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Canadian C-Spine Rule: How To Know If A Neck Is Likely To Be Broken

Christian Vaillancourt, MD and his colleagues recently published an article in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine (2009;54:663-671) entitled “The Out-of-Hospital Validation of the Canadian C-Spine Rule by Paramedics.” This rule was originally developed for “clinical clearance” (e.g., without the use of x-rays) of persons with possible cervical spine fracture (broken neck) in alert and stable trauma patients by qualified persons (generally, emergency physicians) in a health care setting (such as an emergency department). This particular study found that paramedics can apply the Canadian C-Spine Rule reliably, without missing important cervical spine injuries.

The Rule, properly applied to an awake and alert injured person for which there is a concern for a cervical spine injury, provides the following direction:

1. If a person has a high-risk factor (age greater than or equal to 65 years; a dangerous mechanism of injury [a fall from an elevation greater than or equal to 3 feet; fall down 5 or more stairs; direct blow to top of head, such as a diving board accident; motor vehicle accident characterized by high speed, rollover or passenger ejection; motorized recreational vehicle accident; bicycle collision]; or numbness/tingling in an arm or leg), then neck immobilization and x-rays are indicated. Read more »

This post, Canadian C-Spine Rule: How To Know If A Neck Is Likely To Be Broken, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

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