A cervical fracture is a break of one of the seven bones in the cervical spine (neck), that help support the head and connect it to the rest of the body. Most often, a cervical fracture occurs as a result of a severe trauma caused by a sports injury, fall, or vehicular accident.
Cervical fractures not only happen during contact sports like football or wrestling, but may occur from a horseback riding fall, a skiing, surfing, or weight-lifting accident, or during diving. Cervical fractures are serious injuries because they may involve the spinal cord and can lead to loss of sensation, paralysis or even death.
Causes of Cervical Fracture
Typically, a patient who suffers cervical fracture experiences intense pain in the neck, shoulders and down the arm. Bruising and swelling usually occur as well, ordinarily at the back of the neck. There may also be numbness at the site of the injury or down the arm. In severe cases, the patient may suffer paralysis. In order to avoid complications, it is important for the neck to be immobilized until the injury can be diagnosed. The only exception to this is if the patient must be moved for immediate survival.
In addition to X-rays of the area to determine the precise location and severity of the bone fracture, a CT or MRI scan is also necessary to determine whether soft tissue has been damaged as well. Treatment is predicated on the extent of an injury, if any, to the spinal cord, as well as on the nature of the cervical fracture.