Clival fracture (CF) is rare among head traumas. The aim of this study was to explore how radiological features observed in CF reflect the clinical picture and mechanism of injury in such cases.
Radiological data for patients with skull base fracture admitted to the Montreal General Hospital between February 2002 and October 2012 were obtained from the Quebec Trauma Registry and reviewed for CF. Identified CF was categorized by orientation and quality. Injury mechanism, clinical presentation, and follow-up outcome were obtained through retrospective chart review.
Of the 1738 patients with skull base fractures, 65 exhibited CF, representing 1.2% of the 5416 patients with traumatic brain injuries admitted during the period studied. Thirty-nine (60%) of the 65 CFs were obliquely oriented, 17 (26.2%) were longitudinal, and 9 (14%) were transverse. Twenty-nine (45%) of the 65 patients demonstrated linear fracture, 17 (26%) hairline, 10 (15%) diastatic, and 9 (14%) displaced. Cranial nerve deficits and vascular injury occurred in 13.8% and 7.7% of cases, respectively. Twenty-five patients (38.5%) died in hospital. The long-term Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale score was significantly lower in transverse compared with longitudinal and oblique fractures (p = 0.03 and 0.03, respectively) and lower in diastatic compared with displaced fractures (p = 0.05).
This study provides information on the largest CF population studied to date, expands the current CF classification to include fracture quality as well as orientation, and underscores the existence of significant differences in pathogenesis and clinical presentation of CF subtypes.