Vertebral Artery Injury in Cervical Spine Fractures: A Cohort Study and Review of the Literature

R Sheppard , GEM Kennedy , A Nelson , E. Abdel Meguid, N Darwish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The risk of vertebral artery injury (VAI)secondary to cervical spine fracture is increasingly recognised in the literature. The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of VAI amongst patients presenting to the Royal Victoria Hospital (Northern Ireland’s regional trauma centre with emergency surgical spinal services) with acute cervical spine fractures, and to identify fracture patterns associated with the highest risk of VAI.METHODS: A retrospective review of 1,894 computed tomography (CT) reports of patients who underwent imaging of their cervical spine and/or vertebral arteries over a 12-month period, from June 2018 to June 2019, was conducted.
RESULTS: Sixty-eight patients (3.59%) with a confirmed cervical spine fracture were identified. These patients had an age range of 18-97 years and included 39 males(57.4%) and 29 females (42.6%). The fractures were then classified according to the AOSpine Cervical Spine Fracture Classification. Of the 68 patients with a confirmed cervical spine fracture, five (7.35%) were diagnosed with VAI,all involving fractures of their upper cervical spine. Two involved fractures extending into the transverse foramen, two involved subluxation of the vertebrae and one involved both. In all five cases, these fractures resulted from high energy injuries. Regarding management, the patients with VAI in this study were either monitored and given no specific treatment or treated medically with antiplatelet therapy. None underwent surgical intervention.
CONCLUSIONS: Fracture patterns associated within creased risk of VAI are fractures involving the upper cervical spine, fractures with associated subluxation, and fractures of the transverse process extending into the transverse foramen - urgent CT-angiography in these cases is recommended. Further work should develop a targeted set of criteria for screening for VAI in cervical spine fractures, with consideration of high-risk fracture patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-94
JournalUlster Medical Journal
Volume89
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2020

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