Prehospital cervical spinal immobilization after trauma

Nicholas Theodore, Mark N. Hadley, Bizhan Aarabi, Sanjay S. Dhall, Daniel E. Gelb, R. John Hurlbert, Curtis J. Rozzelle, Timothy C. Ryken, Beverly C. Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Spinal immobilization can reduce untoward movement of the cervical spine and can reduce the likelihood of neurological deterioration in patients with unstable cervical spinal injuries after trauma. Immobilization of the entire spinal column is necessary in these patients until a spinal cord injury (or multiple injuries) has been excluded or until appropriate treatment has been initiated. Although immobilization of the cervical spine after trauma is not supported by Class I or II medical evidence, this effective, timetested practice is based on anatomic and mechanical considerations in an attempt to prevent spinal cord injury and is supported by years of cumulative trauma and triage clinical experience. Not all trauma patients must be treated with spinal immobilization during prehospital resuscitation and transport. Many patients do not have spinal injuries and therefore do not require such intervention. The development of specific selection criteria for those patients for whom immobilization is indicated remains an area of investigation. Current publications on the use of contemporary, well-defined EMS triage protocols provide Class II medical evidence for their utility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-34
Number of pages13
Issue numberSUPPL.2
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • EMS clinical protocol
  • Potential spinal injury
  • Rigid cervical collar
  • Spinal immobilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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