Cervical Collar Clearance in Obtunded Children Presenting Without a Known Traumatic Mechanism: Is Imaging Necessary?

Emma Y. Wu, Pierce L. Curran, Monica Zukowski, Tonya S. King, Kathryn L. Martin, Christa N. Grant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Obtunded pediatric patients are often placed in cervical collars (c-collars) to protect their cervical spine (c-spine) while injury is being ruled out, even without a known traumatic injury. The goal of this study was to determine the necessity of c-collars in this population by determining the rate of c-spine injury among patients with suspected non-traumatic mechanisms of loss of consciousness. Methods: A single institution, ten-year retrospective chart review was conducted including all obtunded patients admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit without a known traumatic event. Patients were categorized into five groups based on etiology of obtundation: respiratory, cardiac, medical/metabolic, neurologic, and other. Comparisons were made between those placed in a c-collar and a control group who were not, using Wilcoxon rank sum test for continuous measures, and Chi-square or Fisher's exact test for categorical measures. Results: 464 patients were included, of which 39 (8.41%) were placed in a c-collar. There was a significant difference in whether a patient was placed in a c-collar based on diagnosis category (p < 0.001). Those placed in a-c-collar were more likely to undergo imaging studies than the control group (p < 0.001). The overall incidence of c-spine injury in this patient population in our study was zero. Conclusion: Cervical collar placement and radiographic evaluation is not necessary in obtunded pediatric patients who present without a known traumatic mechanism as the overall risk of injury is low. Consideration for collar placement should be given in cases when trauma cannot be definitively ruled out at initial evaluation. Levels of evidence: III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1494-1499
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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