04 January 2010

It's a wonder I survived my teen years

Had a terrible wreck here not long ago.  A car full of teenagers had a run-in with Newton's first law, with tragic results.  One fatality at the scene.  Two to the Level 1 trauma center.  Two to us.  What you are seeing here is a reconstruction of a CT scan of the spine in the sagittal plane.  Can you spot the abnormality?


Let me help you out:

lspine note

Surprisingly (or at least fortunately), the patient was neurologically intact.  There was some trivial numbness which was interpreted as possible impingement of the neural structures, so cord-dose steroids were given.  But the spinal cord actually ends around L2, and the fracture site here is at T12-L1, so very little of the cord's length is at risk, and the spinal canal at that level is pretty capacious, so injuries there are often surprisingly well-tolerated.

I think back to my own teenage years and how I drove then.  The report was that the speed in this accident was 85 in a 35, which was well within my capacity as a teen (though my 1980 Honda Civic could only hit 85 going downhill with a tailwind).  Still, I remember calculating my skid into my turns routinely.  It's a wonder that any of us survived.  And now I am very happy that the states are moving towards graduated drivers' licensing for teenagers.  I told my youngest son he could get his driver's license when he turns 21.


  1. I was out of control back then too. I had a 71 Camaro (still do actually) that I drove like crazy. I burned rubber and raced it on the street all the time. I had it up to 120+ several times on crappy tires and still to this day can't believe I did not wrap it around a tree.

  2. oh, man, that makes my back hurt just looking at it!


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