Prehospital stabilization of the cervical spine for penetrating injuries of the neck - is it necessary?

Injury. 2000 Jun;31(5):305-9. doi: 10.1016/s0020-1383(99)00298-3.


The purpose of this study was to assess the specific indications, benefits and risks associated with cervical spine stabilization during pre-hospital care of penetrating neck injuries. We retrospectively reviewed hospital charts and autopsy reports of 44 military casualties in Israel with a penetrating neck injury during a period of 4.5 years. A review of the literature was also carried out. In eight of 36 hospitalized casualties (22%) a life-threatening sign was diagnosed in the exposed neck - large or expanding haematoma, or subcutaneous emphysema. Surgical stabilization of the cervical spine was not performed for any of the casualties. It was concluded that life threatening complications due to penetrating neck injury are common and may be overlooked if the neck is covered by a stabilization device. It is extremely rare for a penetrating injury to result in an unstable cervical spine. New management guidelines concerning pre-hospital stabilization are suggested.

MeSH terms

  • Braces
  • Contraindications
  • First Aid / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immobilization*
  • Joint Instability / therapy
  • Military Personnel*
  • Neck Injuries / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Warfare
  • Wounds, Penetrating / therapy*