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Pediatric Cervical Spine Injuries: A Rare But Challenging Entity.

BACKGROUND: Injuries to the cervical spine in pediatric patients are uncommon. A missed injury can have devastating consequences in this age group. Because of the lack of routine in diagnosis and management of pediatric cervical spine injuries (PCSI), each of these cases represents a logistic and personal challenge.

METHODS: By means of clinical cases, we demonstrate key points in diagnostics and treatment of pediatric spine injuries. We highlight typical pediatric injury patterns and more adult-like injuries.

RESULTS: The most common cause of injury is blunt trauma. There is an age-related pattern of injuries in pediatric patients. Children under the age of 8 frequently sustain ligamentous injuries in the upper cervical spine. After the age of 8, the biomechanics of the cervical spine are similar to adults, and therefore, bony injuries of the subaxial cervical spine are most likely to occur. Clinical presentation of PCSI is heterogeneous. Younger children can neither interpret nor communicate neurological abnormalities, which make timely and accurate diagnosis difficult. Plain radiographs are often misinterpreted. We find different types of injuries at different locations, because of different biomechanical properties of the immature spine. We outline that initial management is crucial for long-term outcome.

CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge of biomechanical properties and radiographic presentation of the immature spine can improve the awareness for PCSI. Diagnosis and management of pediatric patients after neck trauma can be demanding.


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