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Keywords:

  • cervical spine fracture;
  • neurotrauma;
  • radiography: odontoid;
  • geriatrics

ABSTRACT

The issue of whether a traumatic but occult cervical spine fracture can exist has generated significant debate in emergency medicine. The profound clinical and legal implications of missing an unstable cervical spine injury are well known to the emergency care provider. An elderly patient who satisfies all of the rigorous criteria for this type of injury is discussed. The patient experienced delayed subluxation of her acute odontoid fracture during a flexion/extension examination completed in the ED, with resultant development of cervical discomfort. Elderly victims of trauma with an appropriate mechanism of injury should be suspected of subtle or occult neck injuries.