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(Broken Neck; Cervical Fracture)
|Cervical Spine Fractures|
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- Car, motorcycle, or pedestrian collisions
- Diving into shallow water
- Severe and sudden twist to the neck
- Severe blows to the head or neck area
- Falls from heights, such as a ladder, bike, or horse
- Advancing age
- Certain diseases or conditions that result in bone or mineral loss, such as abnormal or absent menstrual cycles, or post- menopause
- Certain diseases and conditions that weaken bones, such as tumors or cysts
- Decreased muscle mass
- Playing certain sports that may result in neck fracture, such as football, rugby, or ice hockey
- Not wearing your seatbelt or protective sports equipment
- Head or other traumatic injury, such as severe chest trauma, pelvic or femur fractures
- Severe pain
- Swelling and possible bruising
- Decreased feeling in the arms or legs
- Muscle weakness or paralysis of the arms or legs
Immobilize and Stabilize the Injury
- A breathing tube for a blocked airway
- IV fluids
- Admission to the hospital for monitoring
- The severity of the fracture
- Which of the cervical bones are broken
- Which part of the cervical bones are broken
- Whether there is temporary or permanent spinal cord or nerve injury
- Neck brace or collar—Minor fractures can be treated with a neck brace or collar for up to 8 weeks. These devices will keep your neck in line while it heals.
- Traction—Rigid braces or a halo vest worn for up to 12 weeks can be used to treat more severe or unstable fractures. Traction allows for minimal movement beyond what is necessary.
- Surgery—Plates, screws, or wires may be needed to reconnect bone pieces and hold them in place. Surgery may also be needed to repair vertebrae, relieve pressure on the spinal cord, or remove any damaged vertebral discs.
- Pain medication
- Antibiotics if an infection is present or possible
Rest and Recovery
- Avoid situations that put you at risk of physical harm.
- Always wear a seatbelt when driving in a car.
- Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
- Use proper tackling techniques in football. Do not spear with your helmet.
- Never dive in the shallow end of a pool.
- Never dive into water where you do not know the depth or what obstacles may be present.
- Do weight-bearing exercises to build strong muscles and bones.
- Clean spills and slippery areas right away
- Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower
- Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub
- Put in handrails on both sides of stairways
- Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls
- Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org
Bailes JE, Petschauer M, et al. Management of cervical spine injuries in athletes. J Athl Train. 2007;42:126-134.
Cervical fracture (broken neck). American Academy of Orthopaedic SurgeonOrtho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00414 . Updated August 2007. Accessed September 18, 2013.
Cervical spine injury. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated May 29, 2013. Accessed September 18, 2013.
Duane TM, Wilson SP, et al. Canadian cervical spine rule compared with computed tomography: a prospective analysis. J Trauma. 2011;71(2):352-357.
Looby S, Flanders A. Spine trauma. Radiol Clin North Am. 2011;49(1):129-163.
Rathlev NK, Medzon R, et al. Evaluation and management of neck trauma. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2007; 25:679-694.
Spinal cord injury—acute management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated January 23, 2013. Accessed September 18, 2013.
Spinal cord injury—chronic management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated June 17, 2013. Accessed September 18, 2013.
Yanar H. Pedestrians injured by automobiles: risk factors for cervical spine injuries. J Am Coll Surg. 2007;205:794-799.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013
- Update Date: 09/30/2013