Introduction: Epidemiological data on spinal injuries and their treatment in children is sparse, and only few population based data exist on the subject. Aims of the current study were: to define incidences of children's spinal fractures and spinal cord injuries and to evaluate the need for surgical interventions in a population based epidemiological study in Finnish children and adolescents.
Methods: All spinal fractures and spinal cord injuries in children under 18 years of age treated in hospital between 1997–2006 in Finland were included. The data on injuries, hospitalizations, and surgical treatment were collected from the National Hospital Discharge Register which includes all in‐patient treatment periods. Fatal spinal injuries were derived from the Official Cause‐of‐Death Statistics of Finland.
Results: The overall incidence of spinal fractures remained rather stable during the follow‐up period, averaging 66 per million children and representing 2.3% of all pediatric fractures. The proportions of cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine injuries altered with age. In younger children (<8 years of age), cervical spine was most often affected, and cervical spine dislocation was the most common injury. In the older children, lumbar (42%) and thoracic spine injuries (33%) were more common than cervical. Annual incidence of pediatric spinal cord injuries was 4.3 per million children and 1.9 if prehospital fatalities were excluded. Cervical spinal cord injury with or without cervical spine fractures accounted for 80% of the fatalities. One‐third of the spinal injuries required surgical treatment. Most common procedures were posterior lumbar spine stabilization, anterior cervical spine decompression and stabilization, and posterior thoracic spine stabilization.
Conclusion: Pediatric spine and spinal cord injuries are rare. Prevention of spinal cord injuries is part of the overall prevention of severe accidents
Significance: In contrast to previous literature, the most commonly affected area in pediatric spinal injuries was lumbar spine. One‐third of the injuries require surgical intervention.