In this study, clinicians looked at all children presenting to the ED over a 12 month period for the assessment of possible cervical spine injury to better understand how children are treated in hospital and how further investigation into the use of these rules can be undertaken.
Children rarely break their necks but if they do, they can risk spinal injury or death. Many more children present for assessment of possible cervical spine (neck) injuries than are subsequently diagnosed with cervical spine injury. The challenge for the emergency doctor is to identify the rare cases without subjecting too many children to unnecessary tests.
These tests, x-rays and scans, have risks including exposure to radiation and associated danger of long term cancer development, as well as the possible need for sedation to perform the scan in young children. Awaiting these tests is often a time of prolonged distress for the patient and family as the child needs to be kept lying flat and still without moving their neck. Considerable staff time and Emergency Department costs are associated with these tests. Rules have been proposed to assist doctors in deciding whether tests are needed.