Head and neck injury patterns in fatal falls: epidemiologic and biomechanical considerations
2014 (English)In: Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, ISSN 1752-928X, Vol. 21, 64-70 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Fatal falls often involve a head impact, which are in turn associated with a fracture of the skull or cervical spine. Prior authors have noted that the degree of inversion of the victim at the time of impact is an important predictor of the distribution of skull fractures, with skull base fractures more common than skull vault fractures in falls with a high degree of inversion. The majority of fatal fall publications have focused on skull fractures, and no research has described the association between fall circumstances and the distribution of fractures in the skull and neck. In the present study, we accessed data regarding head and neck fractures resulting from fatal falls from a Swedish autopsy database for the years 1992–2010, for the purposes of examining the relationships between skull and cervical spine fracture distribution and the circumstances of the fatal fall.
Out of 102,310 medico-legal autopsies performed there were 1008 cases of falls associated with skull or cervical spine fractures. The circumstances of the falls were grouped in 3 statistically homogenous categories; falls occurring at ground level, falls from a height of <3 m or down stairs, and falls from ≥3 m. Only head and neck injuries and fractures that were associated with the fatal CNS injuries were included for study, and categorized as skull vault and skull base fractures, upper cervical injuries (C0–C1 dislocation, C1 and C2 fractures), and lower cervical fractures. Logistic regression modeling revealed increased odds of skull base and lower cervical fracture in the middle and upper fall severity groups, relative to ground level falls (lower cervical <3 m falls, OR = 2.55 [1.32, 4.92]; lower cervical ≥3 m falls, OR = 2.23 [0.98, 5.08]; skull base <3 m falls, OR = 1.82 [1.32, 2.50]; skull base ≥3 m falls, OR = 2.30 [1.55, 3.40]). C0–C1 dislocations were strongly related to fall height, with an OR of 8.3 for ≥3 m falls versus ground level. The findings of increased odds of skull base and lower cervical spine fracture in falls from a height are consistent with prior observations that the risk of such injuries is related to the degree of victim inversion at impact. The finding that C0–C1 dislocations are most common in falls from more than 3 m is unique, an indication that the injuries likely result from high energy shear forces rather than pure tension, as previously thought.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2014. Vol. 21, 64-70 p.
Skull vault fracture, Skull base fracture, Cervical spine fracture, C0–C1 dislocation, Falls, Biomechanics, Autopsy
Research subject Forensic Medicine
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-81456DOI: 10.1016/j.jflm.2013.08.0050ISI: 000328737500018OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-81456DiVA: diva2:655337