Hypothesis: Assessments to rule out cervical spine injury performed by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel correlate well with assessments performed by emergency department (ED) physicians. Methods: EMS providers completed a data form based on their initial assessment of all immobilized adult patients. Data collected included the presence or absence of: neck pain/tenderness; altered mental status; history of loss of consciousness; drug/alcohol use; neurological deficit; and other painful/distracting injury. Immobilization was considered to be indicated if any one of the six physical findings was present. The ED physician caring for the patient completed an identical data form based on his/her assessment. Physicians and EMS providers were blinded to each other's assessments. The amount of discordance between the physician and EMS assessments was analyzed using McNemar's Chi-Square for matched pairs.
Results: Five-hundred-seventy-three patients were included in the study. Physician and EMS assessments matched in 78.7% (n = 451) of the cases. In 13.6% (n = 78) of the cases, the EMS assessment indicated immobilization, but the physician assessment did not. In 7.7% (n = 44) of the patients, the physician assessment indicated immobilization, but the EMS assessment did not. The discordance between assessments was statistically significant (p <0.001). The presence of neck pain or tenderness accounted for the most discordance.