From the Journal of Surgical Research
The objective of this study was to determine the utility of a lateral cervical spine plain film in the evaluation of blunt trauma patients.
We prospectively evaluated blunt trauma patients from February 2004 to September 2006 who had both a lateral cervical spine (LCS) film and a computed tomography of the cervical spine (CTC), comparing the diagnostic accuracy of the LCS to the CTC.
There were 1004 patients who met inclusion criteria. Eighty-four patients had a cervical spine fracture while 920 patients had no fracture on CTC. Of the 84 patients with fractures by CTC, 68 had a negative or incomplete LCS. Of the 920 negative CTC, there were 7 false positive LCSs. LCS compared with CTC showed a sensitivity of 19% (16/84) and positive predictive value of 69.6% (16/23). Of the 981 negative or incomplete LCS films, 96.9% were incomplete (951/981). Of the seven patients with a false positive LCS (negative CTC), none was subsequently found to have a cervical spine fracture on further evaluation. Elimination of the LCS would result in charge savings of $265,056.00 (LCS charges with interpretation, $264 each) and increase patient safety by eliminating error.
LCS has no value as a screening tool in the blunt trauma patient since most are either inaccurate or incomplete. It should be eliminated from the Advanced Trauma Life Support algorithm, and CTC should receive emphasis as the diagnostic gold standard.