A hangman’s fracture involves a break in one of the neck vertebrae. Even though it can be quite serious, the damage can be treated.
In most cases, there is a break in the C2 since it is the 2nd bone down from the skull in the cervical vertebrae. The fracture might be partial or complete. The damage can also cause the C2 to move out of position with the bone beneath it.
What is the cause?
Falls and vehicular accidents are the usual causes of a hangman’s fracture. The injury can also stem from sports especially from a strong strike while playing rugby or football.
What are the signs?
The neck pain in the area bordering the injury can be intense. Nevertheless, if other injuries are present, the individual might be more aware of the other symptoms. Oftentimes, the individual might ignore or not aware of the neck pain until the shock of the injury subsides.
If the spinal nerves are affected, there is tingling or numbness in the legs or arms. Damage to the nerves affecting the lungs and airways can cause difficulty breathing. In addition, there is also neck stiffness as well as bruising of the skin close to the site of the fracture.
If any of these symptoms are present after a fall or other injury, a doctor must be seen right away.
Management of a hangman’s fracture
There are non-surgical and surgical treatment options for this type of injury. The seriousness of the damage is used to determine the suitable treatment.
In some instances, surgical intervention is not necessary. A neck brace might be enough to allow the fracture to heal. Nevertheless, the injury can be serious. The bone will not always correctly heal and gain stability on its own. This is the reason why surgery is often necessary.
For serious cases, both the head and neck are immobilized. Metal pins are briefly placed in the skull and attached to a frame fitted with weights, pulley and rope. This is a type of skeletal traction and often the primary treatment after the injury.
In case surgery is required, an incision is created in the rear part of the neck. The doctor will fuse the fracture with small screws and rods.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on a hangman’s fracture is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs and how it is managed, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.