The hanging/hanged patient and relevance to pre-hospital care

Death and injury from hanging is a complex situation which requires careful and appropriate assessment and management in the pre-hospital environment. It is arguably an area of limited understanding and therefore may not be assessed and managed in the most effective manner. Most hanged/hanging patients will be found in their homes, rather than in institutions. It could be argued that due to prevalence as a suicide method, the majority of pre-hospital ambulance service staff will respond to at least one hanged or hanging patient within their careers, thus a greater understanding will benefit both clinician and patient. Patients who attempt or achieve suicide will rarely achieve fracturing the spine and severing the spinal cord, bringing into question the requirement for the traditional cervical collar and spinal immobilisation techniques. Death from asphyxiation and carotid/vagal reflex require consideration and management as does raised intracranial pressure, which is likely to occur.

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