Original Research

A profile of traumatic brain injuries and associated cervical spine injuries at a regional hospital in the KwaZulu-Natal Province

Maamei L. Malale, Nicholas Dufourq, Nivisha Parag
South African Family Practice | Vol 62, No 1 : Part 4| a5136 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v62i1.5136 | © 2020 Maamei L. Malale, Nicholas Dufourq, Nivisha Parag | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 April 2020 | Published: 08 October 2020

About the author(s)

Maamei L. Malale, Department of Emergency Medicine, Nelson Rolihlahla School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Empangeni, South Africa
Nicholas Dufourq, Department of Emergency Medicine, Nelson Rolihlahla School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Empangeni, South Africa
Nivisha Parag, Department of Emergency Medicine, Nelson Rolihlahla School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Empangeni, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Clearing the cervical spine in an unconscious blunt trauma patient is an elusive concept. The aim of this study was to describe the incidence of cervical spine injury (CSI) in patients with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The study was conducted on patients who underwent imaging of both the cervical spine and the brain in one sitting at a busy government healthcare facility in Pietermaritzburg.

Methods: This was a retrospective, cross sectional study of all the trauma patients presenting to a regional hospital emergency department (ED) in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, who underwent computed tomography (CT) imaging of the brain and the cervical spine in one sitting during the period January 2016 to June 2016.

Results: Adult males formed the majority (78.9%) of the study population and had the highest incidence of TBI, the most common identified pathology in CT being parenchymal injuries (41%). The mechanisms that resulted in the majority of injuries sustained were assault (38.7%) and motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) (25%), while seven patients (4.76%) had a combined diagnosis of TBI and CSI. The average Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) was 12.

Conclusion: Young adult males are at the greatest risk of sustaining TBI, with assault being the most common mechanism of injury. Combined diagnoses of TBI and CSI are rare and were mostly noted in patients involved in MVCs and pedestrian vehicle collisions. While the chance of an abnormal CT scan increased with a decreasing GCS score, 33% of patients with a mild TBI did not have abnormal CT findings, and 25% patients with severe TBI had no abnormal CT findings.


Keywords

traumatic brain injuries; cervical spine injuries; combined diagnosis; trauma; rural medicine

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