CLINICAL FEATURES: A 23-year-old woman presented to us after a motor vehicle accident while driving with a 3-point seat belt restraint. She was neurologically intact except for loss of motor function in the distribution of the L5 nerve root in the right lower limb. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging showed fracture and dislocation of T3 with considerable retrolisthesis and complete anterolisthesis of L5 over the sacrum.
INTERVENTION AND OUTCOME: Both fractures were reduced and fixed with bone graft and instrumentation. She was discharged a month later without any further neurologic deterioration.
CONCLUSIONS: To our knowledge, this case is the first report in the literature of a seat belt safety restraint causing 2 noncontiguous fracture dislocations of the spine. Although the consensus is that seat belts can prevent most spine injuries, this case shows that the seat belt can be a contributor to spine injury. It shows that the shoulder-lap restraint can act as 2 fulcrums at the upper and lower bands causing 2 separate fracture dislocations. A thorough radiologic evaluation of the spine with respect to the clinical findings is mandatory in seat belt-restrained road traffic accidents cases.
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