Study design: Systematic review of prognostic studies of acute whiplash.
Objectives: To update the systematic review on the prognosis of acute whiplash published by the Quebec Task Force on Whiplash-Associated Disorders and to propose a new conceptual framework to conduct systematic reviews on prognosis.
Summary of background data: In 1995, the Quebec Task Force published a systematic review of the literature on whiplash and concluded that its prognosis is favorable. However, few prognostic factors were identified. Recent studies have added to this knowledge, and there is a need to update the review conducted by the Quebec Task Force.
Methods: A bibliographic search of four electronic databases was performed to identify prognostic studies of acute whiplash published after 1995. The literature was appraised with standard review criteria. The consistency of evidence across studies was assessed. A conceptual framework was designed to classify the literature according to methodologic quality, target population, and phases of investigation.
Results: Thirteen cohort studies were included in the review. The framework used in this study demonstrates that most of the recent prognostic studies are descriptive in nature. The prognosis of acute whiplash varies according to the population sampled and the insurance/compensation system under which individuals are allowed to claim benefits. Besides age, gender, baseline neck pain intensity, baseline headache intensity, and baseline radicular signs and symptoms, there is little consistency in the literature about the prognostic factors for the recovery of whiplash.
Conclusions: Scant knowledge about the prognosis of whiplash has been gained since the release of the Quebec Task Force report. However, it is becoming obvious that the insurance and compensation systems have a large impact on recovery from acute whiplash injuries. The conceptual framework used in this study demonstrates that large cohort studies investigating a wide range of prognostic factors are necessary to improve the understanding of this problem.