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Chance Fracture

Case Detail

Anatomy: Brain-Spine
Joseph Junewick, MD FACR
Diagnostic Category: Trauma
Created: over 10 years ago
Updated: over 10 years ago
Tags: PEDS
Modality/Study Types: CT MR
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Restrained teenager involved in motor vehicle accident.

Case Images


Chance Fracture (Hyperflexion-Distraction Injury)


CT – Sagittal and coronal reformated images demonstrate a transverse fracture of the posterior elements of L3, kyphosis at L3-L4 and superior compression deformity of L4.

MR – Sagittal fat-suppressed T1, T2 and inversion recovery and axial T2 images show disc herniation at L3-L4, elevation of the posterior longitudinal ligament by blood, compression deformity of L4, posterior element fracture of L3 and extensive paraspinous edema.


Chance-type spinal injuries are the result of hyperflexion and distraction of the spine around a fulcrum. Initially this injury was described in motor vehicle accident victims restrained by a lap belt. The classic radiographic features of this injury include horizontal fractures of the pedicles extending transversely through the vertebral body. In cases in which reduction of the fracture is incomplete, the posterior vertebral body height is increased in relation to the adjacent inferior vertebral body. The wedge-shaped compression fracture of the anterosuperior vertebral body suggests that the fulcrum point is located behind the anterior column. The key indication that a flexion-distraction injury has occurred is posterior osteoligamentous complex disruption in the presence of minimal vertebral malalignment.

MR imaging allows depiction of the injured posterior osteoligamentous component. There is widespread damage to the soft tissues, as highlighted by edema and hemorrhage in the subcutaneous fat and paraspinous muscles at multiple contiguous vertebral levels. Supraspinous, interspinous, and flaval ligaments are disrupted. Cord injury is common at the site of spinal injury related to profound distractive tension. Contiguous vertebral injury due to compressive forces, with bone edema occurring in the anterosuperior aspect of the subjacent vertebral body and noncontiguous vertebral injury are common. Disc herniation and anterior longitudinal ligament was disruption are also often seen.

It is important to remember that Chance fractures are highly associated with injuries of the abdominal wall, bowel, mesentery, solid viscera and abdominal great vesselsvisceral injuries including.


Groves CJ, Cassar-Pullicino VN, Tins BJ, Tyrrell PNM, McCall IW. Chance-Type Flexion-Distraction Injuries in the Thoracolumbar Spine: MR Imaging. Radiology (2005); 236: 601-608.

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