How should an unconscious person with a suspected neck injury be positioned?

Prehosp Disaster Med. Oct-Dec 1995;10(4):239-44. doi: 10.1017/s1049023x00042102.

Abstract

Introduction: Awareness of the risk of spinal-cord damage in moving an unconscious person with a suspected neck injury into the "lateral recovery position," coupled with the even greater risk of inadequate airway management if the person is not moved, has resulted in a suggested modification to the lateral recovery position for use in this circumstance.

Hypothesis: It is proposed that the modification to the lateral recovery position reduces movement of the neck. In this modification, one of the patient's arms is raised above the head (in full abduction) to support the head and neck. The position is called the "HAINES modified recovery position." HAINES is an acronym for High Arm IN Endangered Spine.

Methods: Neck movements in two healthy volunteers were measured by the use of video-image analysis and radiographic studies when the volunteers were rolled from the supine position to both the lateral recovery position and the HAINES modified recovery position.

Results: For both subjects, the total degree of lateral flexion of the cervical spine in the HAINES modified recovery position was less than half of that measured during use of the lateral recovery position (while an open airway was maintained in each).

Conclusion: An unconscious person with a suspected neck injury should be positioned in the HAINES modified recovery position. There is less neck movement (and less degree of lateral angulation) than when the lateral recovery position is used, and, therefore, HAINES use carries less risk of spinal-cord damage.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coma / complications*
  • Electromyography
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neck Injuries*
  • Posture*
  • Radiography
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Videotape Recording
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Wounds and Injuries / physiopathology
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy