Errors in cervical spine immobilization during pediatric trauma evaluation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Surgical Research






Blunt trauma; Cervical spine immobilization; Medical team performance; Pediatric trauma; Trauma resuscitation errors


© 2018 Elsevier Inc. Background: The purpose of this study was to identify factors during trauma evaluation that increase the likelihood of errors in cervical spine immobilization (‘lapses’). Materials and methods: Multivariate analysis was used to identify the associations between patient characteristics, event features, and tasks performed in proximity to the head and neck and the occurrence and duration of a lapse in maintaining cervical spine immobilization during 56 pediatric trauma evaluations. Results: Lapses in cervical spine immobilization occurred in 71.4% of patients (n = 40), with an average of 1.2 ± 1.3 lapses per patient. Head and neck tasks classified as oxygen manipulation occurred an average of 12.2 ± 9.7 times per patient, whereas those related to neck examination and cervical collar manipulation occurred an average of 2.7 ± 1.7 and 2.1 ± 1.2 times per patient, respectively. More oxygen-related tasks were performed among patients who had than those who did not have a lapse (27.3 ± 16.5 versus 11.5 ± 8.0 tasks, P = 0.001). Patients who had cervical collar placement or manipulation had a two-fold higher risk of a lapse than those who did not have these tasks performed (OR 1.92, 95% CI 0.56, 3.28, P = 0.006). More lapses occurred during evaluations on the weekend (P = 0.01), when more tasks related to supplemental oxygen manipulation were performed (P = 0.02) and when more tasks associated with cervical collar management were performed (P < 0.001). Conclusions: Errors in cervical spine immobilization were frequently observed during the initial evaluation of injured children. Strategies to reduce these errors should target approaches to head and neck management during the primary and secondary phases of trauma evaluation.

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