Geometrical Properties of the Human Child Cervical Spine With a Focus on the C1 Vertebra

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Traffic Injury Prevention








atlas; biofidelity; biomechanics; children; pediatric cervical spine; safety


Objective: Child dummies and injury criteria used in automotive crashworthiness environments are based on scaling from the adult and/or between children of different ages. Cartilage-to-bone ossification, spinal canal and joint developments of the spine, and strength attainments do not grow linearly from birth to maturity. Though this is known to medical professionals, age-based quantitative analyses are needed to accurately model the pediatric spine. The objective of this study was to quantify longitudinal growths of various regions of the first cervical vertebrae, responsible for transmitting the axial load from the base of the skull through the condyles to the neck/torso. Methods: Computed tomography (CT) images of 54 children from one day to 18 years of age were retrospectively used to determine the following geometrical properties: bilateral neurocentral synchondroses widths, the width of posterior synchondrosis, outer and inner anteroposterior and transverse diameters, spinal canal area, and depths of the anterior and posterior arches of the C1 vertebra. Both axial and sagittal CT images were used in the analysis. Sagittal images were used to quantify data for the anterior and posterior arches and axial images were used for all described cross-sectional parameters. Results: Geometrical properties were extracted and reported for the various parameters at 6 months; one year; 18 months; and 3, 6, and 10 years of age corresponding to the dummy family ages routinely used in motor vehicle crashworthiness research and other applications. The outer transverse diameter ranged from 4.97 to 7.08 cm; outer and inner antero-posterior diameters ranged from 2.99 to 4.18 and 2.19 to 3.03 mm; and spinal canal area ranged from 4.34 to 6.68 mm2. Other data are given in the body of the article. The growths of the first cervical vertebra quantified in terms of the above variables occurred nonlinearly with age and the degree of nonlinearity depended on the type of the geometrical parameter. Growths did not match with the simple scaling ratios based on the adult spine, used in different studies reported in the current literature. Conclusions: These early nonlinear and nonuniform age- and local geometry-specific variations should be considered in human finite element models for an accurate transfer of the external load from the atlas to the subaxial spine and to improve their fidelity and biomechanical capabilities.© 2014 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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