The November 25, 2015 “Case Connections” looks at four JBJS Case Connector cases involving injuries to the cervical spine in which the outcomes were about as good as anyone could have wished, considering the potential for disaster. Two of the cases required surgical intervention to achieve the positive outcomes, but the outcomes in the other two cases were remarkably positive without surgery.
While these four cases of cervical spine injury had relatively “happy endings,” orthopaedic surgeons and other health-care professionals treating patients with any suspected spine injury are trained to proceed with the utmost care and caution out of concern for devastating neurological sequelae. Watchful waiting under close medical scrutiny is sometimes warranted, but many cases of cervical fracture, dislocation, or instability call for operative stabilization to reduce the risk of life-changing or life-threatening consequences. The potential seriousness of surgical complications when operating on the spine must also be recognized.