(Received 22 May 1991; accepted 16 August 1991)
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C1–C2 vertebral dislocations have not been commonly recognized at autopsy. Among 66 subjects with neck injuries, drawn from a series of 155 traffic fatalities, were 14 with injuries at the level of the atlantoaxial motion segment, ranging in age from 8 months to 93 years. Thirteen had sprains or lacerations of the atlantoaxial facet joints, and one had a healed C1 fracture. Six of the 14 had odontoid fractures. None had transverse ligament lacerations. Injuries of the alar ligaments and the tectorial membrane were frequent. Only 3 subjects had subaxial cervical injury. All 14 had evidence of impact to the head or neck. Four had fractures of the mandible or facial bones, and 5 had skull fractures. Subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhages were found in 7 and 6, respectively. Brainstem lacerations were not uncommon, but only one had a pontomedullary laceration. Spinomedullary cord injuries occurred in 5. Acute neurogenic shock was the major mechanism of death in 9 of the 14, including 5 with major cardiovascular lacerations. Delayed effects of craniocerebral trauma accounted for the majority of the remainder. The biomechanical mechanisms are discussed.
University of South Florida and Medical Examiner Department, Tampa, Florida
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