A Jefferson fracture is a type of injury affecting the front and back arches of the C1 vertebra. Take note that the C1 vertebra is the uppermost to the skull. In most cases, they are related to osteoporosis.
What are the signs?
A Jefferson fracture triggers upper neck pain. There are no issues with movement, brain function or speech unless the nerves in the spinal cord are also damaged.
In some instances, there is also damage to the neck arteries. Injuries to the blood vessels in the upper neck can result to neurological problems such as ataxia. Additionally, a bruise and swelling around the site of injury can also occur.
This type of fracture can be distinguished from another cervical injury by noting down the symptoms:
- Pain and stiffness usually localized to an area around the damaged vertebra
- Difficulty walking and even breathing if there is a spinal cord injury
- Intense pain in another part of the body and not aware of the neck pain
The pain that radiates down the spine and into the legs is likely due to a spinal disc crushing against the spinal cord.
Management of a Jefferson fracture
The treatment plan is based on the nature of the fracture. A key component of the injury is damage to the transverse ligament. This ligament is a dense band that stabilizes the C1 in the neck. Surgical intervention might be needed if the ligament is significantly torn.
The individual might also be in traction with an apparatus known as a halo around the head as well as the neck to prevent movement. The halo is secured in position with pins placed into the skull. In less severe cases, a neck brace is used for stabilization.
Remember that a break in the C1 is considered unstable. Surgical intervention is often needed to steady the vertebrae and prevent further injury, specifically surgical decompression. The procedure involves the removal of the bone pieces and remains from the vertebrae to ensure that there is no disruption with the healing of the C1 or anything that can crush on the nerves.
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on a Jefferson fracture is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn how it is managed, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.