“Don’t move them – they might have a spinal injury!”

Is that true? Should we never move a casualty with a suspected spinal injury?

Not really.

First thing’s first – why might we suspect spinal injury in the first place? Remember the Primary Survey – DR ABC? As we approach the scene, we look for Danger. As part of that assessment, we consider the ‘Mechanism of Injury’ – what has happened to this person (and how do I stop it from happening to me?!)

If we suspect that someone has fallen from height, been struck by a vehicle or similar or they tell us they think they’ve hurt their neck or spine – or for many other reasons – we may suspect potential spinal injury.

The Primary Survey

The DR ABC primary survey algorithm looks for immediately life threatening problems. We treat these life threatening issues as we find them, in the order of Airway, Breathing and Circulation. We may not want to move them but just because someone has a suspected spinal injury doesn’t mean that they don’t have other life threatening problems that need to be found and fixed fast.

So, when might we need to move a person with a suspected spinal injury?

Following the DR ABC system, it makes sense then that we may need to move someone who is in immediate life threatening Danger or has an immediately life threatening problem with their Airway, their Breathing or their Circulation – i.e. are bleeding. 

Leaving someone with a suspected spinal injury in a burning building so as to protect their spine isn’t going to help them.

Keeping an unresponsive person flat on their back with a mouth full of blood or vomit, to protect their spine isn’t going to help them.

Not performing CPR and using a defibrillator on a person who is unresponsive and not breathing to protect their spine isn’t going to help them. 

A person bleeding to death from an injury we are unable to treat because we don’t want to move them to protect their spine, isn’t going to help them.

So, if we suspect potential spinal injury, we don’t want to move them unnecessarily. 

However, there are times where we may need to move a person so that we can treat immediately life threatening problems – such as they are in immediate Danger, they have an immediately life threatening issue with their Airway, their Breathing or Circulation. 

On our First Aid at Work, Outdoor First Aid, Sport First Aid and Advanced First Aid courses, you’ll learn a variety of ways to manage those with a potential spinal injury.

Why are we telling you this?

We work hard to create confident and capable First Aiders and First Responders who can think on their feet and don’t just follow a script. We create amazing First Aiders by providing knowledge and skills that work in the real world and everything we do is evidence based. By embedding these fundamental skills, we can make decisions to make a positive difference to those who need emergency medical help. 

Fancy learning or refreshing First Aid? It’s not such a daunting prospect and we promise we’ll look after you. We’ll build you up, embed the skills you really need to know and not bamboozle you with the things you don’t!

Just get in touch for a chat, we’re always happy to help, and the more people who learn good quality First Aid – the better.

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