Cervical spine x-rays of non-polytrauma patients in the emergency unit

The incidence of trauma-related cervical-spine fractures is 19-88 / 100,000. In contrast, the incidence of cervical spine injuries is as high as 19% - 51% of all spinal trauma. Cervical spine injuries in non-polytrauma patients are rare. However, due to the potential damage to the spinal cord these traumata are feared and must not be missed. Cervical spine injuries represent the highest reported early mortality rate of all spinal trauma. The rate of functional impairment afterwards is high and the rate of reintegration into work is low compared to other organ systems. In the past, trauma surgeons often did x-rays of the cervical spine with low inhibition threshold and often without strong clinical suggestion for vertebral or discoligamental injuries. This practice was queried by the Canadian C-Spine rule and extensively discussed in the past. Therefore the authors did a retrospective study whether non-polytrauma patients benefit from cervical spine x-rays. 1,305 patients were included into this study. 52 (4%) suffered from an injury of the cervical spine, of these 41 (3,1%) were non-polytrauma patients and consequently further analyzed. Only 20% of injuries were related to road traffic accidents. This indicates that car accidents maybe don´t lead to cervical spine injuries as often as feared by trauma surgeons. Different publications suggest, that at least 50 km/h - 60 km/h are needed in car accidents to sustain cervical spine injuries. However, less speed does not exclude damage to the spine. Most times injured non-polytrauma traffic participants only suffer from cervical spine distortions. This indicates the importance of a good structured clinical examination to reduce redundant x-rays. For standardized examination medical doctors should use a scheme like the Canadian C-Spine rule. The mechanism of injury should never be underestimated but also be interpreted together with the clinical examination. Paper to the session "Injury Prevention and Mechanisms" of the 5th International Conference on ESAR "Expert Symposium on Accident Research", 7th to 8th September 2012 in Hannover.


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  • Accession Number: 01497296
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen (BASt)
  • ISBN: 978-3-95606-021-2
  • Files: ITRD
  • Created Date: Oct 10 2013 4:37AM