A cervical fracture involves damage to the cervical vertebrae. It is important to note that the cervical vertebrae are comprised of 7 bones that provide support to the head and neck.
The fracture is generally brought about by high impact during vehicular accidents or a fall. Those who engage in sports such as hockey or football are also at risk.
What are the risk factors?
The common risk factors for the injury include:
- Advancing age
- Engaging in rough or contact sports such as hockey or football
- Osteoporosis or weakening of the bones
What are the signs?
The usual indications of a cervical fracture include:
- Neck pain, swelling and tenderness
- Diminished range of motion in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weakness, tingling sensation and evident numbness of the neck
- Blurry vision
- Paralysis of the legs or arms
- Loss of consciousness due to brain damage
Always bear in mind that a cervical fracture is considered as a serious injury that can result to paralysis or even death. Those who sustained serious injuries to the neck should not be moved and prompt medical care is required.
Management of a cervical fracture
The care for a cervical fracture is based on the site of injury and form of fracture.
- For a minor case of compression fracture, full immobilization of the neck using a cervical brace must be worn for 6-8 weeks. This is necessary to limit movement until the bone recuperates.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be given to lessen the pain and swelling in the neck.
- Skeletal traction is a mechanism that secures the fractured bony pieces together.
- Rehabilitation exercises must be done with the guidance of a therapist.
- Speech therapy can help if there is difficulty with speech or swallowing.
In some cases, though, especially the severe ones, surgical approach is necessary such as open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on a cervical fracture is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs and how it is treated, register for a first aid and CPR course with Toronto First Aid.