Mo. policy eliminates long spine board mandate

The new transport procedure recognizes the negative effects of long spine boards and says a cervical collar without immobilization is now acceptable

Sue Sterling
The Daily Star-Journal

WARRENSBURG, Mo. — Johnson County Ambulance District will implement new procedures July 1 for handling patients with suspected spinal injuries, Chief Shane Lockard said.

Lockard told the board research indicates patients with potential for a cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine injury do not have to be immobilized and transported on a long spine board.

Previous protocols mandated board use to transport patients with spinal injuries, he said.

“It is now recognized that securing a trauma patient to an EMS stretcher without a long spine board is acceptable for maintaining spinal precautions during transport,” he said in a letter to emergency department physicians and staff co-signed by district Medical Director Dr. David Gustafson.

Evidence exists indicating the long spine board has negative effects on patients, they said, including restricting respiration, causing tissue trauma, pain and discomfort for patients, delaying transport from the scene and increasing mortality rates.

The new protocols are in line with position statements from the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons, the National Association of EMS Physicians and the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, he said Thursday.

Lockard said more EMS services are adopting the procedures.

He said ambulance attendants now can place a cervical collar on a person with a neck injury and transport the patient without immobilization on a long spine board.

The board will be used to extricate and move a patient to the EMS stretcher, he said.

At the hospital, the patient can be moved to an emergency room bed by use of a slide board or by lifting the patient on a stretcher sheet, he said.

The district will monitor the new procedures and seeks feedback from the medical community, the letter said.

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