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Hyperextension Injuries Thoracic Spine

Case Detail

Anatomy: Brain-Spine
Joseph Junewick, MD FACR
Diagnostic Category: Trauma
Created: over 9 years ago
Updated: over 9 years ago
Tags: PEDS
Modality/Study Types: CT MR
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3 year old restrained passenger involved in motor vehicle accident.

Case Images


Hyperextension Injuries Thoracic Spine

Clinical Notes

Minimal prepontine extraaxial hemorrhage on CT of the brain. Extensive abdominal visceral injuries including splenic laceration, left renal laceration, mesenteric hematoma, and right adrenal hematoma with extensive hemoperitoneum.


CT – Anterior-inferior corner fracture of T2 with the height of the fragment greater than the width and transverse splitting of the posterior elements of T3 extending anteriorly beneath the superior endplate of the vertebral body.

MR – Sagittal T2 and IR MR images show significant craniocervical junction injury (precervical hemorrhage and edema, disruption of the anterior longitudinal and apical ligaments, central cervicomedullary edema, and posterior interspinous and paraspinous edema; subluxation of the altanto-occipital joints not shown) and hyperextension teardrop fracture of T2 and hyperextension distraction injury of T3. The anterior longitudinal ligament is functionally disrupted by the teardrop fracture, the posterior longitudinal ligament is buckled but intact, and the posterior ligamentous complex is likely disrupted at T2-T3. Cervicothoracic epidural hematoma is seen anteriorly.


The thoracic spine is fairly resilient to injury owing to stabiliztion by the shoulder girdle and rib cage. Most thoracic injuries are related to hyperflexion giving rise to compression fractures and hyperflexion-dislocation injuries. Hyperextension injuries in the thoracic region are very uncommon and not usually even mentioned in the various classification schemes. Hyperextension injuries are usually due to falls with the patient’s back landing across a narrow structure such as a fence or a tree limb. The upper thoracic spine may have a slight lordosis and predispose to hyperextension injuries which may be potentiated in children because of the increased ligamentous and joint capsular laxity, decreased muscle mass and overall flexibility.


Junewick JJ. Cervical Spine Injuries in Pediatrics: Are children small adults or not? Pediatric Radiology 2010; 40(4):493-498.

Reilly CW. Pediatric spine trauma. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2007; 89:98-107

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