The Trauma Professional's Blog

Sep 17

The Soft Cervical Collar: A Piece of Junk?

They are the cliches of the courtroom. The defendant appears before the jury with a cane, a cast, and a soft cervical collar. Looks good, but are they of any use? There are really two questions to answer: does a soft collar limit mobility and does it reduce pain? Amazingly, there’s very little literature on this ubiquitous neck appliance. 

First, the mobility question. It’s a soft collar. It’s made of sponge. So it should be no surprise that it doesn’t reduce motion by much, about 17%. But it is better than no collar at all.

What about pain control? One small retrospective review looked at the effect of a soft collar vs no collar at all on pain after whiplash injury. Keep in mind that the definition of “whiplash” is all over the place, so you have to take it with a big grain of salt. But the authors found that there was no difference in subjective pain scoring with or without the collar. 

Another much older study (1986) compared a soft collar with active motion after whiplash. Subjects who actively moved their neck around had less subjective pain after 8 weeks.

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Bottom line: The soft cervical collar keeps your neck warm. Not much else. And in my experience, prolonged use (more than a few days) tends to increase uncomfortable neck spasms. So use them as an article of clothing in Minnesota winters, but not as a medical appliance.

Related posts:

References:

Sep 16

Does Hemostatic Resuscitation Really Work?

Hemostatic resuscitation (HR) is the new buzzword (buzz phrase?) these days. The new ATLS course touts it as a big change, and quite a few publications are being written about it. But, like many new things (think Factor VII), will it stand the test of time?

It has long been recognized that hemorrhage from trauma is bad. Mortality rates are high, and traditional management with crystalloids and then blood products leads to persistent coagulopathy, troublesome bleeding, tissue injury, and finally death. HR was devised to address the early coagulopathy. It concentrates on early coag correction with plasma and platelets, permissive hypotension, and rapid definitive correction of hemorrhage.

The end result of HR has been measured, and both organ perfusion and coagulopathy can be corrected with it. Unfortunately, these measurements are typically taken once hemorrhage control has been achieved. Is looking at (or beyond) the endpoint really the best way to gauge its effectiveness? 

A robust multicenter study scrutinized looked at coagulopathy correction and organ perfusion during active hemostatic resuscitation. They used ROTEM to gauge the former, and lactate levels for the latter. Values were measured on arrival and after administration of every 4 units of blood. Only patients who received at least 4 units were included (106 subjects).

Here are the factoids:

Bottom line: This was a well-done study on a relatively large number of patients, although a number of weaknesses and potential improvements are pointed out in the discussion. There’s a lot of data in the paper, and I urge you to read it in depth. But it seems to show that hemostatic resuscitation is not necessarily doing what we want it to do during the acute phase of hemorrhage. Both bleeding AND transfusions must be stopped before it appears to work. And even then, there is a delay before ROTEM and lactate parameters return to normal. For now, rapid control of hemorrhage is of utmost importance. We still need to figure out how tools like ROTEM or TEG and various serum markers will help us while we accomplish it.

Reference: Hemostatic resuscitation is neither hemostatic nor resuscitative in trauma hemorrhage. J Trauma 76(3):561-568, 2014.

Sep 15

Blunt Traumatic Arrest In Kids: Are They Little Adults?

Over and over, we hear that children are not just little adults. They are a different size, a different shape. Their “normal” vital signs are weird. Drug doses are different; some drugs don’t work, some work all too well. 

But in many ways, they recover more quickly and more completely after injury. What about after what is probably the biggest insult of all, cardiac arrest after blunt trauma? The NAEMSP and the ACS Committee on Trauma recently released a statement regarding blunt traumatic arrest (BTA):

 “Resuscitation efforts may be withheld in any blunt trauma patient who, based on out-of-hospital personnel’s thorough primary patient assessment, is found apneic, pulseless, and without organized ECG activity upon arrival of EMS at the scene.”

The groups specifically point out that the guidelines do not apply to the pediatric population due to the scarcity of data for this age group.

The Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and USC conducted a study of the National Trauma Data Bank, trying to see if children had a better outcome after this catastrophic event. Patients were considered as children if they were up to and including age 18.

Here are the factoids: 

Bottom line: Children are just like little adults when it comes to blunt cardiac arrest after trauma. Although it is a retrospective, registry-based study, this is about as big as we are likely to see. And don’t get suckered into saying “but 1.5% with no vital signs ever were discharged!” This study was not able to look at the quality of life of survivors, but there is usually significant and severe disability present in the few adult survivors after this event.

Feel free to try to re-establish signs of life in kids with BTA. This usually means lots of fluid and/or blood. If they don’t respond, then it’s game over. And, like adults, don’t even think about an emergency thoracotomy; it’s dangerous to you and doesn’t work!

Related posts:

Reference: Survival of pediatric blunt trauma patients presenting with no signs of life in the field. J Trauma 77(3):422-426, 2014.

Sep 12

A Tourniquet For Your Abdomen???

Tourniquets for extremity bleeding are definitely back in vogue. Our military experience over the past 20 years has shown us what a life saver this simple tool can be. It’s now carried by many prehospital trauma professionals for use in the civilian population. But what about bleeding from the nether regions? You know what I’m talking about, the so-called junctional zones. Those are the areas that are too proximal (or too dangerous) to put on a tourniquet, like the groin, perineum, axilla, and neck.

Traditionally, junctional zone injury could only be treated in the field with direct pressure, clamps, or in some cases a balloon (think 30Fr Foley catheter inserted and blown up as large as possible, see link below). In the old days, we could try blowing up the MAST trousers to try to get a little control, but those are getting hard to find. 

An Alabama company (Compression Works) developed a very novel concept to try to help, the Abdominal Aortic and Junctional Tourniquet (AAJT). Think of it as a pelvic compression device that you purposely apply too high.

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Note the cool warning sticker at the bottom of the device!

The developers performed a small trial on 16 volunteer soldiers after doing a preliminary test on themselves (!). The device was placed around the abdomen, above the pelvis, and inflated to a maximum of 250 torr. Here are the factoids:

Here’s a list of the criteria that preclude use of this device:

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Bottom line: This would seem to be a very useful device for controlling hemorrhage from pesky areas below the waist.

BUT! Realistically, it will enjoy only limited use in the civilian population for now. Take a closer look at the exclusion criteria above. Half of the population is ineligible right off the bat (women). And among civilians, more than a third are obese in the US. Toss in a smattering of the other criteria, and the unlikelihood of penetrating trauma to that area in civilians, it won’t make financial sense for your average prehospital agency to carry it. Maybe in high violence urban areas, but not anywhere else.

The company has received approval for use in pelvic and axillary hemorrhage control, so we’ll see how it works when more and larger studies are released (on more and larger people). 

Related post:

Reference: The evaluation of an abdominal aortic tourniquet for the control of pelvic and lower abdominal hemorrhage. Military Med 178(11):1196-1201, 2013.

I have no financial interest in Compression Works.