Objective: To determine whether age is associated with serious spinal injury in pediatric motor vehicle occupants, after controlling for crash-related factors.
Design & setting: Retrospective record review.
Patients & outcome measures: All motor vehicle passengers 0 -16 years treated at 2 major children's hospitals from 1999 to 2004 with ICD 10 codes for spinal trauma. Injury outcomes were categorized as minor and serious. Minor injuries were analogous to AIS 1 injuries. Serious injuries were those that posed some risk to the integrity of the spinal column or cord.
Results: 72 cases were identified (58 <12 years, 14 ≥12 years). Using logistic regression to adjust for confounders, including crash severity and crash type, age < 12 was found to be significantly associated with serious spinal injury. Compared to older children, children less than 12 years were more likely to sustain serious spinal injury (OR 7.1, 95% CI 1.2 - 42.9).
Conclusion: Children up to age 12 have an elevated risk of serious spinal injury in car crashes. This age breakpoint may reflect the adequacy of seat belt fit, and use of adult seatbelts alone before age 12 may increase a child's risk of serious spinal injury. Association between age and serious spinal injury should also be considered in the triage of pediatric motor vehicle occupants.