Motor vehicle accidents are the major cause of flexion-distraction injuries of the thoracolumbar spine. In a retrospective review, we present the results of operative treatment for six pediatric patients who sustained such injuries while wearing seatbelts. There were three purely ligamentous injuries, two bony injuries (Chance fractures), and one combination injury. There were also concomitant neurological and intra-abdominal injuries. Of note is that two patients had either their spinal or abdominal injury missed on initial evaluation. All patients were treated surgically with open reduction and internal fixation. At average follow up of 2 years, all patients had a full range of motion with no back pain. Five had returned to their preinjury activity levels, while the sixth patient was paraplegic from his injury but was able to ambulate at home with crutches and knee-ankle-foot orthoses. We recommend operative reduction and two-level fusion of these injuries when (1) instability is apparent in either a purely ligamentous injury or an overtly unstable fracture-pattern, (2) significant kyphosis is present which cannot be reduced or maintained in a cast, or (3) there is associated neurological or intra-abdominal injury.
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Greenwald, T., Mann, D. Pediatric seatbelt injuries: diagnosis and treatment of lumbar flexion-distraction injuries. Spinal Cord 32, 743–751 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1038/sc.1994.120
- pediatric seatbelt injuries
- lumbar flexion-distraction injuries
- thoracolumbar spine
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