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Richard C. E. Anderson, Peter Kan, Monique Vanaman, Jeanne Rubsam, Kristine W. Hansen, Eric R. Scaife, and Douglas L. Brockmeyer

Object

Cervical spine clearance after trauma in children 0–3 years of age is deceptively difficult. Young children may not be able to communicate effectively, and severe injuries may require intubation and sedation. Currently, no published guidelines are available to aid in decision-making in these complex situations. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a safe and effective protocol-driven system could be developed for clearance of the cervical spine in noncommunicative children between 0 and 3 years of age.

Methods

Children 0–3 years of age, including intubated patients, who were admitted after trauma activation at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City or the Children's Hospital of New York from 2002 to 2006 were managed according to a cervical spine clearance protocol. Data were collected in a prospective fashion. Radiographic and clinical methods of clearing the cervical spine, as well as the type and management of injuries, were recorded.

Results

A total of 2828 pediatric trauma activations required cervical spine clearance during the study period. Of these, 575 (20%) were children ≤ 3 years of age who were admitted to the hospital. To facilitate clearing the cervical spine in these children, plain radiographs (100%), CT studies (14%), and MR images (10%) were obtained. Nineteen ligamentous injuries (3.3%) and 9 fractures/dislocations (1.5%) were detected, with 4 patients requiring operative stabilization (0.7%). No late injuries have been detected.

Conclusions

The protocol used has been effective in detecting cervical spine injuries in noncommunicative children after trauma. The combination of clinical information and radiographic studies is essential for safely clearing the cervical spine in these complex situations. Clearance of the cervical spine without CT or MR imaging studies is possible in the majority of cases, even in very young patients.

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Richard C. E. Anderson, Eric R. Scaife, Stephen J. Fenton, Peter Kan, Kris W. Hansen, and Douglas L. Brockmeyer

Object

Currently, no diagnostic or procedural standards exist for clearing the cervical spine in children after trauma. The establishment of protocols has been shown to reduce the time required to accomplish clearance and reduce the number of missed injuries. The purpose of this study was to determine if reeducation and initiation of a new protocol based on the National Emergency X-Radiography Utilization Study criteria could safely increase the number of pediatric cervical spines cleared by nonneurosurgical personnel.

Methods

The authors collected and reviewed data regarding cervical spine clearance in children (age range 0–18 years) who presented to the emergency department at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, between 2001 and 2006 after sustaining significant trauma. Radiographic and clinical methods of clearing the cervical spine, as well as the type and management of injuries, were determined for two periods: Period I (January 2001–December 2003) and Period II (January 2004–February 2006).

Between 2001 and 2003, 95% of 936 cervical spines were cleared by the neurosurgical service. Twenty-one ligamentous injuries (2.2%) and 12 fracture/dislocations (1.3%) were detected, and five patients (0.5%) required operative stabilization. Since January 2004, 585 (62.4%) of 937 cervical spines have been cleared by nonneurosurgical personnel. Twelve ligamentous injuries (1.3%) and 14 fracture/dislocations (1.5%) were identified, and four patients (0.4%) required operative stabilization. No late injuries were detected in either time period.

Conclusions

The protocol outlined in the paper has been effective in detecting cervical spine injuries in children after trauma and has increased the number of cervical spines cleared by nonneurosurgical personnel by nearly 60%. Reeducation with the establishment of protocols can safely facilitate clearance of the cervical spine after trauma by non-neurosurgical personnel.