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Prehosp Emerg Care. 1999 Oct-Dec;3(4):347-52.

Respiratory effects of spinal immobilization.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Catholic Medical Center, Jamaica, New York 11439, USA.



To evaluate the effect of whole-body spinal immobilization on respiration.


This was a randomized, crossover laboratory study with 39 human volunteer subjects (20 males; 19 females) ranging in age from 7 to 85 years. Respiratory function was measured three times: at baseline (seated or lying), immobilized with a Philadelphia collar on a hard wooden backboard, and on a Scandinavian vacuum mattress with a vacuum collar. The comfort levels of each of the two methods were assessed on a forced Likert scale.


Both immobilization methods restricted respiration, 15% on the average. The effects were similar under the two immobilization conditions, although the FEV1 was lower on the vacuum mattress. Respiratory restriction was more pronounced at the extremes of age. The vacuum mattress was significantly more comfortable.


This study confirmed the previously reported respiratory restriction caused by spinal immobilization. Vacuum mattresses are more comfortable than wooden backboards.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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