A systematic review of the need for MRI for the clearance of cervical spine injury in obtunded blunt trauma patients after normal cervical spine CT

Iyore A.O. James, Ahmad Moukalled, Elizabeth Yu, David B. Tulman, Sergio D. Bergese, Christian D. Jones, Stanislaw P.A. Stawicki, David C. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Clearance of cervical spine injury (CSI) in the obtunded or comatose blunt trauma patient remains controversial. In patients with unreliable physical examination and no evidence of CSI on computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging of the cervical spine (CS-MRI) is the typical follow-up study. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that CS-MRI is unnecessary with negative findings on a multi-detector CT (MDCT) scan. This review article systematically analyzes current literature to address the controversies surrounding clearance of CSI in obtunded blunt trauma patients. A literature search through MEDLINE database was conducted using all databases on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) for keywords: «cervical spine injury,» «obtunded,» and «MRI.» The search was limited to studies published within the last 10 years and with populations of patients older than 18 years old. Eleven studies were included in the analysis yielding data on 1535 patients. CS-MRI detected abnormalities in 256 patients (16.6%). The abnormalities reported on CS-MRI resulted in prolonged rigid c-collar immobilization in 74 patients (4.9%). Eleven patients (0.7%) had unstable injury detected on CS-MRI alone that required surgical intervention. In the obtunded blunt trauma patient with unreliable clinical examination and a normal CT scan, there is still a role for CS-MRI in detecting clinically significant injuries when MRI resources are available. However, when a reliable clinical exam reveals intact gross motor function, CS-MRI may be unnecessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-255
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Emergencies, Trauma and Shock
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

Keywords

  • Blunt trauma
  • cervical spine CT and MRI
  • obtunded

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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