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I sent the memo to two of the EMS agencies (fire based, as are most around here) where I work. We are attempting to effect a cultural shift for the benefit of our patients. I guess we will see if it takes hold. There is no question that spinal immobilization is painful and anxiety provoking for nearly everyone. Patients often have back pain induced solely by lying on the backboard, pain which resolves not long after removal of the board, but which may prompt imaging in the ED due to pain and tenderness caused not by the presenting injury but by the backboard. We have seen harm in other ways: the demented elderly patient with a ground level fall who becomes more agitated from the pain and restriction of the board, the patient from the MVC with anxiety disorder who panics in the straps, the monstrously obese patient who has the equivalent of another person sitting on their chest and has to fight gravity to breathe. I've summarized below some notes from a presentation I have given on myths in EMS. The bottom line up front is that spinal immobilization on a long backboard has no evidence to support its use, but substantial evidence of harm. It is predicated entirely upon theories of injury that have never been shown. It has been taught dogmatically to EMS providers, nurses, and physicians for 3 decades, though there is now a swell of thought that we should modify the practice. Using a long backboard makes sense when pulling an injured person out of the water, or moving them out of a smashed vehicle, but once on the ambulance stretcher, movement is minimal, even with jarring movements of the ambulance. Being on a hard, slippy surface of a backboard will worsen that movement rather than improve it. The National Association of EMS Physicians is working with the American College of Surgeons on a position paper regarding backboarding. The gist of it is that we should eliminate backboards for anything but extrication. There's a few things I've discovered in the literature: Backboards do a horrible job of immobilizing the spine, and movement is worse on the backboard than on a soft surface that conforms to the patient. Patients who can follow commands can typically maintain stabilization of their own spine without assistance. Backboarding increases mortality in certain trauma patients. Backboarding does nothing to prevent neurological sequelae from spinal injury. Backboarding restricts respiration, which some patients cannot tolerate. Backboarding rapidly leads to skin breakdown and pressure ulcers, even after a short period of time, and is particularly hard on the elderly. I think there are some steps we can take to eliminate some pain and suffering and reduce some unnecessary imaging. Stop transporting patients to the hospital on backboards. Utilize the long spine board only for extrication purposes. Once the patient is extricated, using log roll or lift-and-slide technique, lay the patient flat on the stretcher and leave the c-collar in place. Do not ever immobilize a patient with penetrating trauma such as a gunshot wound or stab wound. Immobilization DOUBLES the mortality rate of these patients. Even with neurologic deficits caused by transection of the spinal cord, the damage is done; additional movement will not worsen an already catastrophic injury. Emphasis should be on airway and breathing management and rapid transport to a trauma center. If patient is being intubated, and manual cervical stabilization is hampering this effort, the neck should be moved to allow securing the airway. An unsecured airway is a far greater danger to the patient than a spinal fracture. Eliminate the "standing take-down" for backboarding patients who are ambulatory after an injury. Place a collar and allow the patient to sit on the cot, then lie flat. Patients who are ambulatory and able to follow commands do a better job of preventing movement of an injured spine than rescuers do. Selectively immobilize (with a cervical collar) only those patients at high risk for spinal injury or with clinical indications of spinal injury. Remove cervical collars on conscious patients that tolerate them poorly due to dementia, anxiety, or shortness of breath. Leaving the collar on and fighting them will encourage more spinal movement rather than less. Clear patients from any spinal immobilization clinically utilizing the spinal clearance protocol. This protocol indicates those patients who may require immobilization: High risk injury (high speed MVC, axial loading injury), focal neurological