Two papers examining the same massive European trauma dataset identify risk factors for spinal injury. The first examined all spinal injury(1), and the most recent focuses on cervical injury(2). Male gender, decreased GCS, falls > 2m, sports injuries, and road traffic collisions were predictors of any fracture/dislocation or cord injury. Head injury was not an independent risk factor, contrary to much popular teaching. I’ve summarised the two papers’ findings in this table. The odds ratios are reported in the abstracts.
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1. Epidemiology and predictors of spinal injury in adult major trauma patients: European cohort study
Eur Spine J. 2011 Dec;20(12):2174-80. Free full text
This is a European cohort study on predictors of spinal injury in adult (≥16 years) major trauma patients, using prospectively collected data of the Trauma Audit and Research Network from 1988 to 2009. Predictors for spinal fractures/dislocations or spinal cord injury were determined using univariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis. 250,584 patients were analysed. 24,000 patients (9.6%) sustained spinal fractures/dislocations alone and 4,489 (1.8%) sustained spinal cord injury with or without fractures/dislocations. Spinal injury patients had a median age of 44.5 years (IQR = 28.8–64.0) and Injury Severity Score of 9 (IQR = 4–17). 64.9% were male. 45% of patients suffered associated injuries to other body regions. Age <45 years (≥45 years OR 0.83–0.94), Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) 3–8 (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.02–1.19), falls >2 m (OR 4.17, 95% CI 3.98–4.37), sports injuries (OR 2.79, 95% CI 2.41–3.23) and road traffic collisions (RTCs) (OR 1.91, 95% CI 1.83–2.00) were predictors for spinal fractures/dislocations. Age <45 years (≥45 years OR 0.78–0.90), male gender (female OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.72–0.85), GCS <15 (OR 1.36–1.93), associated chest injury (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.01–1.20), sports injuries (OR 3.98, 95% CI 3.04–5.21), falls >2 m (OR 3.60, 95% CI 3.21–4.04), RTCs (OR 2.20, 95% CI 1.96–2.46) and shooting (OR 1.91, 95% CI 1.21–3.00) were predictors for spinal cord injury. Multilevel injury was found in 10.4% of fractures/dislocations and in 1.3% of cord injury patients. As spinal trauma occurred in >10% of major trauma patients, aggressive evaluation of the spine is warranted, especially, in males, patients <45 years, with a GCS <15, concomitant chest injury and/or dangerous injury mechanisms (falls >2 m, sports injuries, RTCs and shooting). Diagnostic imaging of the whole spine and a diligent search for associated injuries are substantial.
2. Epidemiology and predictors of cervical spine injury in adult major trauma patients: a multicenter cohort study
J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 Apr;72(4):975-81
Patients with cervical spine injuries are a high-risk group, with the highest reported early mortality rate in spinal trauma.
METHODS: This cohort study investigated predictors for cervical spine injury in adult (≥ 16 years) major trauma patients using prospectively collected data of the Trauma Audit and Research Network from 1988 to 2009. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to determine predictors for cervical fractures/dislocations or cord injury.
RESULTS: A total of 250,584 patients were analyzed. Median age was 47.2 years (interquartile range, 29.8-66.0) and Injury Severity Score 9 (interquartile range, 4-11); 60.2% were male. Six thousand eight hundred two patients (2.3%) sustained cervical fractures/dislocations alone. Two thousand sixty-nine (0.8%) sustained cervical cord injury with/without fractures/dislocations; 39.9% of fracture/dislocation and 25.8% of cord injury patients suffered injuries to other body regions. Age ≥ 65 years (odds ratio [OR], 1.45-1.92), males (females OR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.86-0.96), Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score <15 (OR, 1.26-1.30), LeFort facial fractures (OR, 1.29; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05-1.59), sports injuries (OR, 3.51; 95% CI, 2.87-4.31), road traffic collisions (OR, 3.24; 95% CI, 3.01-3.49), and falls >2 m (OR, 2.74; 95% CI, 2.53-2.97) were predictive for fractures/dislocations. Age <35 years (OR, 1.25-1.72), males (females OR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.53-0.65), GCS score <15 (OR, 1.35-1.85), systolic blood pressure <110 mm Hg (OR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.02-1.31), sports injuries (OR, 4.42; 95% CI, 3.28-5.95), road traffic collisions (OR, 2.58; 95% CI, 2.26-2.94), and falls >2 m (OR, 2.24; 95% CI, 1.94-2.58) were predictors for cord injury.
CONCLUSIONS: 3.5% of patients suffered cervical spine injury. Patients with a lowered GCS or systolic blood pressure, severe facial fractures, dangerous injury mechanism, male gender, and/or age ≥ 35 years are at increased risk. Contrary to common belief, head injury was not predictive for cervical spine involvement.