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Injury. 2003 Dec;34(12):912-4.

Is spinal immobilisation necessary for all patients sustaining isolated penetrating trauma?

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Department of Accident & Emergency Medicine, Southern General Hospital, 1345 Govan Road, Glasgow G51 4TF, UK.



Previous work suggests that patients with isolated penetrating trauma rarely require spinal immobilisation. This study aimed to identify the incidence of mechanically unstable, or potentially mechanically unstable, spinal column injuries in penetrating trauma patients. The study also aimed to identify the incidence of spinal cord injury as a result of penetrating trauma in Scotland.


Retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data from the Scottish Trauma Audit Group (STAG).


Study patients were identified from the period 1992-1999. Patients coded for both penetrating trauma and spinal column or spinal cord injury were included. Case records, theatre notes and post mortem information were also examined.


34903 patients were available for study. Twenty-seven patients were coded as having had penetrating trauma and concurrent spinal injury. 15 were excluded as they also had a major blunt mechanism of injury or had no actual injury to the spinal cord or column. In the remaining 12 patients, four cervical, one combined cervical and thoracic and seven thoracic spinal cord injuries were identified. 11 were male and 11 were assaulted. One assault was due to a gunshot wound; 10 resulted from sharp weapons. Four complete cord transections and nine partial cord lesions were identified. All 12 patients with spinal cord injury associated with isolated penetrating trauma either had obvious clinical evidence of a spinal cord injury on initial assessment or were in traumatic cardiac arrest. All had spinal immobilisation.


Fully conscious patients (GCS=15) with isolated penetrating trauma and no neurological deficit do not require spinal immobilisation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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