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Skip spine stabilization and get to the hospital

Ambulance crews might help gunshot victims more with a quicker trip to the hospital

4:20pm, January 11, 2010

In a study that runs counter to emergency-care protocols in some regions of the United States, researchers have found that gunshot patients who undergo spine stabilization before being transported to the hospital are twice as likely to die as those who are taken directly.

The problem appears to be delay, researchers report in the January Journal of Trauma. To stabilize the spine, paramedics wrap a cervical collar around a patient’s neck and strap the individual to a long board to keep the vertebrae from shifting during transport. Although these measures immobilize the spine, the patient loses precious minutes.

“Some injuries are very time sensitive,” says study coauthor Elliott Haut, a trauma surgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, which averages one gunshot patient per day. “Sometimes, if you get here in 10 minutes we can save your life, but in 20 minutes we can’t,” he says. Spine immobilization delays a tri

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