The aim of this study was to review the Thoracolumbar Injury Classification and Severity Score (TLICS) and to demonstrate its application through a series of spine trauma cases.

The Spine Trauma Study Group collaborated to create and report the TLICS system. The TLICS system is reviewed and applied to 3 cases of thoracolumbar spine trauma.

The TLICS system identifies 3 major injury characteristics to describe thoracolumbar spine injuries: injury morphology, posterior ligamentous complex integrity, and neurological status. In addition, minor injury characteristics such as injury level, confounding variables (such as ankylosing spondylitis), multiple injuries, and chest wall injuries are also identified. Each major characteristic is assigned a numerical score, weighted by severity of injury, which is then summated to yield the injury severity score. The TLICS system has demonstrated initial success and its use is increasing. Limitations of the TLICS system exist and, in some instances, have yet to be addressed. Despite these limitations, the severity score may provide a basis to judge spinal stability and the need for surgical intervention.

By addressing both the posterior ligamentous integrity and the patient's neurological status, the TLICS system attempts to overcome the limitations of prior thoracolumbar classification systems. The TLICS system has demonstrated both validity and reliability and has also been shown to be readily learned and incorporated into clinical practice.