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Undetected hangman's fracture in a patient referred for physical therapy for the treatment of neck pain following trauma



Undetected hangman's fracture in a patient referred for physical therapy for the treatment of neck pain following trauma



Physical Therapy 88(1): 98-104



This case report describes a patient referred for physical therapy treatment of neck pain who had an underlying hangman's fracture that precluded physical therapy intervention. This case involved a 61-year-old man who had a sudden onset of neck pain after a motor vehicle accident 8 weeks before his initial physical therapy visit. Conventional radiographs of his cervical spine taken on the day of the accident did not reveal any abnormalities. Based on the findings at his initial physical therapy visit, the physical therapist ordered conventional radiographs of the cervical spine to rule out the possibility of an undetected fracture. The radiographs revealed bilateral C2 pars interarticularis defects consistent with a hangman's fracture. The patient was referred to a neurosurgeon for immediate review. Based on a normal neurological examination, a relatively low level of pain, and the results of radiographic flexion and extension views of the cervical spine (which revealed no evidence of instability), the neurosurgeon recommended that the patient continue with nonsurgical management. In patients with neck pain caused by trauma, physical therapists should be alert for the presence of cervical spine fractures. Even if the initial radiographs are negative for a fracture, additional diagnostic imaging may be necessary for a small number of patients, because they may have undetected injuries that would necessitate medical referral and preclude physical therapy intervention.

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Accession: 056755506

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 17940105

DOI: 10.2522/ptj.20070033


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