Frequent Computed Tomography Scanning Due to Incomplete Three-View X-Ray Imaging of the Cervical Spine

Teun Peter Saltzherr, Ludo F. M. Beenen, Johannes B. Reitsma, Jan S. K. Luitse, W. Peter Vandertop, J. Carel Goslings

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Conventional C-spine imaging (3-view series) is still widely used in trauma patients, although the utilization of computed tomography (CT) scanning is increasing. The aim of this study was to analyze the value of conventional radiography and the frequency of subsequent CT scanning due to incompleteness of three-view series of the C-spine in adult blunt trauma patients. Methods: We analyzed the data of a prospectively collected database including all patients between November 2005 and November 2007 treated in the trauma resuscitating room. We assessed the reasons for subsequent CT scanning after the three-view series according to the following classification: inevaluability, incompletion, evaluation of findings on three-view series or evaluation of unexplained, and persistent clinical symptoms. Furthermore, we evaluated possible predictors for incompleteness. Results: Of 1,283 blunt trauma patients, 88 C-spine injuries were diagnosed with an overall incidence of 6.9%. One hundred fifty-nine patients (12%) had their C-spine cleared based on the NEXUS criteria and 12 died before C-spine imaging could be performed. A total of 717 patients were primarily evaluated with three-view series and 395 patients primarily with CT scanning. Within the population with primarily three-view series, 249 (35%) were repeatedly incomplete and 16 (2%) were inevaluable. In the majority of the incomplete three-view series, no apparent reason could be determined. However, the presence of clavicular fractures (resulting in incomplete radiographs in 68% vs. 34% without a fracture; p <0.001) and rib fractures (56% vs. 34%; p = 0.008) were associated with incomplete three-view series. Conclusion: In more than one third of the patients primarily assessed with three-view X-ray series of the C-spine, the results are incomplete or inevaluable necessitating CT scanning. Although the majority of the incomplete series remain unexplained, we advise CT scanning in patients having clavicular and rib fractures because this increases the likelihood of obtaining incomplete three-view series
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1213-1217
JournalJournal of trauma
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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