Background: Flexion and extension radiographs are often used in the setting of trauma to clear a cervical spine injury. The utility of such tests, however, remains to be determined. We hypothesized that in patients who underwent a negative computed tomography (CT) cervical spine scan, flexion and extension radiographs did not yield useful additional information. Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of all patients admitted to a Level I trauma center who had a negative CT scan of the cervical spine and a subsequent cervical flexion-extension study for evaluation of potential cervical spine injury. All flexion-extension films were independently reviewed to determine adequacy as defined by C7/T1 visualization and 30 of change in the angle from flexion to extension. The independent reviews were compared to formal radiology readings and the influence of the flexion-extension studies on clinical decision making was also reviewed. Results: One thousand patients met inclusion criteria for the study. Review of the flexion-extension radiographs revealed that 80 % of the films either did not adequately demonstrate the C7/T1 junction or had less than 30 range of motion. There was one missed injury that was also missed on magnetic resonance imaging. Results of the flexion-extension views had minimal effects on clinical decision making. Conclusion: Adequate flexion extension films are difficult to obtain and are minimally helpful for clearance of the cervical spine in awake and alert trauma patients.
- Cervical spine
- Flexion extension
- Spine clearance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine