IS Case 374: Teardrop fracture - C6

Jeremy Sykes, MD

2009 URMC Imaging Sciences
Publication Date: 2010-03-02


Patient is a 33-year-old male status post diving accident.


See below


Teardrop fracture - C6


A teardrop fracture is the most severe and most unstable fracture of the cervical spine, characterized by posterior displacement of the involved vertebra into the spinal canal, fracture of the posterior elements, and disruption of the soft tissues. The mechanism of injury usually involves axial compression and forward flexion (such as a dive into shallow water). Stress applied to the anterior longitudinal ligament may cause it to rupture or avulse from the vertebral body, taking along a piece of the anterior portion of the body resembling a teardrop. This fragment is usually anterior and inferior to the rest of the vertebra. The lateral radiograph is the best projection to demonstrate this injury. MRI is used to evaluate the spinal cord at the level of the injury, which is often damaged.


  1. Greenspan A. Orthopedic Imaging: A Practical Approach. 4th Ed., Lippincott Williams & Williams, Philadelphia, 2004: 368, 373-375.

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