Effect of Age on Cervical Spine Injuries in Children after Motor Vehicle Collisions: Effectiveness of Restraint Devices

Brian S. Zuckerbraun, Katie Morrison, Barbara Gaines, Henri R. Ford, David J. Hackam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Purpose: Despite the devastating consequences of cervical spine (C-spine) injury in children after motor vehicle collisions (MVC), the factors leading to the injury and the appropriateness of protective restraints remain undefined, The authors hypothesized that age-related anatomic factors contribute to inadequate restraints and therefore increase injury severity after MVC. Methods: Data on children (<18 years, 1997 to 2002) admitted to a level 1 pediatric trauma center were prospectively collected and retrospectively reviewed, Those with C-spine injuries caused by MVC were extracted and divided into 2 groups: young (0 to 8 years) and old (9 to 18 years), Statistical comparison was by Student's ttest or Z-test, with P less than .05 accepted as significant. Results: Of 5,117 trauma admissions, 94 had C-spine injuries with a mean age of 11 ± 5 years, 66% of which were boys. Among 1,124 patients who had sustained MVC there were 27 C-spine injuries (2.4% incidence), of which, 12 were less than 8 and 15 were older than 8 years. Restraint devices were utilized at least as frequently in younger children (young, 58% v. old, 43%; not significant). However, younger children had an increased incidence of permanent cord deficit (young, 57% v. old, 13%; P <.05) and closed head injury (young, 50% v. old, 7%; P <.05) even while wearing restraint devices, suggesting that restraint devices are inadequate or improperly used in younger patients. This is supported by the increased injury severity scores of the younger group (young, 37.7 ± 8.5 v. old, 16.5 ± 4,6; P <.05). Conclusions: Younger children suffer more sever cervical spine injuries after motor vehicle collisions than their older counterparts, in part because of the inadequacy of currently existing restraint devices. Design modifications to current restraints, including the use of head straps, might improve outcome after MVC in younger patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-486
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Car safety seats
  • Cervical spine
  • Child restraint devices
  • Motor vehicle crash
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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