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J Emerg Med. 1992 Sep-Oct;10(5):539-44.

Evaluation of neck discomfort, neck tenderness, and neurologic deficits as indicators for radiography in blunt trauma victims.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Moses Cone Memorial Hospital, Greensboro, North Carolina.


Seventeen of 480 adult blunt trauma victims who sustained cervical spine injuries (CSI) were studied prospectively. In reliable patients, complaints of neck discomfort and tenderness demonstrated sensitivities of 86% and 79%, respectively, for CSI. A positive physical examination, defined as neurologic deficits, or cervical region discomfort or tenderness was noted in 13 of 14 reliable individuals sustaining CSI (sensitivity 93%, specificity 16%, positive predictive value 3.3%, negative predictive value 98.7%). Lack of absolute sensitivity of these studied clinical parameters, either singly or in concert, for CSI suggests that eliminating cervical spine radiography on the basis of the absence of neck discomfort, tenderness, or neurological deficits in reliable blunt trauma victims could result in missed CSI. An enormous prospective data base will be required to definitively address the sensitivity of all clinical parameters currently employed to determine the need for cervical spine radiography in reliable blunt trauma victims.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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