There are seven cervical vertebrae. These vertebrae support the neck and shoulders. A fracture in any of these vertebrae is commonly called a broken neck.
Cervical neck fractures are common in car accidents and high falls but also in sports such as football and hockey. Because the vertebrae contain the spinal cord cervical fractures can be very serious and even deadly injuries. If there is damage to the spinal cord at the level of the fracture temporary or permanent quadriplegia may result.
Symptoms of Cervical fractures
If the patient is conscious then they will feel pain in the neck and into the shoulders. There may also be bruising and swelling on the neck.
Management and diagnosis
First aid management of a possible cervical fracture is very important. It is essential that the neck be kept as still as possible until an x-ray is done. The doctors will take x-rays and other scans to determine the extent and type of damage. They will also perform a neurological exam to determine if any damage has occurred to the spinal cord.
Treatment will depend on which vertebrae has been fractured and the type of fractures. Often crush fractures require the patient to wear a cervical brace for 6-8 weeks while the fracture heals. More severe fractures may require traction, surgery and internal fixation, two to three months in a rigid cast, or a combination of these treatments.
Once the fracture is healed and stable then physiotherapy would be recommended by you doctor to restore pain free function of the neck. Obviously if there has been permanent damage to the spinal cord then in most cases you will spend time in a hospital spinal unit.