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Spinal injury: assessment and initial management

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Last updated:17th Feb 2016
Spinal injury: assessment and initial management - National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

This guideline covers the assessment and early management of spinal column and spinal cord injury in pre-hospital settings (including ambulance services), emergency departments and major trauma centres. It covers traumatic injuries to the spine but does not cover spinal injury caused by a disease.It aims to reduce death and disability by improving the quality of emergency and urgent care.

Spinal injury usually involves a fracture of the spinal column, which sometimes leads to spinal cord injury. The main causes of spinal injury are road traffic collisions, falls, violent attacks, sporting injuries and domestic incidents. Although spinal injury affects all ages, young and middle-aged men and older women tend to be the populations at highest risk. Approximately 1000 people sustain a new spinal cord injury each year in the UK. These injuries are associated with serious neurological damage and can result in paraplegia, tetraplegia or death. Currently there are no 'cures' for spinal cord injury and in the UK there are 40,000 people living with long-term disabilities as a result of such injuries.

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