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J Pediatr Surg. 2003 Mar;38(3):358-62; discussion 358-62.

A multidisciplinary approach to the development of a cervical spine clearance protocol: process, rationale, and initial results.

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Division of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of California at Davis, Medical Center, Sacramento, California 95819, USA.



Assessment of potential spine injuries is inconsistent and controversial. Subsequent morbidity includes prolonged immobilization and missed injuries. To address these issues, a multidisciplinary team was organized to design a cervical spine management/clearance pathway. The process, algorithm, and initial results are described.


Team members consisted of pediatric surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, emergency room physicians, and trauma nurse practitioners. Nationwide standards, guidelines, and experiences across disciplines were reviewed, and a consensus pathway evolved for cervical spine clearance in children 8 years and younger. A short-term retrospective review (5 months) was performed to assess initial performance. Time required for clearance, number and type of imaging studies, and number of missed injuries were compared between a group of patients before (n = 71) and after (n = 56) the implementation of the pathway.


Strict guidelines for cervical spine immobilization and clearance criteria were defined. After implementation of this pathway, time required for cervical clearance in nonintubated children decreased (before, 12.3 +/- 1.5 v after, 7.5 +/- 0.9 hours; P =.014). A clear trend toward earlier clearance in intubated patients existed (before [n = 6], 40.0 +/- 16.8 v after [n = 6], 19.4 +/- 8.1 hours; P =.10); there need to be larger numbers to determine statistical significance. The 2 study groups were similar in age; mechanism of injury; Glasgow coma scale score; and number of plain x-rays, computed tomography scans, and magnetic resonance imaging studies obtained. Neither group had missed injuries.


standards for cervical spine immobilization, assessment, and clearance. Implementation of such guidelines decreased time for cervical spine clearance, and ongoing analysis of sensitivity is encouraging.

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