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Ann Emerg Med. 2005 Aug;46(2):123-31.

Prospective performance assessment of an out-of-hospital protocol for selective spine immobilization using clinical spine clearance criteria.

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The University of Michigan/Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital Emergency Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.



We determine whether the use of an emergency medical services (EMS) protocol for selective spine immobilization would result in appropriate immobilization without spinal cord injury associated with nonimmobilization.


A 4-year prospective study examined EMS and hospital records for patients after the implementation of an EMS protocol for selective spine immobilization. EMS personnel were trained to perform and document a spine injury assessment for out-of-hospital trauma patients with a mechanism of injury judged sufficient to cause a spine injury. The assessment included these clinical criteria: altered mental status, evidence of intoxication, neurologic deficit, suspected extremity fracture, and spine pain or tenderness. The protocol required immobilization for patients with a positive assessment on any of those criteria. Outcome characteristics included the presence or absence of spine injury and spine injury management.


The study collected data on 13,483 patients; 126 of the patients were subsequently excluded from the study because of incomplete data, leaving a study sample of 13,357 patients with complete data. Spine injuries were confirmed in the hospital records for 3% (n=415) of patients, including 50 patients with cord injuries and 128 patients with cervical injuries. Sensitivity of the EMS protocol was 92% (95% confidence interval [CI] 89.4 to 94.6%) resulting in nonimmobilization of 8% of the patients with spine injuries (33 of 415). None of the nonimmobilized patients sustained cord injuries. The specificity was 40% (95% CI 38.9 to 40.5%).


The use of our selective immobilization protocol resulted in spine immobilization for most patients with spine injury without causing harm in cases in which spine immobilization was withheld.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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