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CT for all or selective approach? Who really needs a cervical spine CT after blunt trauma.

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CT for all or selective approach? Who really needs a cervical spine CT after blunt trauma.

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Apr;74(2):1098-101

Authors: Duane TM, Young A, Mayglothling J, Wilson SP, Weber WF, Wolfe LG, Ivatury RR

BACKGROUND: Computed tomography (CT) is the standard to screen blunt trauma patients for cervical spine (c-spine) fractures, yet there remains a reluctance to scan all trauma team activations because of radiation exposure and cost. The purpose of this study was to identify predictors of positive CT in an effort to decrease future CT use without compromising patient care.
METHODS: We performed a prospective study in which we documented 18 combined NEXUS and Canadian c-spine criteria on 5,182 patients before CT comparing those with and without fractures to identify predictors of injury. Clinical examination was considered positive if any of the 18 criteria were positive.
RESULTS: There were 324 patients with a fracture, for an incidence rate of 6.25%. Fracture patients were older (43.89 ± 18.83 years vs. 38.42 ± 17.45 years, p <; 0.0001), with a lower GCS (Glasgow Coma Scale) score (13.49 ± 3.49 vs. 14.32 ± 2.34, p < 0.0001), than nonfracture patients. Clinical examination had a 100% (324 of 324) sensitivity, 0.62% (30 of 4,858) specificity, 6.29% (324 of 5,152) positive predictive value, and 100% (30 of 30) negative predictive value. A total of 77.8% (14 of 18) criteria were significantly associated with fracture by univariate analysis, seven of which were independent predictors of fracture by logistic regression (midline tenderness, GCS score < 15, age ?65 years, paresthesias, rollover motor vehicle collision, ejected, never in sitting position in emergency department). Evaluation of these seven factors demonstrated a sensitivity of 99.07% (321 of 324), positive predictive value of 6.95% (321 of 4,617), specificity of 11.57% (562 of 4,858), and negative predictive value of 99.47% (562 of 565).
CONCLUSION: Although sensitive, the standard clinical criteria used to determine patients who need radiographs lack specificity. Based on these results, more narrow criteria should be validated in an effort to limit the number of c-spine CTs while not compromising patient care.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Prognostic study, level II; diagnostic study, level II.

PMID: 23511130 [PubMed – in process]

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