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The “Innsbruck Emergency Algorithm” avoids the underdiagnosis of blunt cervical vascular injuries

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Blunt cervical vascular injuries (BCVI) from alpine sports accidents bear an increased risk for being underdiagnosed during initial radiological evaluation. At our hospital, the “Innsbruck Emergency Algorithm”, which includes assessment of the neck as a computed tomography (CT) angiography during initial whole-body CT, has been introduced to avoid misdiagnoses and optimizes emergency radiology management.


Critically injured patients who were admitted for emergency CT after trauma from alpine skiing and mountain-biking accidents and who were reported with BCVI were included in this retrospective study.


During 2003–2009, 36 victims were eligible for inclusion. They presented with a mean (SD) of 4.6 (2.1) diagnoses per patient, of which 3.5 (2.3) were perceptible on radiology examinations only. The “Innsbruck Emergency Algorithm” was performed in 15 individuals while 21 underwent another CT protocol including a native scan of the neck or during a parenchymatous contrast-medium phase only. In addition to BCVI, most patients (71%) were diagnosed with fractures followed by unspecific contusion/s (54%), head injuries (43%), and injuries of parenchymatous organs (19%). In five (14%), BCVI was underdiagnosed during the initial radiological examination. All of the latter had CT during a parenchymatous contrast-medium phase and not according to the “Innsbruck Emergency Algorithm”. Four of those patients died during their hospital stay. In 11, cerebral follow-up examinations showed cerebral pathologies considered as results from BCVI.


The “Innsbruck Emergency Algorithm” in patients with clinically unapparent BCVI after skiing and mountain-biking accidents avoided overlooking vascular injuries, which significantly improved their long-term outcome.

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None of the authors has any financial or non-financial competing interests to declare.

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Correspondence to Marius C. Wick.

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Wick, M.C., Weiss, R.J., Lill, M. et al. The “Innsbruck Emergency Algorithm” avoids the underdiagnosis of blunt cervical vascular injuries. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg 130, 1269–1274 (2010).

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