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Dislocations at the cervicothoracic junction

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Dislocations of the cervicothoracic junction are frequently missed. Experience of this rare injury over 27 years at the Spinal Injuries Unit in Sheffield confirms that nearly two-thirds were not properly diagnosed on admission. Only two of the 14 dislocations studied were reduced by conservative methods and these were both associated with fractures of the posterior bony elements. Open reduction is necessary to replace pure dislocations at the C7-T1 level. It seems likely that the spinal cord lesion is not influenced by reduction of the displacement. The three patients who had an incomplete lesion of the spinal cord made excellent neurological recoveries although none of the dislocations was reduced. It is concluded that on theoretical grounds it is justified to embark on operative reduction of displacements at this spinal level only if the cord lesion is incomplete, nerve root recovery therefore possible, and if the operation can be brought about soon after the injury.

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