Original Article

OPEN: Incidence of Pediatric Cervical Spine Injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan

Authors: Xandria Gutierrez, BA, Michael April, MD, DPhil, Joseph Maddry, MD, Guyon Hill, MD, Tyson Becker, MD, Steven Schauer, DO, MS

Abstract

Objective: Military providers frequently treat civilians, including pediatric patients. Cervical spine injuries in pediatric trauma patients occur infrequently, with limited data on the incidence. The aim of this study was to describe the incidence of cervical spine injuries in pediatric patients in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Methods: We queried the Department of Defense Trauma Registry for all pediatric encounters from January 2007 to January 2016. We searched within that dataset for all cervical spine fractures.

Results: From January 2007 through January 2016 there were 3439 pediatric encounters. There were 36 subjects identified (1.0%) with a cervical spine fracture. Of those with a cervical spine fracture, 6 (17%) had a prehospital cervical collar placed, which did not improve survival to hospital discharge (collar, 66.7% vs no collar, 83.3%, P = 0.573). Of those with a cervical spine fracture, 6 (17%) had a documented spinal cord injury. The median age of subjects with a cervical spine fracture was 9.5 years and the majority (63.9%) were male. Most were injured by explosion (41.7%). The median composite injury score was higher in subjects with a cervical spine fracture compared with those without one (16.5 vs 10, P < 0.001). Subjects with a cervical spine fracture had longer lengths of stay in the intensive care unit (median 3 days vs 1, P = 0.012) and a trend toward worse survival to hospital discharge (80.6%, n = 29, vs 90.3%, n = 3074, P = 0.079).

Conclusions: Cervical spine injuries occurred infrequently in pediatric patients in Iraq and Afghanistan. When a fracture was present, almost one in five patients had spinal cord involvement. The pediatric prehospital literature would benefit from the development of a clinical decision tool to guide prehospital personnel as to when a cervical collar is indicated. Moreover, appropriate size equipment should be available when caring for host national civilians.

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Table 1. Demographics and outcome data of subjects with a cervical spine fracture

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Table 2. Serious injuries (AIS ≥3) by body region

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