Atlantoaxial Rotatory Subluxation in Children

Elizabeth C. Powell, Jeffrey R. Leonard, Cody S. Olsen, David M. Jaffe, Jennifer Anders, Julie C. Leonard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives Pediatric cervical injuries are uncommon. This study was to describe injury circumstances, clinical findings, and management among children diagnosed with atlantoaxial rotatory subluxation (AARS) to aid in its recognition and management. Methods Subanalysis of a large case-control study from January 2000 to December 2004 in 17 hospitals in the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network was performed. Cases were children younger than 16 years with AARS after blunt trauma (n = 55); controls were (a) children with other cervical spine injuries (other CSI, n = 485) and (b) those with normal imaging of the cervical spine (non-CSI, n = 1060). Results Children with AARS were younger (mean [SD] age, 7.7 [3.8] vs 10.7 [4.6]; Wilcoxon P < 0.01). Falls accounted for 36% of injuries; there were no diving mechanisms (vs other CSI, falls 19%, Fisher exact P < 0.01, and diving 7%, P = 0.04). Children with AARS sought medical care more than 24 hours after the injury event (21% vs 1% for non-CSI controls, P < 0.01). Clinical findings associated with AARS included neck pain (67%) and torticollis (57%) versus other CSI, pain (47%) and torticollis (5%, P < 0.01) for each, and versus non-CSI controls, pain (33%) and torticollis (6%, P < 0.01) for each. Management of AARS included no intervention (n = 6, 11%), soft or rigid collar only (n = 24, 44%), traction (n = 14, 25%), halo (n = 9, 16%), internal fixation (n = 2, 4%), and varied across institutions (P = 0.02). Conclusions Children with AARS often have a delayed presentation with neck pain and torticollis; falls are a common injury mechanism. Treatment varied across institutions. Further work is needed to identify optimal management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-91
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric emergency care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • cervical
  • neck injuries
  • spinal injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Emergency Medicine


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