Standards: There is insufficient evidence to support treatment standards.
Guidelines: There is insufficient evidence to support treatment guidelines.
- It is suggested that all trauma patients with a cervical spinal column injury or with a mechanism of injury having the potential to cause cervical spinal injury should be immobilized at the scene and during transport using one of several available methods.
- A combination of a rigid cervical collar and supportive blocks on a backboard with straps is very effective in limiting motion of the cervical spine and is recommended. The longstanding practice of attempted cervical spinal immobilization using sandbags and tape alone is not recommended.
The chief concern during the initial management of patients with potential cervical spinal injuries is that neurologic function may be impaired due to pathologic motion of the injured vertebrae. It is estimated that 3% to 25% of spinal cord injuries occur after the initial traumatic insult, either during transit or early in the course of management.
Where is the proof that spinal immobilization even works?-Rogue Medic
Recently, the use of spinal immobilization for all trauma patients, particularly those with a low likelihood of traumatic cervical spinal injury has been questioned. It is unlikely that all patients rescued from the scene of an accident or site of traumatic injury require spinal immobilization.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of emergency immobilization on neurologic outcome of patients who have blunt traumatic spinal injuries. METHODS: A 5-year retrospective chart review was carried out at 2 university hospitals. All patients with acute blunt traumatic spinal or spinal cord injuries transported directly from the injury site to the hospital were entered. None of the 120 patients seen at the University of Malaya had spinal immobilization during transport, whereas all 334 patients seen at the University of New Mexico did. The 2 hospitals were comparable in physician training and clinical resources. Neurologic injuries were assigned to 2 categories, disabling or not disabling, by 2 physicians acting independently and blinded to the hospital of origin. Data were analyzed using multivariate logistic regression, with hospital location, patient age, gender, anatomic level of injury, and injury mechanism serving as explanatory variables. RESULTS: There was less neurologic disability in the unimmobilized Malaysian patients (OR 2.03; 95% CI 1.03-3.99; p = 0.04). This corresponds to a less than 2% chance that immobilization has any beneficial effect. Results were similar when the analysis was limited to patients with cervical injuries (OR 1.52; 95% CI 0.64-3.62; p = 0.34). CONCLUSION: Out-of-hospital immobilization has little or no effect on neurologic outcome in patients with blunt spinal injuries.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether EMS providers can accurately apply the clinical criteria for clearing cervical spines in trauma patients. METHODS: EMS providers completed a data form based on their initial assessments of all adult trauma patients for whom the mechanism of injury indicated immobilization. Data collected included the presence or absence of: neck pain/tenderness; altered mental status; history of loss of consciousness; drug/alcohol use; neurologic deficit; and other painful/distracting injury. After transport to the ED, emergency physicians (EPs) completed an identical data form based on their assessments. Immobilization was considered to be indicated if any one of the six criteria was present. The EPs and EMS providers were blinded to each other’s assessments. Agreement between the EP and EMS assessments was analyzed using the kappa statistic. RESULTS: Five-hundred seventy-three patients were included in the study. The EP and EMS assessments matched in 78.7% (n = 451) of the cases. There were 44 (7.7%) patients for whom EP assessment indicated immobilization, but the EMS assessment did not. The kappa for the individual components of the assessments ranged from 0.35 to 0.81, with the kappa for the decision to immobilize being 0.48. The EMS providers’ assessments were generally more conservative than the EPs’. CONCLUSION: EMS and EP assessments to rule out cervical spinal injury have moderate to substantial agreement. However, the authors recommend that systems allowing EMS providers to decide whether to immobilize patients should follow those patients closely to ensure appropriate care and to provide immediate feedback to the EMS providers.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether paramedics can safely use a spinal clearance algorithm to reduce unnecessary spinal immobilization (SI) in the out-of-hospital setting. METHODS: Paramedics were instructed in the use of a spinal clearance algorithm that prompted assessment of the trauma patient’s 1) level of consciousness, 2) drug and/or alcohol use, 3) loss of consciousness during the event, 4) presence of spinal pain/tenderness, 5) presence of neurologic deficit, 6) concomitant serious injury, or 7) presence of pain with range of motion. The algorithm indicated that if any of the above were present, the patient should receive full SI, and if all of the above were negative, then SI could be withheld. Paramedics completed a tracking form that included the above and followed the patient to the emergency department (ED). Data were then gathered to determine the presence of spinal fracture, neurologic deficit, or a combination of the two. To compare the trends for SI, a retrospective medical incident report (MIR) review was conducted from the previous year. MIRs were selected based on the same criteria as those used for study inclusion. RESULTS: Two hundred eighty-one patients were included in the study, with 65% (n = 183) of them receiving SI. Two hundred ninety-three MIRs were included in the retrospective sample, with SI being provided 95% (n = 288) of the time. Comparison of these samples shows a 33% reduction in utilization of SI (95% confidence interval: 27.2%- 38.8%). CONCLUSION: An out-of-hospital spinal clearance algorithm administered by paramedics can reduce SI by one-third. Any application of a spinal clearance algorithm should be accompanied by rigorous medical supervision.
Hauswald M, Ong G, et al: Out-of-hospital spinal immobilization: Its effect on neurologic injury (comments). Academic Emerg Med 5:214-219,1998.
cervical spinal injury? Pre-Hospital Emergency Care 2:33-36,1989. Pubmed abstract
Muhr MD, Seabrook DL, et al: Paramedic use of a spinal injury clearance algorithm
reduces spinal immobilization in the out-of-hospital setting. Pre-Hospital Emergency Care