Pediatric Spine and Spinal Cord Trauma: State of the Art for the Third Millennium



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The purpose of this work was to analyze the literature published in English and to review the experience of the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) with spine and spinal cord injury (SCI) in children. Standard computerized data bases were queried for information regarding SCI, spinal injury, spinal instability, and spinal cord regeneration to produce a review of the epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment, outcome and directions for future research. We also reviewed our experiences in the management of infants and children with spine injuries and SCIs and with spinal instability from all causes. A total of 132 articles were identified and obtained from the Medical Library at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz. and through interlibrary loan. All these articles were read, although not all were used in the final review. A review of all children with SCIs revealed that fractures treated over the past 20 years at the BNI were very rare in preadolescent children, who suffered mostly from ligamentous injury or SCI without radiographic abnormality. A total of 68 children aged 16 years or younger who had been treated over the past 15 years and who had undergone spinal fusions for trauma, congenital anomalies, or tumor resection were identified. Occipitocervical fusion is well tolerated in children as young as 11 months when internal stabilization with a threaded titanium rod is used. Posterior instrumentation, including pedicle screw fixation, is feasible in children as young as 4 years. Fusion techniques derived from the adult spinal instrumentation experience were found appropriate except for the youngest patients. Fusion in the newborn period was futile in our experience. The adolescent spine does not differ from the adult spine in terms of sensitivity or response to fixation. Children past the neonatal period can be successfully instrumented for spinal stability without apparent long-term sequelae. Related advances are needed in the area of prevention. Long-term advances in spinal cord regeneration can be expected from ongoing basic science investigations.

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Child's Nervous System







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