[HELP] Fragility of spinal column.

Randy Lai Lai.Randy at worldnet.att.net
Tue Jul 8 15:01:31 EST 1997


I'm a med student.  After watching Lethal Weapon one too many times, I
hit upon a macabre question.  Please understand that this is only idle
academic curiosity, but I'd still like some help on this:

When someone's neck is broken Hollywood-style, does he really attain the
much-hyped INSTANTANEOUS death?  Even decapitations take a few seconds
to kill.  I could believe "instant death" if there was brainstem trauma,
but neck breaking usually occurs much lower down.  Now, isn't the spinal
column just the support?  The neck is still attached and the blood
vessels and nerve tracts should be still intact even after a good twist
(unless the CNS is more fragile than I think)?  Either way the brain
shouldn't expire immediately (level of consciousness aside).  Neurogenic
shock, suffocation, stroke, hematoma all take time.  Now a little black
book says INSTANTANEOUS DEATH will be achieved if trauma occurs above
C5.  Why?  What's the difference whether the break occurs at C5, C4, or
C7?  On that note, where is the break most likely to occur?
Any ideas?

Please email any replies to my address.  Thank you.

=M.L.





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