Atlantoaxial Rotatory Subluxation in Children

Powell, E. C.; Leonard, J. R.; Olsen, C. S.; Jaffe, D. M.; Anders, J.; Leonard, J. C.

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2017 Feb 1; 33(2):86-91


OBJECTIVES: Pediatric cervical injuries are uncommon. This study was to describe injury circumstances, clinical findings, and management among children diagnosed with atlantoaxial rotatory subluxation (AARS) to aid in its recognition and management. METHODS: Subanalysis of a large case-control study from January 2000 to December 2004 in 17 hospitals in the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network was performed. Cases were children younger than 16 years with AARS after blunt trauma (n = 55); controls were (a) children with other cervical spine injuries (other CSI, n = 485) and (b) those with normal imaging of the cervical spine (non-CSI, n = 1060). RESULTS: Children with AARS were younger (mean [SD] age, 7.7 [3.8] vs 10.7 [4.6]; Wilcoxon P < 0.01). Falls accounted for 36% of injuries; there were no diving mechanisms (vs other CSI, falls 19%, Fisher exact P < 0.01, and diving 7%, P = 0.04). Children with AARS sought medical care more than 24 hours after the injury event (21% vs 1% for non-CSI controls, P < 0.01). Clinical findings associated with AARS included neck pain (67%) and torticollis (57%) versus other CSI, pain (47%) and torticollis (5%, P < 0.01) for each, and versus non-CSI controls, pain (33%) and torticollis (6%, P < 0.01) for each. Management of AARS included no intervention (n = 6, 11%), soft or rigid collar only (n = 24, 44%), traction (n = 14, 25%), halo (n = 9, 16%), internal fixation (n = 2, 4%), and varied across institutions (P = 0.02). CONCLUSIONS: Children with AARS often have a delayed presentation with neck pain and torticollis; falls are a common injury mechanism. Treatment varied across institutions. Further work is needed to identify optimal management.

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