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Quick Uptakes
August 25, 1999

Preventing Paralysis

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JAMA. 1999;282(8):723. doi:10.1001/jama.282.8.723-JQU90006-4-1

It's more expensive than standard x-rays, but computed tomography (CT) screening could save millions in the long run by preventing some cases of paralysis through improved detection of cervical spine fractures in patients with severe head injuries.

In a 3-year analysis of patients with head trauma, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Washington schools of medicine separated patients into three risk levels for cervical spine fracture. In high-risk patients (those past age 50 with severe head injury, focal neurologic deficit, and/or high-energy injuries), the researchers reported that CT screening of the cervical spine can prevent 23 cases of paralysis for every 100,000 such patients, producing $3 million in medical and societal savings.

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