Comparison of a vacuum splint device to a rigid backboard for spinal immobilization

Am J Emerg Med. 1996 Jul;14(4):369-72. doi: 10.1016/S0735-6757(96)90051-0.


In this study, comparison of a vacuum splint device to a rigid backboard was made with respect to comfort, speed of application, and degree of immobilization. The study was a prospective, nonblinded comparative study conducted at a statewide emergency medical services (EMS) training facility and included a convenience sample of emergency medical technician (EMT) and paramedic students. The vacuum splint was judged to be significantly more comfortable on a 10-point scale than the rigid backboard after subjects had been lying on each device for 30 minutes (P < .001). It was also faster to apply: 131.6 +/- 24.3 seconds versus 154.6 +/- 22.2 seconds (P < .001). Various measures of immobilization were similar for the two devices. The vacuum splint provided better Immobilization of the torso and less slippage on a gradual lateral tilt. The rigid backboard with head blocks was slightly better at immobilizing the head. Vacuum splints offer a significant improvement in comfort over a traditional backboard for the patient with possible spinal injury. They can be applied in reasonable time frames and provide a similar degree of immobilization when compared to a standard rigid backboard.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Immobilization*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spinal Injuries*
  • Splints*
  • Vacuum