deficits such as paralysis, intoxication, age <65, and presence of midline bony tenderness of the spine. Patients without these findings may be transported without spinal immobilization. Patients who are markedly agitated and confused from head injury may not be able to follow commands with regard to minimizing spinal movement, and combativeness may also be a factor. These patients should remain on a backboard if the crew deems it safer for the patient, and this will be at the discretion of the crew. The above measures will reduce pain and suffering, reduce complications, decrease on scene times, reduce injuries to crews who are attempting to carry immobilized patients, and reduce unnecessary imaging costs and radiation exposure. There is no doubt that our crews will get some push back from the staff at the hospitals. Nurses or physicians may rebuke them for having the patient off the backboard. FD crews should be reassured that hospital staff does not determine their treatment protocols or operational policy, and that any questions can be directed to command staff or to me or to the hospital EMS coordinators. 'zilla, MD Hauswald M,McNally T. Confusing extrication with immobilization: the inappropriate use of hard spine boards for interhospital transfers. Air Med J. 2000 Oct-Dec;19(4):126-7. This was a survey of inter facility transport services. 18/30 interfac transport services immobilized for transfer, even if cleared by sending ER MD Additional 4/30 immobilized unless cleared radiographically No services moved pts to softer surface if known to have injury McHugh TP,Taylor JP. Unnecessary out-of-hospital use of full spinal immobilization. Acad Emerg Med. 1998 Mar;5(3):278-80. 51% reported no neck or back pain at scene of accident before full spinal immobilization 13% not even asked about neck or back pain before full spinal immobilization Haut ER,Kalish BT,Efron DT,Haider AH,Stevens KA,Kieninger AN,Cornwell EE 3rd,Chang DC. Spine immobilization in penetrating trauma: more harm than good? J Trauma. 2010 Jan;68(1):115-20; discussion 120-1. Twice the mortality rate in penetrating trauma if immobilized (14.7 vs. 7.2%) 0.01% had incomplete neurological injury and underwent fixation Number Needed to Treat: 1032 Number Needed to Harm: 66 Davis, et al: retrospective study of 32,117 trauma patients 2.3% with c-spine injury 10 patients with delayed diagnosis of spinal injury AND permanent neurological sequelae Bottom line: "hidden" spinal injuries which lead to paralysis are extremely rare Gerrelts, et al: Review of 1331 trauma patients 5 patients with delayed diagnosis of cervical injury None with permanent deficit Bottom line: "hidden" spinal injuries which lead to paralysis are extremely rare Platzer et al: 347 with c-spine injuries Of the 18 with delayed diagnosis, 2 had permanent deficit Bottom line: "hidden" spinal injuries which lead to paralysis are extremely rare Hauswald: 5 year retrospective review New Mexico vs. Malaya Malayan medics do not use spinal immobilization The difference: Malayan patients had less frequent deterioration and less overall neuro disability Limitations: Small numbers, different mechanisms (more MVCs in the USA, more falls in Malaya) Neuro decompensation occurs in 5% anyway, despite ideal attention to spinal immobilization. Spinal immobilization raises intracranial pressure 4.5 mmHg Manual In Line Stabilization (MILS) led to failed intubation in 50% after 30 seconds of intubation attempt vs. 5.7% without MILS Gruen, et al: Trauma mortality in 44, 401 patients. 2594 deaths, errors in 64. Failure to secure an airway in 16% of those If spinal immobilization led to a failed airway, then it killed the patient. Santoni: MILS doubles force necessary for intubation Santoni BG, Hindman BJ, Puttlitz CM, Weeks JB, Johnson N, Maktabi MA, Todd MM. Manual in-line stabilization increases pressures applied by the laryngoscope blade during direct laryngoscopy and orotracheal intubation. Anesthesiology. 2009 Jan;110(1):24-31. Totten, et al: LBB or vacuum mattress restricted respiration by 15% Bauer, et al: LBB limits respiratory function Respiratory failure is COD in 6% of trauma patients Hauswald: Substantial force required to injure spinal cord Post-injury movement probably not sufficient to injure the cord, even if already partially injured Chan D,Goldberg RM,Mason J,Chan L. Backboard versus mattress splint immobilization: a comparison of symptoms generated. J Emerg Med. 1996 May-Jun;14(3):293-8. Perry SD,McLellan B,McIlroy WE,Maki BE,Schwartz M,Fernie GR. The efficacy of head immobilization techniques during simulated vehicle motion. