Routine spinal immobilization in trauma patients: what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Surgeon. 2010 Aug;8(4):218-22. doi: 10.1016/j.surge.2010.01.002. Epub 2010 Mar 16.


Routine spinal immobilization for trauma patients has become established in developed countries throughout the world. Cervical spinal injury is, however, relatively rare in trauma patients, and immobilization practice was developed largely without firm supporting evidence. In recent years, published evidence has suggested that spinal immobilization may in some cases be harmful. The purpose of this article is to critically review the evidence and the implications for trauma patient management and outcomes. We searched MEDLINE, the Cochrane Database, Index Medicus and article references with a broad search strategy. Relevant results were analysed and critically reviewed in the context of trauma patient management. Our findings present a growing body of evidence documenting the risks and complications of routine spinal immobilization. There is a possibility that immobilization could be contributing to mortality and morbidity in some patients and this warrants further investigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immobilization* / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Spinal Injuries / complications*