 Sep;141:402-405. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2020.06.065. Epub 2020 Jun 16.


Background: Nonmissile penetrating injuries to the craniocervical junction caused by a glass fragment are rare, and a standard management strategy has not been established.

Case description: A 75-year-old Japanese man was brought into our emergency department after receiving a left retroauricular stab wound by broken glass fragments. After spinal immobilization, a computed tomography (CT) scan revealed glass fragments penetrating at the right craniocervical junction to the interatlantooccipital subarachnoid space. CT angiography showed that both vertebral arteries were not injured. Magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated that the glass fragments did not penetrate the cervical cord or medulla oblongata. These glass fragments were removed via a midline incision from the external occipital protuberance to the C7 and with laminectomy without suboccipital craniectomy. Five of the glass fragments were found and removed in total. The dural defect was patched with a free fascia autograft. His postoperative course was uneventful. Postoperative CT angiography showed that both vertebral arteries were intact and the glass fragments had been removed completely.

Conclusions: CT graphical diagnosis is useful for the management of penetrating craniocervical junction trauma, and it should be considered in the evaluation of patients who have suffered craniocervical penetrating injury even in the absence of major wounds or bleeding. Spinal immobilization of patients with craniocervical penetrating injuries is crucial to avoid not only secondary neurologic damage but also secondary critical vascular damage. Incomplete or inadequate assessment of craniocervical stab wounds results in unexpected hazards that are preventable.

Keywords: Craniocervical junction; Craniocervical traumatic injury; Emergency medicine; Glass fragment; Interatlantooccipital penetration; Nonmissile penetrating injury; Spinal immobilization.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atlanto-Occipital Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Atlanto-Occipital Joint / injuries*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections*
  • Glass*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral*
  • Subarachnoid Space / diagnostic imaging
  • Subarachnoid Space / injuries*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Trauma, Nervous System / complications*
  • Trauma, Nervous System / diagnostic imaging
  • Trauma, Nervous System / surgery*
  • Wounds, Penetrating / complications
  • Wounds, Penetrating / surgery
  • Wounds, Stab / therapy