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Internal decapitation is not something you've probably heard of before. Even if you have, it's a rare thing to hear about when you're thinking about accident survivors.

Shockingly, people can survive internal decapitation and may have few or no ill effects. While the majority of cases are fatal, some people get extremely lucky and survive this injury.

What is internal decapitation?

Internal decapitation happens when the skull and the spine are separated. The ligaments connecting them may be severed completely. The head is still attached to the body, but if the skull moves, there is no way to prevent it from moving too far. This can lead to damage to the brain stem. Once that happens, the victim may no longer be able to breathe on their own.

If this condition is recognized soon enough, it may be possible to reattach the ligaments and to secure the skull. For example, if someone has this condition and is rushed into the hospital for a CT scan, they may feel absolutely fine. However, if they try to turn their head, it may not be possible or could lead to the head moving too far to one side and the injury turning fatal.

The risk of internal decapitation is one reason why people's necks and heads are stabilized when they're transported from the scene of an accident.

Is internal decapitation a spinal injury?

Yes, it is a kind of spinal injury. It happens in around 1% of all spinal injuries, and it is often fatal. It's believed that 70% of victims die instantly, while the other 30 have the potential to survive if they can get the right diagnosis and survive surgery.

How is an internal decapitation treated?

If you or someone you love is internally decapitated, the treatment options are limited but necessary. To start with, the primary treatment is to fuse together the skill and spinal column. This can be done with rods, screws, plates or bone grafts.

After that, the patient will go through rehabilitation, which may help them regain movement in the neck. In some cases, since the spinal cord may not have been injured, the patient could regain full movement and feeling below the injury (if they ever lost it at all).

This is a severe injury, and it's one that has to be taken seriously by your medical providers. If you suffer from it and have to have surgery, it can be a costly injury that requires months or years of recovery.

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Bonifield & Rosenstengel
16 East Main Street
Belleville, IL 62220

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