EMS spinal precautions and the use of the long backboard - resource document to the position statement of the National Association of EMS Physicians and the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma

Prehosp Emerg Care. Apr-Jun 2014;18(2):306-14. doi: 10.3109/10903127.2014.884197. Epub 2014 Feb 21.

Abstract

Field spinal immobilization using a backboard and cervical collar has been standard practice for patients with suspected spine injury since the 1960s. The backboard has been a component of field spinal immobilization despite lack of efficacy evidence. While the backboard is a useful spinal protection tool during extrication, use of backboards is not without risk, as they have been shown to cause respiratory compromise, pain, and pressure sores. Backboards also alter a patient's physical exam, resulting in unnecessary radiographs. Because backboards present known risks, and their value in protecting the spinal cord of an injured patient remains unsubstantiated, they should only be used judiciously. The following provides a discussion of the elements of the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) and American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACS-COT) position statement on EMS spinal precautions and the use of the long backboard. This discussion includes items where there is supporting literature and items where additional science is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medical Services / methods
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Protective Devices / adverse effects
  • Protective Devices / standards*
  • Restraint, Physical / adverse effects
  • Restraint, Physical / instrumentation*
  • Restraint, Physical / standards
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Injuries / prevention & control
  • Transportation of Patients / methods
  • Transportation of Patients / standards
  • United States