Paediatric spine injuries in the thoracic and lumbar spine-results of the German multicentre CHILDSPINE study

Eur Spine J. 2024 Apr;33(4):1574-1584. doi: 10.1007/s00586-023-07822-1. Epub 2023 Jul 19.


Background: Paediatric thoracolumbar spine injuries are rare, and meaningful epidemiological data are lacking.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to provide epidemiological data for paediatric patients with thoracolumbar spinal trauma in Germany with a view to enhancing future decision-making in relation to the diagnostics and treatment of these patients.

Materials and methods: A retrospective multicentre study includes patients up to 16 years of age who were suffering from thoracolumbar spine injuries who had been treated in six German spine centres between 01/2010 and 12/2016. The clinical database was analysed for patient-specific data, trauma mechanisms, level of injury, and any accompanying injuries. Diagnostic imaging and subsequent treatment were investigated. Patients were divided into three age groups for further evaluation: age group I (0-6 years), age group II (7-9 years) and age group III (10-16 years).

Results: A total of 153 children with 345 thoracolumbar spine injuries met the inclusion criteria. The mean age at the time of hospitalization due to the injury was 12.9 (± 3.1) years. Boys were likelier to be affected (1:1.3). In all age groups, falls and traffic accidents were the most common causes of thoracolumbar spine injuries. A total of 95 patients (62.1%) were treated conservatively, while 58 (37.9%) of the children underwent surgical treatment. Minimally invasive procedures were the most chosen procedures. Older children and adolescents were likelier to suffer from higher-grade injuries according to the AOSpine classification. The thoracolumbar junction (T11 to L2) was the most affected level along the thoracolumbar spine (n = 90). Neurological deficits were rarely seen in all age groups. Besides extremity injuries (n = 52, 30.2%), head injuries represented the most common accompanying injuries (n = 53, 30.8%). Regarding spinal injuries, most of the patients showed no evidence of complications during their hospital stay (96.7%).

Conclusions: The thoracolumbar junction was more frequently affected in older children and adolescents. The majority of thoracolumbar spinal column injuries were treated conservatively. Nevertheless, 37.9% of hospitalized children had to be treated surgically, and there was an acceptable complication rate for the surgeries that were performed.

Keywords: Adolescence; Children; Paediatric spine trauma; Thoracolumbar spine trauma.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fractures* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Fractures* / epidemiology
  • Spinal Fractures* / therapy
  • Spinal Injuries* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Spinal Injuries* / therapy
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / injuries
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / surgery