Understanding post-hospital morbidity associated with immobilisation of cervical spine fractures in older people using geriatric medicine assessment techniques: A pilot study

Christopher Moran, Eva Kipen, Patrick Chan, Louise Niggemeyer, Simon Lewis Scharf, Peter Hunter, Mark C B Fitzgerald, Russell Lindsay Gruen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


There is a paucity of research into the outcomes and complications of cervical spine immobilisation (hard collar or halothoracic brace) in older people. AIMS: To identify morbidity and mortality outcomes using geriatric medicine assessment techniques following cervical immobilisation in older people with isolated cervical spine fractures. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We identified participants using an injury database. We completed a questionnaire measuring pre-admission medical co-morbidities and functional independence. We recorded the surgical plan and all complications. A further questionnaire was completed three months later recording complications and functional independence. RESULTS: Sixteen patients were recruited over a three month period. Eight were immobilised with halothoracic brace, 8 with external hard collar. Three deaths occurred during the study. Lower respiratory tract infection was the most common complication (7/16) followed by delirium (6/16). Most patients were unable to return home following the acute admission, requiring sub-acute care on discharge. The majority of patients were from home prior to a fall, 6/16 were residing there at 3 months. Most participants had an increase in their care needs at 3 months. There was no difference in the type or incidence of complications between the different modes of immobilisation. CONCLUSIONS: Geriatric medicine assessment techniques identified the morbidity and functional impairment associated with cervical spine immobilisation. This often results in a prolonged length of stay in supported care. This small pilot study recommends a larger study over a longer period using geriatric medicine assessment techniques to better define the issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1838 - 1842
Number of pages5
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Cite this