Skip Navigation LinksHome > July 2002 - Volume 53 - Issue 1 > Spinal Injuries in Motorcycle Crashes: Patterns and Outcomes
Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care:
Original Articles

Spinal Injuries in Motorcycle Crashes: Patterns and Outcomes

Robertson, Angus BSc, MRCS(Ed); Giannoudis, Peter V. MD, EEC(Orth); Branfoot, Toby FRCSEd(Tr & Orth), MSc; Barlow, Ian; Matthews, Stuart J. FRCS; Smith, Raymond M. MD, FRCS

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Background : The purpose of this study was to determine patterns of spinal injury and clinical outcomes resulting from motorcycle crashes.

Methods : We analyzed data collected on 1,121 motorcyclists involved in road traffic accidents (from 1993–2000) and identified those who had sustained a spinal injury.

Results : Spinal injury occurred in 126 (11.2%) riders (112 male riders [88.9%] and 14 female riders [11.1%]), with a mean age of 30.2 years (range, 16–61 years) and Injury Severity Score of 18.8 (range, 4–66). Isolated injuries to the spine occurred in 30 (23.8%) riders. The thoracic spine was injured in 69 (54.8%), the lumbar spine in 37 (29.4%), and the cervical spine in 34 (27.0%) cases. Multiple vertebral levels were affected in 54 (42.9%). Neurologic injury occurred in 25 riders (19.8%), with complete distal neurologic injury in 14 (4 cervical, 9 thoracic, and 1 lumbar). Eleven (8.7%) patients required spinal surgery. There were 13 (10.3%) deaths.

Conclusion : The thoracic spine is the most commonly injured spinal region in motorcycle crashes. Multiple level injuries are common. Protocols concentrating on the radiographic clearance of the cervical region may miss a significant number of spinal injuries. Vigilance is required in assessing these patients, who often have multiple injuries.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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