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Mil Med. 2002 May;167(5):398-401.

Clearing the cervical spine in victims of blunt trauma.

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  • 1Long Island Comprehensive Trauma Center, Nassau University Medical Center, East Meadow, NY, USA.


Cervical spine injuries occur in 2.3% to 6.4% of victims of blunt trauma. The difficulty of identifying the minority of patients with cervical spine injuries continues to challenge those who triage and treat the acutely injured. We retrospectively reviewed our practice for cervical spine clearance, which consists of three-view plain radiographs supplemented by focused further studies, such as computed or plain film tomography and flexion/extension views, as needed. Fifty-four patients with cervical spine injuries were identified during a 39-month period, which represented approximately 1% of the patients evaluated. Eighty cervical spine injuries were found, of which nine were missed. Review of the six patients in whom the nine cervical spine injuries were missed demonstrated error in the interpretation of radiographic studies in five patients, only two of whom were felt to have technically adequate films in hindsight. We conclude that a protocol based on three-view plain film radiographs supplemented by focused additional studies will allow the visualization of virtually all cervical spine injuries and that the main cause of missed injuries is errors of interpretation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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