, Volume 60, Issue 12, pp 1307–1313 | Cite as

Airbag deployment and cervical spine injury in restrained drivers following motor vehicle collisions

  • Joji InamasuEmail author
  • Masahiro Kato
Spinal Neuroradiology



Seatbelts and airbags are the most important devices protecting drivers from cervical spine injury (CSI) following motor vehicle collisions (MVCs). However, there have been few reports on the radiographic characteristics of CSI sustained by restrained, airbag-deployed drivers.


A single-center, retrospective observational study was conducted using prospectively acquired data. Between January 2011 and December 2017, 564 restrained drivers, whose vehicle had been severely damaged in MVCs, underwent whole-body computed tomography for evaluation of bodily injuries. The drivers were dichotomized into airbag (+) group (n = 218) and airbag (−) group (n = 139), after excluding 207 drivers in whom airbag deployment status was unknown.


Eight and nine drivers sustained CSIs in the airbag (+) and airbag (−) group, respectively. The frequency of CSI did not differ significantly between the two groups (3.7% vs. 6.5%, p = 0.31). All eight CSIs in the airbag (+) group were classified as hyperextension injuries, and four of them sustained concomitant spinal cord injuries caused by dislocation. Within the airbag (+) group, the drivers with CSIs were significantly older than those without CSIs (65.2 ± 18.5 vs. 44.8 ± 18.7 years, p = 0.002).


Although it is without doubt that the combination of seatbelt and airbag reduces the frequency and severity of CSIs following MVCs, the CSIs sustained in restrained, airbag (+) drivers may not always be mild, and elderly drivers may be at an elevated risk of CSI. In addition, the possibility of a causal role of airbags in CSI requires consideration in this population.


Airbag Cervical spine injury Driver Motor vehicle collision Seatbelt 


Compliance with ethical standards


No funding was received for this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study formal consent is not required.

Informed consent

For this type of retrospective study formal consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgerySaiseikai Utsunomiya HospitalUtsunomiyaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Orthopedic SurgerySaiseikai Utsunomiya HospitalUtsunomiyaJapan

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