Thoracolumbar Spine Fractures in Frontal Impact Crashes

This paper reports on a study done to characterized thoracic and lumbar spine fractures that occur in motor vehicle crashes. The authors note that there is currently no injury assessment for thoracolumbar spine fractures in the motor vehicle crash standards throughout the world. The mechanism of injury in these situations is poorly understood. The authors used real-world crash data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS) and Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) databases. The NASS database was used to characterize population trends as a function of crash year and vehicle model year. The CIREN database was used to examine a case series in more detail. From the NASS database the authors found 2000–4000 occupants in frontal impacts with thoracic and lumbar vertebral body fractures per crash year. They noted an increasing trend in incidence rate of thoracolumbar fractures in frontal impact crashes as a function of vehicle model year from 1986 to 2008; this was not the case for other crash types. The CIREN data showed that the thoracolumbar spine was most commonly fractured at either the T12 or L1 level. Major, burst type fractures occurred predominantly at T12, L1 or L5; wedge fractures were most common at L1. Most CIREN occupants were belted; there were slightly more females involved; they were almost all in bucket seats; impact location occurred approximately half the time on the road and half off the road. The type of object struck also seemed to have some influence on fractured spine level, suggesting that the crash deceleration pulse may be influential in the type of compression vector that migrates up the spinal column. The authors conclude by calling for future biomechanical studies to define mechanistically how these fractures are influenced by the many factors identified in this study.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: pp 277–283
  • Monograph Title: Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine. 56th Annual Scientific Conference, Seattle, Washington, October 14-17, 2012
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01483000
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 30 2013 10:17PM