Type of publication:
*Matthew Chan, *Benjamin Chatterton, *David Ford
Spine Journal; Mar 2017; vol. 17 (no. 3), S20
BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Cervical spine fractures in the elderly are a significant injury that poses difficult treatment dilemmas. Despite this little has been done to evaluate the mortality and hospital burden. PURPOSE: Evaluate the mortality and hospital burden associated with cervical spine fractures in elderly patients at district general hospitals. STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: 10-year retrospective analysis of patients over the age of 70 presenting with a cervical spine fracture to two district general hospitals. METHODS: The data was collected from documentation on online hospital database systems. Data recorded included patient demographics, injuries sustained including level and mechanism of cervical injury, length of stay and details on inpatient complications, inpatient mortality and one-year mortality. RESULTS: 153 patients were identified with a mean age of 83, and slight female predominance (55%). Mechanical falls (90%) leading to isolated fractures of upper cervical spine, particularly C2 (52%), were the most common site and mechanism of injury. Inpatient mortality was 22.9%, and 1-year mortality was calculated at 35.3%. Inpatient medical complications, particularly chest infections, were common and occurred in 35.9% of patients. Total average length of stay was 18 days, and critical care input was required in 10.5% of patients. CONCLUSIONS: Cervical spine fractures in the elderly cause significant mortality and hospital burden. Medical complications are common, leading to increased morbidity and length of stay. Consideration should be made to develop national guidance akin to hip fractures. This would encourage a multidisciplinary team approach, including early input from medical and physiotherapy teams to ensure more effective treatment and prevention of complications.