Diagnosis and treatment of cervical spine injuries in children

Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2024 Feb;110(1S):103762. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2023.103762. Epub 2023 Nov 20.


Cervical spine injuries in children are a common reason for emergency room visits, while bone, ligament or spinal cord cervical lesions are relatively rare (1-1.5% of severe trauma in children) and mainly involve the upper cervical spine. The main causes are sports injuries, accidents at home and traffic accidents. Clinical triage is needed to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure from imaging. We propose a protocol to optimize the diagnosis and treatment. In children, conservative treatment using rigid immobilization (cervical collar or halo-vest) is the preferred option in stable and/or minimally displaced injuries. Frequent clinical and radiological monitoring is required to ensure the patient's condition does not deteriorate due to inappropriate or poorly tolerated treatment. In these cases, surgical treatment can be proposed as second-line treatment. Internal fixation is indicated as the first-line treatment if the injury is unstable or a neurological deficit is present. The fixation methods must be adapted to the pediatric population by taking into account the vertebral volume and residual growth potential. Intraoperative CT scans or neuronavigation can make the surgical procedure safer and easier. Clinical, radiographic and CT scan monitoring should continue until the end of growth in a child who underwent surgical treatment to quickly detect any mechanical complications or sagittal imbalance due to poor craniocervical or cervicothoracic alignment. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: IV.

Keywords: Conservative treatment of pediatric cervical spine fractures; Growth of pediatric cervical spine; Pediatric cervical spine fracture; Pediatric cervical spine injuries; Surgical treatment of pediatric spine fractures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery
  • Child
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods
  • Humans
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Fractures* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Fractures* / surgery
  • Spinal Injuries* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Injuries* / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed