The NEXUS criteria are insufficient to exclude cervical spine fractures in older blunt trauma patients

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Background and objective The National Emergency X-Radiography Utilization Study (NEXUS) criteria are used to assess the need for imaging to evaluate cervical spine integrity after injury. The aim of this study was to assess the sensitivity of the NEXUS criteria in older blunt trauma patients. Methods Patients aged 65 years or older presenting between 1st July 2010 and 30th June 2014 and diagnosed with cervical spine fractures were identified from the institutional trauma registry. Clinical examination findings were extracted from electronic medical records. Data on the NEXUS criteria were collected and sensitivity of the rule to exclude a fracture was calculated. Results Over the study period 231,018 patients presented to The Alfred Emergency & Trauma Centre, of whom 14,340 met the institutional trauma registry inclusion criteria and 4035 were aged ≥65 years old. Among these, 468 patients were diagnosed with cervical spine fractures, of whom 21 were determined to be NEXUS negative. The NEXUS criteria performed with a sensitivity of 94.8% [95% CI: 92.1%–96.7%] on complete case analysis in older blunt trauma patients. One-way sensitivity analysis resulted in a maximum sensitivity limit of 95.5% [95% CI: 93.2%–97.2%]. Conclusion Compared with the general adult blunt trauma population, the NEXUS criteria are less sensitive in excluding cervical spine fractures in older blunt trauma patients. We therefore suggest that liberal imaging be considered for older patients regardless of history or examination findings and that the addition of an age criterion to the NEXUS criteria be investigated in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1020-1024
Number of pages5
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Cervical vertebrae
  • NEXUS: emergency medicine
  • Spine
  • Wounds and injuries

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