1. To become familiar with imaging features of cervical, thoracolumbar and sacral trauma.
2. To understand the importance of mechanism of injury in the setting of spinal trauma.
3. To appreciate the usefulness of radiography, CT and MR imaging in the detection and evaluation of spinal trauma.
Spinal trauma is an extremely complex event, whose effects and related appropriate treatment choice and timing are classically based on the evidence of the lesions, their anatomic landmarks and mechanisms of injury at diagnostic imaging. The primary aim of this lecture was to describe: 1) range of injuries resulting from high-energy trauma in patients of all ages; 2) indications to the different diagnostic imaging modalities; and 3) imaging findings which have to be looked for in spinal trauma patients, in order to adopt a pattern-based approach for efficient imaging interpretation and communication with all specialists involved in spinal trauma. Radiography and, above all, CT provides most of the information needed for the diagnostic workup; therefore, CT is the preferred imaging modality. MR imaging can provide additional information on the state of paraspinal soft tissues thanks to the high contrast resolution allowing oedema detection; moreover, it is needed to determine the integrity of the discoligamentous complex, contributing to a better evaluation of spine stability, and is thus mandatory in all cases of neurological compromise. In conclusion, the appropriate use of radiography, CT and MR imaging has the potential of correctly identifying the injured spine, allowing early treatment while minimising the risk of a delayed diagnosis.