MR imaging of the cervical spine in nonaccidental trauma: A tertiary institution experience

R. Jacob, M. Cox, K. Koral, C. Greenwell, Y. Xi, L. Vinson, K. Reeder, B. Weprin, R. Huang, T. N. Booth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Cervical MR imaging has demonstrated a utility for detecting soft tissue injury in nonaccidental trauma. The purpose of this study was to identify the incidence and types of cervical spine injury on MR imaging in nonaccidental trauma and to correlate cervical spine injury with parenchymal injury on brain MR imaging and findings on head CT. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A retrospective review of children diagnosed with nonaccidental trauma in a tertiary referral pediatric hospital over 8 years was performed. Inclusion criteria were children younger than 5 years of age, a confirmed diagnosis of nonaccidental trauma, and cervical spineMRimaging within 1 week of presentation. Brain and cervical spineMRimaging, head CT, cervical radiographs, and skeletal surveys were reviewed. RESULTS: There were 89 patients included in this study (48 males; mean age, 9.1 months [range, 1-59 months]). Cervical spine injury on MR imaging was found in 61 patients (69%). Ligamentous injury was seen in 60 patients (67%), with interspinous ligaments being most commonly involved. Abnormal capsular fluid (atlanto-occipital and atlantoaxial) was present in 28 patients (32%). Cervical spine injury on MR imaging was significantly associated with parenchymal restricted diffusion on brain MR imaging and parenchymal injury on head CT (P=.0004 and P=.0104, respectively). Children with restricted diffusion on brain MR imaging were 6.22 (point estimate) times more likely to have cervical spine injury on MR imaging. CONCLUSIONS: There is a high incidence of cervical spine injury in pediatric nonaccidental trauma. Positive findings may affect management and suggest a traumatic etiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1944-1950
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016



  • AHT=abusive head trauma
  • CSI=cervical spine injury
  • NAT=nonaccidental trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology

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