The primary goal of this study was to describe the long-term health-related quality of life (HRQOL) outcomes in patients who have suffered Jefferson-type fractures. These outcomes were compared with matched normative HRQOL data and with the patient's perceptions of their HRQOL prior to the injury. Variables that potentially influence these HRQOL outcomes were analyzed. No standardized outcome assessments have been published for patients who suffer these fractures; their outcomes have long thought to be excellent following treatment. Determining the optimal surrogate measure to represent preinjury HRQOL in trauma patients is difficult.

A retrospective review, radiographic analysis, and cross-sectional outcome assessment were performed. The Short Form (SF)-36 and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons/North American Spine Society (AAOS/NASS) outcome instruments were filled out by patients at final follow-up examination (follow-up period 75 months, range 19-198 months) to represent their current status as well as their perceptions of preinjury status. In 34 patients, the SF-36 physical component score and the AAOS/NASS pain values were significantly lower than normative values. There was no significant difference between normative and preinjury values. Spence criteria greater than 7 mm and the presence of associated injuries predicted poorer outcome scores during the follow-up period.

Long-term follow-up examination of patients with Jefferson fractures indicated that patients' status does not return to the level of their perceived preinjury health status or that of normative population controls. Those with other injuries and significant osseous displacement (> or = 7 mm total) may experience poorer long-term outcomes. Limitations of the study included a relatively low (60%) response rate and the difficulties of identifying an appropriate baseline outcome in a trauma population with which the follow-up outcomes can be compared.