By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash, MD
Cervical spine fractures and dislocations are very serious, yet are quite common. On a yearly basis, thousands of people fracture or dislocate parts of their necks.
A cervical fracture is commonly known as a broken neck. It occurs when any one of the seven cervical vertebrae are fractured and if the spinal cord is seriously injured, can cause paralysis, loss of feeling, or even death. Many times patients can have a spine fracture as well as a dislocation, other times it’s one or the other.
What causes these?
Considerable force on the spine is required to cause dislocation or fracture of the cervical spine. The most common causes of this type of trauma to the spine are due to a car accident, diving or falling accident, sports injury, or physical violence. If there is an abrupt impact, twisting, or blunt force to the head that happens at the time of disturbance, bones in the neck can be dislocated, ruptured, or broken, causing severe consequences to the person’s life and overall well-being.
How is it diagnosed?
There will be severe pain associated with a dislocated or broken neck. There will likely be significant bruising, swelling, and pressure from nerves will likely be causing pain across the arms, shoulder, and neck region, and depending on the area of the breakage, a person’s breathing can be affected. The person’s head and neck will be completely immobilized in order to make sure that the head and neck are protected from further injury or damage.
If the doctor suspects fracture or dislocation, CT scans, x-rays, or MRIs will likely be ordered to assess damage to the spinal cord. For minor breaks, a cervical collar may be ordered for the patient to help immobilize the neck and allow for healing. There are also rigid braces available that help support the head and chest. Many times, surgical intervention is necessary, as to help stabilize the neck, alleviate pressure, and allow for neurological improvement. In some cases, metal plates, wires, or screws may need to be inserted to help keep the vertebrae in their proper place.
For more information on cervical spine fractures and dislocations, contact Dr. Cash at Desert Institute of Spine Care for an appointment at: http://www.disclv.com
You can also view Dr. Cash's Verified Reviews® at www.medrounds.org/Dr_Andrew_Cash or his personal page at www.andrew-cash-md.com.