Key words Cervical spine – Radiography – Injury – Elderly
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Background: Elderly patients are known to be at increased risk of cervical spine injuries. This propensity for injury becomes more important as the population of mobile elderly individuals increases. The present study seeks to examine the incidence and spectrum of spine injury among patients aged 80 years or greater, and to examine the efficacy of a decision rule for obtaining cervical spine radiography in this extreme age group. The decision rule would determine whether imaging could be avoided in patients who have none of the following: (1) posterior midline cervical spine tenderness; (2) focal neurological deficit; (3) abnormal level of alertness; (4) evidence of intoxication; or (5) clinically apparent distracting painful injury. Methods: All blunt trauma victims presenting to participating emergency departments underwent clinical evaluation prior to radiographic imaging. The elements of the decision rule were assessed and documented in each patient prior to radiographic imaging. The presence or absence of cervical spine injury was subsequently based on the final interpretation of all radiographic studies supplemented by a review of neurosurgical and risk management logs from each participating hospital. Data on all patients aged 80 years or greater were sequestered from the main database for separate analysis. Results: The study enrolled 34,069 individuals, including 818 patients (2.4 %) with cervical spine injuries. This population contained 1,070 patients (3.1 % of all cases) aged 80 or greater, 50 of whom (4.7 %) sustained cervical spine injuries. Injuries to the craniocervical junction (particularly C2 and the odontoid) accounted for 47.3 % of the injuries in the elderly, but only 28.6 % of injuries in younger patients. Older fracture victims were also likely to have more injuries (2.54 injuries/patient) than their younger counter parts (1.78 injuries/patient). The decision rule correctly identified all very elderly cervical spine injury victims [sensitivity 100.0 %; confidence interval (CI) 92.9–100.0 %], and designated 132 patients as “low-risk,” yielding a negative predictive value of 100.0 % (CI 97.3–100.0 %). Conclusions: The very elderly are at increased risked of cervical spine injury, particularly injury to the craniocervical junction. They also tend to have more extensive injuries than younger patients. Despite the increased risk of injury, the decision rule performed well in the very elderly, and allowed correct identification of all cervical spine injury victims.
Type of Medium: