Skip to main content


Clinical Practice Guideline


a) Lateral cervical spine plain X ray

  • In the unstable non-responder with devastating injuries and GCS=3, who shows no evidence of extremity movement and for whom emergent transfer to surgery without CT imaging is being considered, a cross-table lateral c-spine may demonstrate atlanto-occipital dislocation or other severely displaced c-spine fracture, which portends a poor prognosis and thereby facilitates a decision not to proceed to surgery.
  • A major c-spine fracture dislocation identified in this manner indicates a particularly poor prognosis in the severely head injured and/or elderly patient.
b) Cervical spine series radiographs

  • Not indicated in the severely injured patient
  • If radiography ordered based on Canadian c-spine rule (Appendix G) then minimum views needed:
    • lateral to include C7-T1
    • AP
    • Open mouth odontoid
    • Obliques not necessary
c) Standard trauma imaging CT protocol

  • The basic set of CT imaging that will most often be used an should be considered the starting point for CT imaging of the severely injured patient
  • Includes cervical spine (non-contrast)
  • See Appendix C for criteria for the ordering of this standard CT protocol
  • A normal CT is adequate to clear the cervical spine injury if:
    • CT of c-spine is normal, and
    • Patient is accessible neurologically (i.e., moves all four limbs), and
    • There is no clinical suspicion of cord injury
If one or more of these conditions are not met, a neurosurgical consult for possible MRI of the c-spine should be considered.

  • Abnormal CT of the c-spine can include:
    • Significant degenerative changes
    • Fracture
    • Suspected ligamentous injury
  • Conduct CT c-spine if there is a head injury or in elderly patients with GCS<15
SOURCE: Spine ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © Provincial Health Services Authority. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2024 Provincial Health Services Authority