Author(s): Leonard M, Sproule J, McCormack D
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Abstract Paediatric spinal injuries, although rare (1-2\% of all paediatric fractures) are associated with the highest mortality rate of all orthopaedic injuries in children. The low incidence is due, not only to the plasticity of the paediatric spine, but also the difficulty of diagnosis and the usually severe if not fatal associated injuries. A 10-year (1995-2004) retrospective study was undertaken of all patients treated for a spinal injury at our institute, which functions as both an acute care centre and a tertiary referral centre for seriously injured children. The study was performed in order to highlight the unique features of spinal injuries in children, and to assess the incidence and pattern of associated injuries. A total of 40 patients had a documented diagnosis of spinal injury. The charts and radiographs of all patients were retrieved and reviewed. The median age was 10 years (range 2-15) and 25 were male. The causative factors were motor vehicle accidents in 16, falls in 14, sport injuries in 7 and assaults in 3. Over 65\% of the children sustained one or more associated injuries, the mean injury severity score was 18.95. There were two deaths, both in patients with severe multiple trauma and associated spinal fracture. Treatment included closed reduction in two patients and posterior open reduction and stabilisation in two patients, with one of these also requiring decompression. Spinal injuries in children differ from adults due primarily to the biomechanical and anatomical features of the developing musculoskeletal system. When a spinal injury is identified on initial radiographic or clinical evaluation of an injured child, one should have a high index of suspicion that concurrent, potentially life-threatening injuries may be present.
This article was published in Injury
and referenced in Anatomy & Physiology: Current Research