Cervical spine fragility fractures in older people: 5-year experience at a regional spine centre

Ahmad Tarawneh, Syed Taqvi, Khalid Salem, Opinder Sahota
Age and Ageing 2020 June 10

BACKGROUND: cervical spine fractures are particularly prevalent in older people and commonly occur following a fall from standing height or less. Atlanto-axial complex (AAC) and, particularly, odontoid process (OP) fractures are the most prevalent injuries.

OBJECTIVE: to investigate the incidence and characteristics of cervical spine fractures in older patients presenting to a regional spine centre.

METHODS: a retrospective review of the clinical records and imaging of all patients aged 70 years and over presenting to a regional spinal unit with a cervical injury over a 5-year period was performed. Patient demographics, mechanism of injury, level of fracture, stability of the fracture, treatment modality, imaging modality and mortality rates were collected and analysed.

RESULTS: during the period between 2015 and 2019, a total of 209 patients aged 70 years and over were presented to the regional spine unit. The mean age at presentation was 82.4 (±7.5) years. Low-energy trauma was the commonest mechanism of injury (n = 169; 80.9%). MRI was undertaken in a quarter of the patients. One-hundred and fifty-one patients (72.2%) suffered an AAC Injury with OP fractures forming the majority of this group (n = 119; 78.8%). One-hundred and ninety-nine patients were treated conservatively, and the overall 30-day mortality rate was 8.1%.

CONCLUSION: cervical spine fractures are not uncommon amongst older people and are mostly the result of low-energy trauma and predominantly affect the axial cervical spine. The majority of these injuries are managed conservatively with an orthosis. The fractures nevertheless are a serious injury, with a high mortality rate at 30 days.

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