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Dec 22, 2018

The following is a short list of salient points related to the podcast and the corresponding source literature. As always, read the source literature and critically appraise it for yourself. Take none of the following as a substitution for local protocol or procedure.

2018 NAEMSP Spinal Immobilization paper


Securing a patient to the stretcher mattress significantly reduces lateral motion:

  • Am J Emerg Med. 2016 Apr;34(4):717-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2015.12.078. Epub 2015 Dec 30.

C-Collar limits visible external motion in the intact spine, but not internal motion in the unstable injured spine:

  • Horodyski M, DiPaola CP, Conrad BP, Rechtine GR 2nd. Cervical collars are insufficient for immobilizing an unstable cervical spine injury. J Emerg Med. 2011 Nov;41(5):513-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2011.02.001. Epub 2011 Mar 12. PubMed PMID: 21397431.

C-Collar increases ICP:

  • Davies G, Deakin C, Wilson A. The effect of a rigid collar on intracranial pressure. Injury. 1996 Nov;27(9):647-9. PubMed PMID: 9039362.

C-Collar causes distraction of unstable C-spine:

  • Ben-Galim P, Dreiangel N, Mattox KL, Reitman CA, Kalantar SB, Hipp JA. Extrication collars can result in abnormal separation between vertebrae in the presence of a dissociative injury. J Trauma. 2010 Aug;69(2):447-50. doi:10.1097/TA.0b013e3181be785a. PubMed PMID: 20093981.
  • Lador R, Ben-Galim P, Hipp JA. Motion within the unstable cervical spine during patient maneuvering: the neck pivot-shift phenomenon. J Trauma. 2011 Jan;70(1):247-50; discussion 250-1. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3181fd0ebf. PubMed PMID: 21217496.

Spinal immobilization negatively impacts the physical exam:

  • March J et al. Changes In Physical Examination Caused by Use of Spinal Immobilization. Prehosp Emerg Care 2002; 6(4): 421 – 4. PMID: 12385610
  • Chan D, Goldberg R, Tascone A, Harmon S, Chan L. The effect of spinal immobilization on healthy volunteers. Ann Emerg Med. 1994 Jan;23(1):48-51. PubMed PMID: 8273958.
  • Chan D, Goldberg RM, Mason J, Chan L. Backboard versus mattress splint
    immobilization: a comparison of symptoms generated. J Emerg Med. 1996
    May-Jun;14(3):293-8. PubMed PMID: 8782022.

Even Manual In Line Stabilization alone increased difficulty during intubation and increases forces applied to the neck:

  • Thiboutot F, Nicole PC, Trépanier CA, Turgeon AF, Lessard MR. Effect of manual in-line stabilization of the cervical spine in adults on the rate of difficult orotracheal intubation by direct laryngoscopy: a randomized controlled trial. Can J Anaesth. 2009 Jun;56(6):412-8. doi: 10.1007/s12630-009-9089-7. Epub 2009 Apr 24. PubMed PMID: 19396507.
  • Santoni BG, Hindman BJ, Puttlitz CM, Weeks JB, Johnson N, Maktabi MA, Todd MM. Manual in-line stabilization increases pressures applied by the laryngoscope blade during direct laryngoscopy and orotracheal intubation. Anesthesiology. 2009 Jan;110(1):24-31. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e318190b556. PubMed PMID: 19104166.

Spinal immobilization makes it harder to breath and decreases forced expiratory volume:

“...produce a significantly restrictive effect on pulmonary function in the healthy, nonsmoking man.”

  • Chan, D., Goldberg, R., Tascone, A., Harmon, S., & Chan, L. (1994). The effect of spinal immobilization on healthy volunteers. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 23(1), 48–51.
  • Schafermeyer RW, Ribbeck BM, Gaskins J, Thomason S, Harlan M, Attkisson A.
    Respiratory effects of spinal immobilization in children. Ann Emerg Med. 1991
    Sep;20(9):1017-9. PubMed PMID: 1877767.
  • Totten VY, Sugarman DB. Respiratory effects of spinal immobilization. Prehosp
    Emerg Care. 1999 Oct-Dec;3(4):347-52. PubMed PMID: 10534038.

Prehospital providers can effectively apply selective immobilization criteria without causing harm:

  • Domeier, R. M., Frederiksen, S. M., & Welch, K. (2005). Prospective performance assessment of an out-of-hospital protocol for selective spine immobilization using clinical spine clearance criteria. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 46(2), 123–131.

