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The daunting task of “clearing” the cervical spine

  • Brian E. Grunau (a1), Daniel Dibski (a2) and Jeremy Hall (a2)


The evaluation of the cervical spine in the emergency department is a common and often challenging task. We report the case of a 70-year-old female who presented intoxicated with evidence of a recent fall. A 64-slice computed tomographic (CT) scan with sagittal and coronal reconstructions revealed no acute injury. The patient was reexamined when alert and had persistent neck pain. Flexionextension static views revealed severe subluxation of C5 on C6 with jumped facets, and subsequent magnetic resonance imaging confirmed significant ligamentous injury. The evidence available suggests that although CT with reconstruction is highly sensitive for clinically significant cervical injury, the possibility of severe injury remains.


Corresponding author

Emergency Department, St. Paul's Hospital, 1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6;


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