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An analysis of whiplash injury outcomes in an Irish population: a retrospective fifteen-year study of a spine surgeon’s experience

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Abstract

Background

Whiplash injuries result from an acceleration-deceleration injury of the cervical spine. The associated symptoms may include neck pain/stiffness; cervicogenic headaches; interscapular pain; upper limb pain, paraesthesia and weakness. Current treatment protocols recommend conservative management of low-grade whiplash.

Aims

To assess changing practices over time in the management of whiplash-associated disorders in the practice of a specialist spine surgeon and to explore the impact of associated litigation on this patient cohort.

Methods and results

The private medical records of a specialist spine surgeon over a 15-year period (1996–2011) were reviewed. Three hundred one consecutive patients were identified: 169 females and 132 males with a mean age of 37 years ± 13. All were referred by primary care with potential soft tissue injury of the cervical spine following a road traffic accident. Fifty-eight percent had associated back pain. An initial conservative approach was adopted in all cases. Subsequently, 4 patients underwent surgical intervention. Ninety-three percent reported chronic neck pain > 6 months after their injury. Age was the only significant predictor of chronic neck pain (adjusted OR 1.29 for every 5-year increase, p = 0.03). All were ultimately involved in litigation. The establishment of the Personal Injuries Board did not influence the litigation duration during the study period.

Conclusion

Whiplash poses a significant societal economic burden in Ireland and was associated with prolonged symptoms including neck pain and upper limb neuropathic symptoms in this cohort. Associated low-back pain was common. Litigation was linked with presentation in all cases.

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Correspondence to Eva McCabe.

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McCabe, E., Jadaan, M., Jadaan, D. et al. An analysis of whiplash injury outcomes in an Irish population: a retrospective fifteen-year study of a spine surgeon’s experience. Ir J Med Sci 189, 211–217 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-019-02035-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-019-02035-2

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