Pediatric cervical spine injuries (CSIs) are rare but potentially fatal injuries. Plain radiographs (x-rays) and computed tomography (CT) are used to diagnose CSIs. Given concerns related to radiation exposure, the utility of x-rays in diagnosing CSIs compared with other forms of imaging must be examined.Methods
Patients younger than 19 years presenting with possible CSI to an urban tertiary care hospital who received imaging for possible CSI between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2013, were included. The dose-length product was abstracted from the PACS system. Test performance for x-ray, CT, and MRI were calculated and effective radiation dose by age group was analyzed using the Kruskal-Wallis Test.Results
A total of 671 patient charts were reviewed, 574 children were included in the study cohort. Median age of enrolled children was 9.70 (interquartile range, 4.78–13.83) years; 42.5% were female. Test performance of x-ray, CT, and MRI to detect CSI were calculated. Cervical x-rays performed only slightly inferior to CT. Sensitivity was 83% (95% confidence interval [CI], 36−99%), and specificity was 97% (95% CI, 96%–99%) versus 100% (95% CI, 96%–100%) for CT. Median effective dose of radiation for cervical CTs was 4.51 mSv (interquartile range, 3.84–5.59 mSv). Median dose significantly increased with age (2.94–5.10 mSv, P < 0.001).Conclusions
Plain radiographs were largely sufficient to screen for CSIs, indicating their utility as a screening tool for CSIs. The incidence of CSIs in our sample was similar to prior reports. The effective radiation dose delivered during pediatric head and cervical CTs were lower than previously published estimates.