Cervical Spine Injuries in Civilian Victims of Explosions: Should Cervical Collars be Used?

Izhar Arieli 2 Yoram Klein 1 Shaul Sagiv 2 Kobi Peleg 3 Peleg Ben-Galim 2
1Division of Trauma, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel
2Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Kaplan Medical Center, Rehovot, Israel
3Gertner institute, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel

Background: Semi-rigid cervical collars (SRCC) are routinely applied to victims of explosions as part of the pre-hospital trauma protocols. Previous studies have shown that the use of SRCC in penetrating injuries is not justified due to the scarcity of unstable cervical spine injuries and the risk of obscuring other neck injuries. Explosion can inflict injuries by fragments penetration, blast injury, blunt force and burns. The study purpose was to determine the occurrence of cervical spine instability without irreversible neurological deficit and other potentially life threatening non-skeletal neck injuries among victims of explosions. The potential benefits and risks of SRCC application in explosion related injuries (ERI) was Evaluated.

Methods: a retrospective cohort study of all explosions civilian victims admitted to Israeli hospitals during the years 1998-2010. Data collection was based on the Israeli national trauma registry and the hospital records, and included demographic, clinical and radiological details of all patients with documented cervical spine injuries.
Results: the cohort included 2,267 patients. All of them were secondary to terrorist attacks. SRCC was applied to all the patients at the scene. Nineteen patients (0.83%) had cervical spine fractures. Nine patients (0.088%) had unstable cervical spine injury. All but one had irreversible neurological deficit on admission. 151 patients (6.6%) had potentially life threatening penetrating non-skeletal neck injuries.

Conclusions: Unstable cervical spine injuries secondary to explosion are extremely rare. The majority of unstable cervical spine fractures were secondary to penetrating injuries, with irreversible neurological deficits on admission. The application of SRCC did not seem to be of any benefit in these patients and might pose a risk of obscuring other neck injuries. We recommend that SRCC will not be used in the pre-hospital management of victims of explosions.