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Spine and Back Health

Fused Vertebrae Result of Brain Injury?

01/20/2010

Question:

Five years ago, my husband suffered a traumatic brain injury after hitting the back of his head as the result of a fall. He has recently been experiencing severe neck pain. An x-ray revealed that his C2 and C3 vertebrae have fused. Could this be a result of this injury? If so, would this affect the treatment needed?

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. Obviously a brain injury could not possibly cause his vertebrae to fuse. If we change the question slightly, to "could trauma to the head/neck cause fusion of the vertebrae?" I would still answer that it's extremely unlikely, and he presumably would have been diagnosed with a fractured vertebra at the time of the injury if that had happened. It is by far most likely that he was born with what we would call a congenital (meaning present from birth) fusion of the two vertebrae. This is really not all that rare, and we often find it by accident in people under all kinds of circumstances. Fused vertebrae usually don't cause any pain and his doctor(s) should look into other possible causes of his neck pain. I think this finding is most likely a red herring. Good luck.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University