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A risk stratification tool for prehospital triage of patients exposed to a whiplash trauma

Journal article
Authors Artur Tenenbaum
Lena Margareta Nordeman
Katharina S Sunnerhagen
Ronny K Gunnarsson
Published in Plos One
Volume 14
Issue 5
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Health and Rehabilitation
Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Language en
Keywords quebec classification, disorders, injury, symptoms, pain
Subject categories Neurosciences


Objective Our aim was to develop a risk stratification model to predict the presence of a potentially more sinister injury in patients exposed to a whiplash trauma. The study base comprised of 3,115 residents who first sought healthcare contact within one week after being exposed to a whiplash trauma between 1999-2008, from within a defined geographical area, Skaraborg County in south-western Sweden. Information about gender, age, time elapsed prior to seeking care, type of health care contact, and hospitalisation was retrieved. Seventeen potential risk factors were identified and evaluated using multivariable logistic regression. Of 3,115 patients, 215 (6.9%) required hospital admission so theoretically 93% could have been initially assessed by primary health care. However, only 46% had their first contact in primary health care. All patients had symptoms resulting in a diagnosis of whiplash injury. Four risk factors were found to be associated with hospital admission: commotio cerebri (OR 31, 19-51), fracture/ luxation (OR 11, 5.1-22), serious injury (OR 41, 8.0-210), and the patient sought care during the same day as the trauma (OR 5.9, 3.7-9.5). These four risk factors explained 27% of the variation for hospital admission and the area under curve (AUC) was 0.77 (0.74-0.80). Ninety-six percent of patients (2,985) had only a whiplash injury with no other injury. These could be split into those attending health care the same day as the trauma, 1,737 (56%) with a 7.1% risk for hospital admission, and those attending health care later, 1,248 (40%) with a 1.3% risk for hospital admission. Patients with no signs of commotio cerebri, no fracture/luxation injury, no serious injury, comprising 96% of all patients exposed to a whiplash trauma can initially be referred to primary health care for initial assessment. However, those contacting the health care the same day as the trauma should be referred to a hospital for evaluation if they can't get an appointment with a general practitioner the same day.

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