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Broken Neck Guide

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What Constitutes a Broken Neck?

By Ann Butenas
 
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Of all the bones to break in the body, the most serious of fractures, a broken neck, can potentially lead to paralysis and even death. When an injury is sustained in the neck area of the spine and the vertebrae become dislocated or fractured, this is referred to as a broken neck.

Commonly called the cervical area, the neck houses the top seven vertebrae in the body. Not only do these vertebrae form the upper portion of the backbone, they also protect the spinal cord from injury.

If injury is sustained to these vertebrae, but the spinal cord is not harmed, then neurological problems should not ensue. When people have this type of injury, they are treated with the utmost of care and caution while the bones heal to avoid injury to the spinal cord itself. However, if the spinal cord is somewhat damaged or bruised, certain neurological problems may arise and/or quadriplegia may occur.

If the injury is at or above the fifth vertebrae, the victim’s breathing may become affected. This could possibly lead to asphyxiation. In efforts to help someone breathe under these circumstances, a hole is cut into the trachea, and a tube that is connected to a ventilator is inserted to provide oxygen to the lungs.

When damage or injury occurs below the sixth vertebrae, paralysis is likely and the victim’s breathing capabilities will be at a reduced capacity. When the cord is severely injured, such as cut or torn in half, the nerve supply to the entire body is cut off, including what is necessary for the heart and blood vessels to function. The victim may lapse into spinal shock, which is a condition wherein the blood pressure drops dramatically.

If you are in a situation when you think someone has a spinal injury, it is imperative not to move that person. Do not attempt to move the victim one tiny bit. (If they are in a very tenuous situation, however, such as in a burning vehicle, then it would be necessary to move the person from that situation.) Overall, the best rule of thumb is to not move the person at all if you are in doubt as to whether or not a spinal injury has been sustained.

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