Imaging of spine trauma

Author(s): Dr Matthew Jaring, Dr Roland Watura

Hospital: Southmead Hospital

Reference: RAD Magazine, 44, 514, 23-24


The majority of spinal cord injuries are the result of preventable causes such as road traffic accidents, falls or violent acts. Trauma to the spinal column and spinal cord can lead to potentially devastating injuries and long-term or permanent disability. Prompt and appropriate imaging is therefore vital for the diagnosis, assessment and management of spine injuries. The imaging is required to demonstrate the sites of injury, assess spine stability and to demonstrate any damage to the cord and other neural structures.

Major trauma centres have been established in the UK to provide centralised and specialist care of patients who have suffered serious injuries. Analysis of data from these centres has found that almost 24% of trauma patients will suffer a spinal fracture. Timely imaging of trauma patients as well as prompt and accurate image interpretation is vital, as a missed diagnosis of a spinal fracture increases the risk of secondary neurological injury tenfold. In this article we discuss mechanisms of spine injury and the role of imaging in spine trauma.

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