Outcome of 'whiplash' neck injury

Injury. 1996 Nov;27(9):617-23. doi: 10.1016/s0020-1383(96)00114-3.


Psychological factors have been alleged to be important in the course and outcome of 'whiplash' neck injury but there is little quantitative evidence. This study uses quantitative methods involving a prospective interview assessment to describe psychological and quality of life predictors, and 3 and 12 month outcome. Consecutive attenders to the Accident and Emergency department of a teaching district hospital with a clinical diagnosis of 'whiplash' neck injury were included and there were follow-up interviews at home. Neck symptoms were recorded, and there was a standard mental-state interview with added questions about post-traumatic symptoms and a semi-structured interview for disability and consequences for quality of life. There was a wide individual variation in course and outcome; the majority of subjects complained of persistent neck symptoms and a sizeable minority reported specific post-traumatic psychological symptoms (intrusive memory, phobic travel anxiety), similar to those described by patients suffering multiple injuries. Social impairment, including effects on travel, were considerable in one-quarter. Reports of persistent neck symptoms were not associated with any baseline psychological variables or with compensation proceedings; psychological factors appeared to be more important in determining the extent of social impairment. We conclude that travel, social and psychological morbidity is substantially greater than previously recognized.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Disability
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Travel / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Whiplash Injuries / psychology*