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1999 Sep 1;24(17):1839-44. 3 times more likely to develop pain with LBB than vacuum mattress Trunk movement still significant; no method with a LBB eliminates motion Konstantinidis A,Plurad D,Barmparas G,Inaba K,Lam L,Bukur M,Branco BC,Demetriades D. The presence of nonthoracic distracting injuries does not affect the initial clinical examination of the cervical spine in evaluable blunt trauma patients: a prospective observational study. J Trauma. 2011 Sep;71(3):528-32. 101 blunt trauma patients with c-spine injuries 87% had “distracting” injuries: rib fractures, lower and upper extremity fractures 4% had no tenderness on c-spine All 4% had bruising and tenderness of anterior chest Bottom line: "distracting injuries" are largely a myth. Horodyski M,Conrad BP,Del Rossi G,DiPaola CP,Rechtine GR 2nd. Removing a patient from the spine board: is the lift and slide safer than the log roll? J Trauma. 2011 May;70(5):1282-5; discussion 1285. Del Rossi G,Horodyski M,Heffernan TP,Powers ME,Siders R,Brunt D,Rechtine GR. Spine-board transfer techniques and the unstable cervical spine. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2004 Apr 1;29(7):E134-8. Del Rossi G,Rechtine GR,Conrad BP,Horodyski M. Are scoop stretchers suitable for use on spine-injured patients? Am J Emerg Med. 2010 Sep;28(7):751-6. Epub 2010 Feb 25. Log roll creates unacceptable motion Lift and slide technique creates less motion Scoop stretcher may be better as well J Trauma. 2009 Jul;67(1):61-6. Motion of a cadaver model of cervical injury during endotracheal intubation with a Bullard laryngoscope or a Macintosh blade with and without in-line stabilization. Turner CR, Block J, Shanks A, Morris M, Lodhia KR, Gujar SK. Source Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org Abstract BACKGROUND: Endotracheal intubation in patients with potential cervical injury is a common dilemma in trauma. Although direct laryngoscopy (DL) with manual in-line stabilization (MILS) is a standard technique there is little data on the effect of MILS on cervical motion. Likewise there is little data available regarding alternative airway techniques in this setting. This study compared intubations with and without MILS in a cadaver model ofcervical instability. We also used this model to compare intubations using DL with a Macintosh blade versus a Bullard laryngoscope (BL). METHODS: Complete C4-C5 disarticulations were surgically created in 10 fresh human cadavers. The cadavers were then intubated in a random order with either BL or DL with and without MILS. The motion at the unstable interspace was measured for subluxation, angulation, and distraction. RESULTS: MILS did not significantly affect maximal motion of this model in any of the three measures using either DL or BL. There were no clinically significant differences in maximal median motion in any of the three measures when comparing the two blades. However, there was significantly more variance in the subluxation caused by DL than by BL. CONCLUSIONS: We were unable to demonstrate any significant effect of MILS on the motion of an unstable cervical spine in this cadaver model. The BL appears to be a viable alternative to DL in the setting of an unstable lower cervical spine. Ann Emerg Med. 2007 Sep;50(3):236-45. Epub 2007 Mar 6. Manual in-line stabilization for acute airway management of suspected cervical spine injury: historical review and current questions. Manoach S, Paladino L. Source Department of Emergency Medicine, State University of New York-Downstate and Kings County Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA. email@example.com Abstract Direct laryngoscopy with manual in-line stabilization is standard of care for acute trauma patients with suspected cervical spine injury. Ethical and methodologic constraints preclude controlled trials of manual in-line stabilization, and recent work questions its effectiveness. We searched MEDLINE, Index Medicus, Web of Knowledge, the Cochrane Database, and article reference lists. According to this search, we present an ancestral review tracing the origins of manual in-line stabilization and an analysis of subsequent studies evaluating the risks and benefits of the procedure. Allmanual in-line stabilization data came from trials of uninjured patients, cadaveric models, and case series. The procedure was adopted because of reasonable inference from the benefits of stabilization during general care of spine-injured patients, weak empirical data, and expert