A fracture of the C1 vertebra is a life-threatening, potentially fatal injury that is sometimes associated with injury to the spinal cord and resulting paralysis. C1 vertebral fractures, also called atlas fractures or Jefferson fractures, are rare, representing about 10% of cervical (neck) spinal injuries, and about 2% of all spinal injuries. Patients with C1 vertebra fractures that do not have neurological damage or head trauma usually have a good prognosis. Fractures may occur at the posterior arch, anterior arch, or massa lateralis, the thick lateral part of the vertebra that articulates with the axis and the occipital condyle, the boney facets at the base of the skull.
Causes of C1 Vertebra Fractures
Traffic accident related injuries to the C1 vertebra may result from auto collisions (including SUV rollover accidents resulting in roof crush) cycling accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and trucking accidents. Non-traffic accident related injuries may be due to high-impact sporting accidents, like football, skiing, hang-gliding and gymnastics accidents. Other causes include gunshot wounds, being struck by falling objects, diving in shallow water, and other compression injuries in the neck.
Atlas Fractures and Jefferson Fractures
Another name for the first cervical vertebra is the atlas. It was given that name because its function is to support the globe of the head. The atlas, along with the axis (C2 vertebra), makes up the joint that connects the skull to the spinal column. A break or fracture in the C1 vertebra is called an atlas fracture, Jefferson fracture or Jefferson burst fracture. Jefferson fractures are named after Sir Geoffrey Jefferson, a British neurologist and neurosurgeon who first described the injury. Approximately 1/3 of Jefferson fractures are also associated with an axis fracture, or C2 vertebra fracture. Most minor C1 fractures can be treated without surgery using a Philadelphia collar or sometimes, a more invasive Halo brace. More severe fractures may require spinal fusion or other surgical repair, which may result in a delayed or extended healing time.
C1 Spinal Cord Injuries
An injury to the spinal cord at the first cervical vertebra is a catastrophic injury that is much more serious than just a fracture of the C1 vertebral bone. If the spinal cord injury is classified as “complete,” meaning the patient has no sensation or movement below the point of injury, the patient will have complete paralysis of all four limbs and may need a respirator or diaphragmatic pacemaker to help breathe. Spinal cord injury victims may also not be able to regulate body temperature and blood pressure, making them more susceptible to complications such as pneumonia and autonomic dysreflexia (over activity of the autonomic nervous system), and can even result in death. Due to the need for ongoing medical care, those who have suffered C1 injuries should only trust a skilled and experience C1 injury attorney in San Diego to handle their case.
California C1 Fracture Attorney
The attorneys at Estey & Bomberger have more than 70 years of collective experience representing victims of serious and catastrophic injury in California. We understand the astronomical cost of catastrophic injuries over a victim’s lifetime, and the many ways insurance companies will attempt to devalue injuries and pay victims as little as possible. If you or someone in your family has suffered a vertebral fracture or spinal cord injury, you deserve an advocate who can get you the maximum, full and fair compensation you are entitled to. The attorneys at the AV-rated law firm of Estey & Bomberger offer a free consultation. To speak with a lawyer about your potential case, call (800) 925-0723. Our staff is available 24 hours a day to answer you questions and discuss your case.