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Publication Title

Thoracolumbar spine injury in Cameroon: etiology, management, and outcome.





Thoracolumbar spine injury (TLSI) is a major concern worldwide despite its low prevalence. Studies demonstrate a gradual rise in annual incidence. There have been improvements in its management. However, a lot is still to be done. TLSI secondary to trauma usually occurs abruptly and leaves demeaning consequences, especially in our setting where the prognosis from several studies is poor. This study aimed to describe the etiology, management principles, and prognosis of TLSI in Douala General Hospital and as such contribute data on those aspects in the research community.


This was a hospital-based five-year retrospective study. The study population was patients treated for TLSI in the Douala General Hospital from January 2014 to December 2018. Patients’ medical records were used to retrieve data. Data analysis was done using SPSS Version 23. Logistic regression models were fitted to assess the association between dependent and independent variables. Statistical significance was set at 95% CI, with a P-value < 0.05.


We studied a total of 70 patients’ files including 56 males. The mean age of occurrence of TLSI was 37.59 ± 14.07 years. The most common etiology was road traffic accidents (45.7%) and falls (30.0%). Half of our patients (n = 35) had an incomplete neurological deficit (Frankel B – D). Paraplegia was the most common motor deficit (42.9%). The lumbar spine was affected in 55.7% of cases. The most common CT scan finding was fracture of the vertebrae (30%) while the most reported MRI finding was disc herniation with contusion (38.5%). More than half (51.4%) of our patients were referred from peripheral health centers. The median arrival time was 48 h (IQR: 18–144) with 22.9% reporting after a week post-injury. Less than half (48.1%) benefited from surgery, and 41.4% of our population benefited from in-hospital rehabilitation. The median in-hospital delay time for surgery was 120 h (IQR: 66–192). While the median time between injury and surgery was 188 h (IQR: 144–347). The mortality rate was 5.7% (n = 4). Almost all (86.9%) of the patients developed complications and we had a 61.4% improvement in neurological status upon discharge. Being covered by health insurance was a predictor of improved neurological status (AOR = 15.04, 95%CI:2.90–78.20, P = 0.001) while being referred was a predictor of a stationary neurological status upon discharge (AOR = 0.12, 95%CI:0.03–0.52, P = 0.005). The average hospital stay was 20 days. We did not identify any predictors of lengthy hospital stay.


Road traffic accident is the most common etiology of TLSI. The arrival time to a neurosurgery specialized center after a traumatic injury, and the in-hospital delay time for surgery is high. Reduction of these delays, encouraging universal health insurance coverage, and improving on management to reduce complications would better the outcome of TLSI which is comparable with those in other studies.