Neurosurgical injuries resulting from the 2011 tornados in Alabama: the experience at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center

Joseph H Miller, Holly A Zywicke, James B Fleming, Christoph J Griessenauer, Thomas R Whisenhunt, Mamerhi O Okor, Mark R Harrigan, Patrick R Pritchard, Mark N Hadley
Journal of Neurosurgery 2013, 118 (6): 1356-62

OBJECT: The April 27, 2011, tornados that affected the southeastern US resulted in 248 deaths in the state of Alabama. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medical Center, the largest Level I trauma center in the state, triaged and treated a large number of individuals who suffered traumatic injuries during these events, including those requiring neurosurgical assessment and treatment.

METHODS: A retrospective review of all adult patients triaged at UAB Medical Center during the April 27, 2011, tornados was conducted. Those patients who were diagnosed with and treated for neurosurgical injuries were included in this cohort.

RESULTS: The Division of Neurosurgery at UAB Medical Center received 37 consultations in the 36 hours following the tornado disaster. An additional patient presented 6 days later, having suffered a lumbar spine fracture that ultimately required operative intervention. Twenty-seven patients (73%) suffered injuries as a direct result of the tornados. Twenty-three (85%) of these 27 patients experienced spine and spinal cord injuries. Four patients (15%) suffered intracranial injuries and 2 patients (7%) suffered combined intracranial and spinal injuries. The spinal fractures that were evaluated and treated were predominantly thoracic (43.5%) and lumbar (43.5%). The neurosurgery service performed 14 spinal fusions, 1 ventriculostomy, 2 halo placements, 1 diagnostic angiogram, 1 endovascular embolectomy, and 1 wound debridement and lavage. Twenty-two patients (81.5%) were neurologically intact at discharge and all but 4 had 1 year of follow-up. Three patients had persistent deficits from spinal cord injuries and there was 1 death in a patient with multisystem injuries in whom no procedures were performed. Two patients experienced postoperative complications in the form of 1 wound infection and 1 stroke.

CONCLUSIONS: The April 27, 2011, tornados in Alabama produced significant neurosurgical injuries that primarily involved the spine. There were a disproportionate number of patients with thoracolumbar fractures, a finding possibly due to the county medical examiner's postmortem findings that demonstrated a high prevalence of fatal cervical spine and traumatic brain injuries. The UAB experience can be used to aid other institutions in preparing for the appropriate allotment of resources in the event of a similar natural disaster.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"

We want to hear from doctors like you!

Take a second to answer a survey question.