‘Secondary spine injury’: how language affects future research and treatment

Secondary spine injury can refer to neurologic deterioration resulting either from the clinical course of the original insult or from additional trauma. Early studies on the pre-hospital management of potential spinal injuries observed this distinction; later studies did not. This commentary argues a) that the convention of ascribing all cases of neurologic deterioration to additional movement or improper handling is unsupported, and b) that future research into best practices in the pre-hospital management of potential spinal injuries should adopt specific terminology to distinguish between the different senses of secondary spine injury.

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