Can emergency nurses use the Canadian cervical spine rule to reduce unnecessary patient immobilisation?

Accid Emerg Nurs. 2006 Jul;14(3):133-40. doi: 10.1016/j.aaen.2006.03.003. Epub 2006 May 30.


The Canadian c-spine rule (CCR) allows safe, reproducible use of radiography in alert, stable patients with potential c-spine injury in the emergency setting [Stiell, I., Clement, C., McKnight, R., Brison, R., Schull, M., Lowe, B., Worthington, J., Eisenhauer, M., Cass, D., Greenberg, G., MacPhail, I., Dreyer, J., Lee, J., Bandiera, G., Reardon, M., Holroyd, B., Lesiuk, H., G. Wells, 2003. The Canadian c-spine rule versus the nexus low-risk criteria in patients with trauma. The New England journal of medicine 349 (26), 2510-2518; Stiell, I., Wells, G., Vandemheen, K., Clement, C., 2001. The Canadian c-spine rule for radiography in alert and stable trauma patients. JAMA 286 (15), 1841]. This paper reports on a study of emergency nurses' ability to identify patients requiring immobilisation using the CCR. Emergency department triage nurses (N = 112) were trained in the use of the CCR and then asked to use the tool over the following 14 months in the assessment of 460 patients who presented with potential c-spine injury. Trained medical staff repeated 55% of the clinical assessments independently using the rule. The level of agreement between nurse and medical judgement was calculated. The inter-rater reliability using the kappa statistic was 0.6 (95% CI 0.50-0.62 N = 254) indicating a 'good' level of agreement. The majority of nurses indicated they were comfortable using the rule. The results suggest that UK emergency department nurses were able to use the Canadian c-spine rule to successfully guide selective immobilisation. A 25% reduction in immobilisation rates would have been achieved if the rule had been followed. Further studies are needed to test the reduction in levels of immobilisation that could be achieved in clinical practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing / organization & administration
  • Emergency Nursing / education
  • Emergency Nursing / organization & administration*
  • England
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Immobilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Inservice Training / organization & administration
  • Male
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Assessment / organization & administration
  • Nursing Education Research
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / education
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / standards
  • Observer Variation
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Selection*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Injuries / nursing
  • Unnecessary Procedures / nursing
  • Unnecessary Procedures / statistics & numerical data