Properly securing trunk crucial in ambulance transport

November 22, 1999

Paramedics could reduce the potential of further injuries to passengers by improving standard immobilization procedures used during transport, according to a study in the journal Spine.

Properly immobilizing the trunk is just as crucial as securing the head, says Dr. Stephen Perry, a research fellow at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Science Centre (SWCHSC) who led the study as a PhD student at the University of Toronto. "A commonly used method of strapping down the patient that was used in this study does not prevent the body from swinging around and could in fact lead to further cervical spine injuries." Other research has shown that up to 25 per cent of cervical spine injuries arise or are aggravated during emergency transport and that 40 per cent of those injuries result in neurological damage.

Perry and his research team evaluated three different head immobilization techniques using a moving platform designed to simulate the swaying and jarring that can occur during ambulance transports. While one method worked better at securing the head - self-adhesive styrofoam wedges that custom fit the board to the patient - Perry says the crucial factor is restricting, to the same degree, mobility of the head and trunk.

"Even though some head immobilization techniques are more effective, the sheer mass of a poorly immobilized trunk swinging back and forth can cause large movements at the neck that could lead to serious injuries," he says. "Trunk immobilization has to occur in conjunction with immobilization of the head in order to reduce the motion occurring at the cervical spine." The study was funded by Manus Pharmaceutical, Inc., developers of the styrofoam wedges.
Steven de Sousa
U of T Public Affairs
(416) 978-5949

University of Toronto

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