Out of 32,000 trauma encounters, a prehospital clearance protocol resulted in ONE patient with an unstable injury that was not immobilized. This patient injured her back one week prior, required fixation, but had no neurological injury:

  • Burton, J.H., Dunn, M.G., Harmon, N.R., Hermanson, T.A., and Bradshaw, J.R. A statewide, prehospital emergency medical service selective patient spine immobilization protocol. J Trauma. 2006; 61: 161–167

Ambulatory patients self extricating with a cervical collar results in less cervical spine motion than with the use of a backboard:

  • Shafer, J. S., & Naunheim, R. S. (2009). Cervical Spine Motion During Extrication: A Pilot Study. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 10(2), 74–78.
  • Engsberg JR, Standeven JW, Shurtleff TL, Eggars JL, Shafer JS, Naunheim RS. Cervical spine motion during extrication. J Emerg Med. 2013 Jan;44(1):122-7. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2012.02.082. Epub 2012 Oct 15. PubMed PMID: 23079144

Lift and slide technique is superior to log roll:

  • Boissy, P., Shrier, I., Brière, S. et al. Effectiveness of cervical spine stabilization techniques. Clin J Sport Med. 2011; 21: 80–88

Despite there not being any randomized control trials evaluating spinal immobilization, patients transferred to hospitals immobilized have more disability than those transported without immobilization:

  • Hauswald, M., Ong, G., Tandberg, D., and Omar, Z. Out-of-hospital spinal immobilization: its effect on neurologic injury. Acad Emerg Med. 1998; 5: 214–219

“Mechanism of injury does not affect the ability of clinical criteria to predict spinal injury”

  • Domeier, R.M., Evans, R.W., Swor, R.A. et al. The reliability of prehospital clinical evaluation for potential spinal injury is not affected by the mechanism of injury.Prehosp Emerg Care. 1999; 3: 332–337

Spinal immobilization in penetrating trauma is associated with an increased risk of death:

  • Vanderlan, W.B., Tew, B.E., and McSwain, N.E. Jr. Increased risk of death with cervical spine immobilisation in penetrating cervical trauma. Injury. 2009; 40: 880–88
  • Stuke, L.E., Pons, P.T., Guy, J.S., Chapleau, W.P., Butler, F.K., and McSwain, N.E.Prehospital spine immobilization for penetrating trauma-review and recommendations from the Prehospital Trauma Life Support Executive Committee. J Trauma. 2011; 71: 763–769

“The number needed to treat with spine immobilization to potentially benefit one patient was 1,032. The number needed to harm with spine immobilization to potentially contribute to one death was 66.”

  • Haut, E.R., Kalish, B.T., Efron, D.T. et al. Spine immobilization in penetrating trauma: more harm than good?. J Trauma. 2010; 68: 115–121
  • Vanderlan WB, Tew BE, Seguin CY, Mata MM, Yang JJ, Horst HM, Obeid FN, McSwain NE. Neurologic sequelae of penetrating cervical trauma. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2009 Nov 15;34(24):2646-53. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181bd9df1. PubMed PMID: 19881402.
  • Velopulos CG, Shihab HM, Lottenberg L, Feinman M, Raja A, Salomone J, Haut ER. Prehospital spine immobilization/spinal motion restriction in penetrating trauma: A practice management guideline from the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST). J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2018 May;84(5):736-744. doi:10.1097/TA.0000000000001764. PubMed PMID: 29283970.

Use of LSB can cause sufficient pressure to create pressure ulcers in a short period of time:

  • Cordell W:H, Hollingsworth JC, Olinger ML, Stroman SJ, Nelson DR. Pain and
    tissue-interface pressures during spine-board immobilization. Ann Emerg Med. 1995
    Jul;26(1):31-6. PubMed PMID: 7793717.

The natural progression of some C-spine injuries is to get worse, sometimes because we force them into immobilization devices, sometimes because of hypotension, vascular injury, or hypoxia, but surprisingly not because of EMS providers…

  • Harrop JS, Sharan AD, Vaccaro AR, Przybylski GJ. The cause of neurologic deterioration after acute cervical spinal cord injury. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2001 Feb 15;26(4):340-6. PubMed PMID: 11224879.

Reports of asymptomatic but clinically important spine injuries are, at best, dubious:

  • McKee TR, Tinkoff G, Rhodes M. Asymptomatic occult cervical spine fracture: case report and review of the literature. J Trauma. 1990 May;30(5):623-6. Review. PubMed PMID: 2188001.
  • Bresler MJ, Rich GH. Occult cervical spine fracture in an ambulatory patients. Ann Emerg Med. 1982 Aug;11(8):440-2. PubMed PMID: 7103163.