Bulletins

​ Missed Cervical Spine Fractures

August 16, 2017

The consequences of missing a spinal fracture can be extremely serious, particularly with C1 and C2 fractures where the main aim of treatment is to stabilise the spine.   If such a fracture is not stabilised, the brainstem and spinal cord may be at risk, and can lead to severe compression of the spinal cord and a condition called myelopathy. 

In some cases instability can even be fatal. Types of cervical spine fractures include:-

  • Jefferson fractures

  • Hangman fractures

  • Atlas fractures

  • Odontoid fracture

Missed fractures can occur because the doctor has not considered the possibility of a spinal injury, has not interpreted radiographs correctly, or has not asked for adequate tests to be carried out.  In a small percentage of cases of spinal trauma, there may be a second fracture elsewhere in the spine, and it is therefore essential that the whole of the spinal column is assessed to exclude this possibility.  

Early identification of a spinal fracture often results in a full recovery.   Treatment is usually by way of immobilisation, either by a rigid collar, a halo vest or a body jacket.   The vest or body jacket can, in particular, help prevent further trauma to the area by restricting mobility.   However, if a cervical fracture is missed and not conservatively treated, a stable fracture can become unstable or become misaligned.   Delay in surgery may mean it is not possible to restore alignment and patients can be left with restricted movement and permanent pain.

If you have suffered a cervical spinal injury which was not adequately diagnosed, or have had spinal surgery which has gone wrong, which has led to further problems we can advise you about whether you have a potential claim. At Metcalfes we understand the devastating effect that spinal injury can have on a person as well as on their family and that a life changing injury can leave you feeling isolated and vulnerable.  Our team understands how difficult it can be to adapt to life following spinal injury and we will sensitively guide you through the process of claiming compensation to ensure that bringing a claim is a stress free process.  We will also help you get early access to rehabilitative services to give you the best possible outcome following injury.

We are members of the leading spinal cord injuries charity, the Spinal Injuries Association, (www.spinal.co.uk) whose valuable work supports thousands of people with spinal injuries year after year. Our experience and specialism allows us to ensure that you get the right help when you need it, to help you from the very start along your road to recovery.

If you or someone you know has been affected by spinal injury or any of the issues mentioned in this article, our specialist team may be able to help. Please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

Links : See our other pages on Spinal Injury and Fractures generally for more information.   You can also view the website for the  Spinal Injuries Association.

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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​  Missed Cervical Spine Fractures

Gillian Clark

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