They wonder, “With our knowledge that intoxicated patients form up to half of the population of trauma patients, is it really safe to risk irreversible injuries in 1% of the population to save a few hours in cervical clearance times?”
Dr. Stephen Asha from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, who has reported on various aspects of cervical spine imaging, told Reuters Health by email, “I think this study confirms what clinical experience as well as much of the more recent studies on cervical spine CT scanning tells us, which is that if there is nothing abnormal detected on a new generation, multi-slice CT, then the neck can be cleared.”
“Of course there were a few missed injuries, but this needs to be put into context: no one just does a test in isolation, it is always combined with a clinical assessment, and a consideration the mechanism of injury,” said Dr. Asha, who was not involved in the new work. “In this case there were five injuries not apparent on the CT scan, but all had obvious spinal cord injury on clinical examination before the CT was done, so these injuries were never going to be missed in a real clinical setting.”
“MRI use should be carefully considered because the problem with MRI is that it can be over-sensitive, demonstrating abnormal signal suggesting ligamentous injury in patient who simply have a ligamentous ‘strain,'” Dr. Asha explained. “The false-positive results then lead to further periods of inappropriate immobilization and testing, with the accompanying costs, inconvenience, and complications.”
“In patients in whom the clinical assessment raises no concerns for injury, then a normal CT should herald the end of investigations,” he said. “MRI should be reserved for those where the clinical assessment is abnormal or where the CT is abnormal and further evaluation for ligamentous or spinal injury is required.”
Dr. Asha concluded, “If the clinical exam is not concerning and the CT is normal, then clear the neck.”
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/28MxHxA and http://bit.ly/28MxHO5
JAMA Surg 2016.