Lapbelt injuries and the seatbelt syndrome in pediatric spinal cord injury

Olga Achildi, Randal R. Betz, Harsh Grewal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background/Objective: Approximately 250,000 patients are presently living with spinal cord injury (SCI) in the United States. Approximately 20% of patients with SCI are less than 20 years old, and 15% are less than 15 years old. The most common cause of pediatric SCI is a motor vehicle collision (MVC; ∼40%); lapbelt injuries and the seatbelt syndrome are seen more often in children involved in MVCs. Methods: A search and analysis of current literature on lapbelt injuries, seatbelt syndrome, and pediatric SCI using PubMed. Results: Children involved in MVCs who are improperly restrained are at higher risk of sustaining injuries. The risk of significant intra-abdominal injuries is increased almost fourfold in these children. Presence of abdominal wall ecchymosis (AWE) was associated with intra-abdominal injuries in up to 84% of children, with hollow viscus injury being the most common. Likewise, presence of AWE is associated with vertebral fractures, including Chance fractures, in up to 50% of patients. Vertebral fractures were associated with SCI in up to 11%. The presence of AWE in an improperly restrained child should warrant a thorough search for intra-abdominal injuries, vertebral fractures, and SCI. Conclusions: Lapbelt injuries and the seatbelt syndrome are often associated with pediatric SCI in improperly restrained children. This injury complex and its associated abdominal injuries are difficult to diagnose unless a high index of suspicion is maintained; delay in diagnosis increases morbidity, and early surgical intervention should be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S21-S24
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Abdominal wall ecchymosis
  • Adolescence
  • Child
  • Intra-abdominal injuries
  • Lapbelt
  • Motor vehicle crash
  • Restraints
  • Seatbelt syndrome
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Trauma
  • Vertebral fracture


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