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Ann Emerg Med. 2018 Oct;72(4):333-341. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2018.03.033. Epub 2018 May 3.

A Multicenter Program to Implement the Canadian C-Spine Rule by Emergency Department Triage Nurses.

Author information

1
Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Electronic address: istiell@ohri.ca.
2
Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
3
University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
4
St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
5
North York General Hospital, North York, Ontario, Canada.
6
Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
7
Hôpital Montfort, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
8
Health Sciences North, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
9
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
10
London Health Sciences Centre, London, Ontario, Canada.
11
Kingston General Hospital, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
12
Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVE:

The Canadian C-Spine Rule has been widely applied by emergency physicians to safely reduce use of cervical spine imaging. Our objective is to evaluate the clinical effect and safety of real-time Canadian C-Spine Rule implementation by emergency department (ED) triage nurses to remove cervical spine immobilization.

METHODS:

We conducted this multicenter, 2-phase, prospective cohort program at 9 hospital EDs and included alert trauma patients presenting with neck pain or with cervical spine immobilization. During phase 1, ED nurses were trained and then had to demonstrate competence before being certified. During phase 2, certified nurses were empowered by a medical directive to "clear" the cervical spine of patients, allowing them to remove cervical spine immobilization and to triage to a less acute area. The primary outcomes were clinical effect (cervical spine clearance by nurses) and safety (missed clinically important cervical spine injuries).

RESULTS:

In phase 1, 312 nurses evaluated 3,098 patients. In phase 2, 180 certified nurses enrolled 1,408 patients (mean age 43.1 years, women 52.3%, collision 56.5%, and cervical spine injury 1.1%). In phase 2 and for the 806 immobilized ambulance patients, the primary outcome of immobilization removal by nurses was 41.1% compared with 0% before the program. The primary safety outcome of cervical spine injuries missed by nurses was 0. Time to discharge was reduced by 26.0% (3.4 versus 4.6 hours) for patients who had immobilization removed. In only 1.3% of cases did nurses indicate their discomfort with applying the Canadian C-Spine Rule.

CONCLUSION:

We clearly demonstrated that ED triage nurses can successfully implement the Canadian C-Spine Rule, leading to more rapid and comfortable management of patients without any threat to patient safety. Widespread adoption of this approach should improve care and comfort for trauma patients, and could decrease length of stay in our very crowded EDs.

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