The case for the future role of evidence-based medicine in the management of cervical spine injuries, with or without fractures

Academic Article


  • The authors believe that the standardized and systematic study of immobilization techniques, diagnostic modalities, medical and surgical treatment strategies, and ultimately outcomes and outcome measurement after cervical spinal trauma and cervical spinal fracture injuries, if performed using well-designed medical evidence–based comparative investigations with meaningful follow-up, has both merit and the remarkable potential to identify optimal strategies for assessment, characterization, and clinical management. However, they recognize that there is inherent difficulty in attempting to apply evidence-based medicine (EBM) to identify ideal treatment strategies for individual cervical fracture injuries. First, there is almost no medical evidence reported in the literature for the management of specific isolated cervical fracture subtypes; specific treatment strategies for specific fracture injuries have not been routinely studied in a rigorous, comparative way. One of the vulnerabilities of an evidenced-based scientific review in spinal cord injury (SCI) is the lack of studies in comparative populations and scientific evidence on a given topic or fracture pattern providing level II evidence or higher. Second, many modest fracture injuries are not associated with vascular or neural injury or spinal instability. The application of the science of EBM to the care of patients with traumatic cervical spine injuries and SCIs is invaluable and necessary. The dedicated multispecialty author groups involved in the production and publication of the two iterations of evidence-based guidelines on the management of acute cervical spine and spinal cord injuries have provided strategic guidance in the care of patients with SCIs. This dedicated service to the specialty has been carried out to provide neurosurgical colleagues with a qualitative review of the evidence supporting various aspects of care of these patients. It is important to state and essential to understand that the science of EBM and its rigorous application is important to medicine and to the specialty of neurosurgery. It should be embraced and used to drive and shape investigations of the management and treatment strategies offered patients. It should not be abandoned because it is not convenient or it does not support popular practice bias or patterns. It is the authors’ view that the science of EBM is essential and necessary and, furthermore, that it has great potential as clinician scientists treat and study the many variations and complexities of patients who sustain acute cervical spine fracture injuries.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hadley MN; Walters BC
  • Start Page

  • 457
  • End Page

  • 463
  • Volume

  • 31
  • Issue

  • 4