Pathologic C-spine fracture with low risk mechanism and normal physical exam.
Cervical spinal fracture is a rare, but potentially disabling complication of trauma to the neck. Clinicians often rely on clinical decision rules and guidelines to decide whether or not imaging is necessary when a patient presents with neck pain. Validated clinical guidelines include the Canadian C-Spine Rule and the Nexus criteria. Studies suggest that the risks of a pathologic fracture from a simple rear end collision are negligible. We present a case of an individual who presented to an emergency department (ED) after a low speed motor vehicle collision complaining of lateral neck pain and had multiple subsequent visits for the same complaint with negative exam findings. Ultimately, he was found to have a severely pathologic cervical spine fracture with notable cord compression. Our objective is to discuss the necessity to incorporate clinical decision rules with physician gestalt and the need to take into account co-morbidities of a patient presenting after a minor MVC.