Portable resuscitation-area cervical-spine radiographs (PCS) frequently constitute a routine part of the emergency evaluation of patients suffering from blunt trauma. Their adequacy and cost were evaluated by reviewing the records of 92 consecutive trauma patients. Forty-seven of 74 patients (63.5%) had adequate PCS in that all seven cervical vertebrae were visualized. In 27 patients (36.5), all seven cervical vertebrae were not adequately visualized. Inadequate studies were most likely to occur in patients with abnormal vital signs on admission (56%) (P less than .01) and in those subsequently requiring general anesthesia (34.5%). Fifteen patients were intubated without difficulty by maintaining neck immobilization because of uncertainty regarding cervical-spine injuries. The annual cost of inadequate cervical-spine studies was estimated to be $31,000.00. Although the four cervical-spine injuries were diagnosed by the portable technique, routine PCS were frequently inadequate in visualizing all seven cervical vertebrae. Major decisions concerning intubation and surgery frequently had to be made before adequate radiographic evaluation could be completed. It is suggested that time and money are lost by routinely doing a single lateral portable cervical radiograph. It is more appropriate to obtain complete radiographic studies after life-threatening injuries are addressed while patients are treated using the standard techniques of neck immobilization.
View details for Web of Science ID A1990CR17400009
View details for PubMedID 2106809