Pediatric Upper Cervical Spine Trauma: A 10-Year Retrospective Review at a Pediatric Trauma Center
Traumatic upper cervical spine injuries (tUCSI) are generally caused by high-impact injuries to the C1-C2 vertebral level. The current literature is limited with regards to comparing epidemiological trends, treatment options, and overall outcomes for tUCSI within the pediatric cohort. The purpose of this study was to analyze pediatric tUCSI epidemiological data, potential variations in treatment and patient outcomes, and to evaluate any specific trends that may be clinically relevant.
... y We conducted a retrospective cohort study on pediatric patients ages 1 day to 16 years old, admitted for tUCSI over the past 10 years (1/2011 to 1/2021) at a Midwest level 1 trauma center. Retrospective data was queried using ICD-9 and ICD-10 diagnosis codes for tUCSI. Children were stratified into three age groups: Group 1 - Infants and Toddlers (children under three years of age); Group 2 - Young Children (children between three and seven years of age); Group 3 - Juveniles and Adolescents (children between the ages of seven and 16). Numerical data and categorical variables were summarized and the normality of the distribution of data was evaluated using the Anderson-Darling normality test. Differences between the age groups were examined using either an unpaired, independent Two-Sample t-test or Unpaired Mann-Whitney U test. Pearson's chi-squared or Fisher's exact tests were used to compare categorical data between groups. Results Forty total patients were included in the final analysis, 23 female (57.5%) and 17 male (42.5%). The mean age was 11 ± 4 (range 2-16). Overall, the most common mechanism of injury was a motor vehicle collision (n=16, 40%), followed by sports injury (n=13, 32.5%), falls (n=6, 15%), and unknown mechanism (n=5, 12.5%). The most common mechanism of injury in young children was a fall (n=4, 57.5%, p<0.001). Adolescents and Juveniles significantly suffer from sports injuries compared to young children (n=13, 39.4%, p=0.043). Mechanisms of injuries presented with unique associated concomitant injuries. The most common associated sites of injuries were lower cervical spine (n=31, 77.5%), and skull injury (n=4, 10%). The vast majority of these cases were managed nonoperatively (pain medication and non-operative cervical orthosis) (n=36, 90%). Mortality and morbidity rates from tUCSI were rare in our cohort (n=1, 2.5%). Conclusion This study found that the majority of pediatric tUCSI patients can be managed nonoperatively, with dislocations and spinal instability being the most common indications for operative management. Commonly used non-operative external fixation methods include cervical collars and Minerva jackets. Our cohort showed very low mortality and morbidity rates, however, these preliminary results will require validation by future prospective multicenter studies.