Diagnose on Sight: Traumatic low back pain
Case: An 18 year old female was the restrained passenger in a motor vehicle crash moving at 65 mph. She complained of traumatic low back pain radiating to her abdomen. What is the most likely mechanism of injury, based on this video of CT images?
[su_spoiler title=”Answer” style=”fancy” icon=”caret”]
This is a Chance fracture. First described in 1948 by British radiologist George Quintin Chance, the eponymous fracture is a horizontal spinal fracture through the vertebral body and posterior elements (spinous process, laminae, and pedicles) of the thoraco-lumbar region.1
They are most commonly associated with a hyperflexion mechanism from motor vehicle accidents where the occupant is restrained by a lap belt.2
Though the fracture is quite uncommon, up to 33% of individuals with Chance fractures also have serious intra-abdominal injuries, predominantly hollow viscous injuries. When a patient with a Chance fracture also has an abdominal wall contusion, the risk of intra-abdominal injury rises to 85%.3
Master Clinician Bedside Pearls
Robert L. Rogers, MD, FACEP
Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine
Director, The Teaching Course
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Maryland
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