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Friday, January 11, 2013

Cervical Spine Fracture

The radiographic images below are from a young gelding that was found by the owner walking "strangely" in the pasture. There was a large swelling present along the neck region, just behind the right ear and the gelding was having difficulty raising his head above the horizon. There was no knowledge of recent trauma. When examined, the gelding WAS walking and the "strange" gait was better described as moderate ataxia in all  limbs. The gelding was able to elevate his head with assistance but there was minimal lateral movement of this cervical spine. 

The radiographic exam revealed a catastrophic fracture of cervical spine #2 (C2), also known as the axis. The fracture line (yellow line) appears to travel directly through the spinous process of  C2 and through the body of C2. Centered in the body of the cervical spine is the vertebral canal which houses the spinal cord. Typically, an injury to this region of the spine results in trauma to the spinal cord and varying degrees of neurologic deficits. 

Due to the severity of the fracture in this case, one might have predicted that the trauma to the spinal cord would have resulted in severe neurologic deficits such as complete recumbency or even sudden death! Although the gelding was still standing, there was significant instability of the cervical spine and the prognosis for life was poor, hence humane euthanasia was elected. 

Very sad case!!


  1. Wow, I didn't recognize it as the axis "joint". Can you post a normal picture for comparison? Thanks from the eternally curious!

  2. Very interesting case, but sad. I know the cost is grossly prohibitive when considering that this gelding would probably only be a pasture ornament, but would it have been possible to put screws in this fracture like we do in legs?