Actress Charlize Theron, who won an Academy Award for Monster, was recently honored again -- this time for her charitable work. Receiving the Variety Power of Women award on October 4, 2013, in Beverly Hills -- and promptly handing it to her mother, whom she deemed more deserving of the honor -- Theron sported a gorgeous white dress -- and a neck bandage. Although Theron herself made no official statement regarding the apparent injury, sources quoted in E Online indicate that the actress recently had surgery to repair an injury she incurred while filming the 2005 movie Aeon Flux.
The Allentown Health Examiner has no inside information regarding Theron's injury or her surgery, but since the public's appetite for gossip is insatiable, the time seems right to speculate about the types of injuries that can happen to spinal vertebrae and the surgeries that are used to fix them.
Given the placement of Theron's bandage, it seems likely that her injury involves one or more cervical vertebrae: the bones of the spinal column immediately below the skull, numbered C1 through C7. Blunt trauma to the spine can result in several different types of injuries, including fractured vertebrae. According to a recent article in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 13% of all blunt trauma patients logged in the 2010 National Trauma Data Bank had spinal fractures; 41% of these were cervical. Clinicians are divided as to the propriety of radiography after trauma; the authors of a recent case report in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research argue that cervical injuries may not present with outward symptoms, and advise panoramic radiographs with particular attention to the cervical vertebrae after trauma.
There is no reason to suspect that the source quoted by E Online was dissembling, but cervical vertebrae can also be the site of cancer. A recent article in the European Spine Journal describes two different types (conventional and aggressive) of osteoblastoma (tumor) in the mobile spine. Treatment typically involves either complete removal of the tumor or partial removal followed by radiation therapy.
It is more likely that Theron did sustain an injury several years ago, and because the injury was less serious than it could have been, her doctors elected to manage it conservatively. A recent article in the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine describes the Subaxial Injury Classification (SLIC) system, which some clinicians use to guide treatment decisions after spinal injuries. It is important to note that although spinal vertebrae may be involved in these injuries, it is the effect on the nerves (spinal cord) that is being measured. Based on neurological status measured on the SLIC scale, clinicians elected to treat subaxial cervical spine trauma patients with four or more points surgically, and those with fewer than four points conservatively (non-surgically, although some required follow-up care). Other classification systems in use include the Cervical Spine Injury Severity Score (CSISS), the Harris classification of subaxial spinal injury, and the Allen classification of subaxial spinal injury.
Theron's fans hope that her surgery was successful, and look forward to seeing her on the big screen again very soon.