The goals of treatment are to prevent secondary injury, alleviate cord compression, and establish spinal stability. Spinal immobilization must be maintained. Unnecessary movement of a potentially unstable spine must be avoided in order to prevent additional injury.

Once the patient is stabilized, it should be determined whether the patient has a neurologic deficit and/or the spinal column is unstable. If either of those conditions exists, subspecialty consultation should be requested emergently. The consultant, be it a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon, must have the opportunity to perform a detailed neurologic examination early in the patient's course, so as to optimize outcome. Patients with progressive neurologic deterioration require urgent surgical intervention. The method of stabilization (collar or traction) must be determined, as must the need for further CT or MRI imaging.

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