opinion. More recent data indicate that direct laryngoscopy and intubation are unlikely to cause clinically significant movement and that manual in-line stabilizationmay not immobilize injured segments. In addition, manual in-line stabilization degrades laryngoscopic view, which may cause hypoxia and worsen outcomes in traumatic brain injury. Patients intubated in the emergency department with suspected cervical spine injury often have traumatic brain injury, but the incidence of unstable cervical lesions in this group is low. The limited available evidence suggests that allowing some flexion or extension of the head is unlikely to cause secondary injury and may facilitate prompt intubation in difficult cases. Despite the presumed safety and efficacy of direct laryngoscopy with manual in-line stabilization, alternative techniques that do not require direct visualization warrant investigation. Promising techniques include intubation through supraglottic airways, along with video laryngoscopes, optical stylets, and other imaging devices.
Hi, in Germany, at least in my beloved state of Bavaria, we'll see more and more usage of the "spineboard". All new ambulances are equipped with a long backboard since several years and finally the providers apparently found them in the compartments wondering what this thing will do if switched on. And since they start to recognize it as a fancy equipment thingy from THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA everyone sees on TV series and in movies, it seems to be the greatest gift to german EMS since the invention of wheel(cart)s. As if we never had our beloved vacuum mattresses (since >30 years, probably even lot more) and scoop stretchers (since around 20 years)...on every ambulance by now. Studying various sources and experiencing the backboard in various situations (classroom training, life excercises and rare real calls), I have a certain impression about it's worthiness. In short my point of view is: if used as a "pick up aid" only in situations were a scoop stretcher or other less disturbing techniques don't help, a spineboard is a great thing. Especially in confined space situations and if to carry a patient over sharp edges (where the scoop stretcher usually will hook). However, I really don't see it as a transportation aid in the ambulance. With our vacuum mattresses (required equipment) a patient is more comfortable (one word: lordose) and splinted individually but complete. This includes full protection against sideway movement. But I don't want to really discuss the pro's and con's, so sorry for the long intro, but I wanted you to see where I come from. So, the real questions are: How do you properly fix a patient on a spineboard against side movements? Our backboards seem to be a bit slippery and even if pinned down by a spider strap several body parts can slip sideways. Our modern vacuum mattresses even have a polster between the legs to stabilize them from all sides - how is this adressed in proper spineboard fixing? transport the patient on a backboard in the ambulance? Is there any special hold or something like that? I don't trust a slippery thing simply put on a stretcher...it seems it can go ballistic any time since it could only be fixed with the normal patient straps on the stretcher - which are designed for a patient directly laying on the stretcher including a lot more friction between the fitting surfaces. address the problem of lordose (the "S"-form of the spine), shoulder supporting, and leg supporting (the body is NOT flat!)? Is there a rule about filling those "holes"? make a patient more comfortable for a longer transport? Is there a rule about padding the direct contact parts between board and skin (hip, shoulders, head)? And I mean: "really, according to training books, should be, if done all right and not the quick & dirty solution". How are things really done in US or should be done and how are we influenced by TV over here. I don't like TV to teach me things in EMS...some seem to see it other way round (honestly, i suppose some ITLS/PHTLS trainers just copy things totally unreflected). Any others non-US but using spineboards may be helpful for my understanding of the real thing, too. I sure have made some research, but "padding" and such things are always addressed within a side comment or such in the documents I found. Can't believe that this is just not needed. Thanks for your input, Bernhard P.S.: if someone missed me the last few months - I was still there, but slightly exposed to other things in life. May happen again.