Background: The Institute of Medicine calls for the use of clinical guidelines and practice parameters to promote "best practices" and improve patient outcomes. In 2006, The Trauma Association of Canada Pediatric Committee set out to create an evidence-based, national pediatric cervical spine (c-spine) clearance guideline based on the literature, existing algorithms from each pediatric trauma center and from expert opinion from across Canada.
Methods: A review of the literature took place in September 2006 using the PubMed database. Search criteria were "cervical spine," "c-spine," "clearance," and "trauma." Limits that were applied were "Languages: English," "Humans," "Type of Article: Meta-Analysis, Practice Guidelines, Randomized Control Trial, Review," and "Ages: all child 0-18 years." These search criteria were repeated in December 2007, April 2009, and October 2009. A total of 248 articles were identified. Existing guidelines were identified and their practices examined as models of care. Two draft guidelines were created for discussion: one for the pediatric patient with a reliable clinical examination and the other for the pediatric patient with an unreliable clinical examination. Via email, telephone, and two national videoconferences, the content of the guidelines was reviewed, discussed, and amended. The final article was prepared and circulated for author input until consensus was reached.
Results: A consensus was reached on two pathways to evaluate the pediatric cervical spine: a patient with a reliable clinical examination and a patient with an unreliable examination.
Conclusion: Presented herein are the consensus Trauma Association of Canada, National Pediatric Cervical Spine Evaluation Pathways for the patient with a reliable clinical examination, and the patient with and unreliable clinical examination.