NEXUS Review: Clear That Collar Doc!

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This is the first in a blog series that will explore landmark articles in Emergency Medicine. 

Main Points:

  1. Patients meeting the following five simple clinical criteria are safe to clear without cervical spine imaging following blunt trauma:
    • No focal neurologic deficit
    • Normal alertness
    • No intoxication
    • No midline posterior bony cervical spine tenderness, and
    • No painful distracting injury
  1. The sensitivity and specificity of the NEXUS criteria for detecting low probability injury and avoiding unnecessary imaging was 99 and 12.9 percent respectively, with a negative predictive value of 99.8 percent for the detection of clinically significant injuries.

Level of evidence: 1 (Prospective cohort trial)

Based on the ACEP grading scheme for diagnostic questions the NEXUS trial receives a class of evidence rating of 1.

Background:

Blunt trauma is a frequent cause of emergency department visits. However, the overall prevalence of cervical spine injury is generally only between 2-4% (2.4% in the NEXUS cohort). The goal of the NEXUS group was to create a simple clinical tool with which to risk stratify patients following blunt trauma, thereby reducing unnecessary cervical spine imaging and subsequently improving patient care through cost-reduction and a decrement in the downstream oncogenic risk secondary to radiation exposure. Continue reading