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Whiplash injury: a clinical, radiographic and psychological investigation
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, Orthopaedics.
1996 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Whiplash injury is a common and troublesome disorder and approximately 10-40 per cent of its victims develop chronic symptoms. The annual incidence is estimated at 1/1000 inhabitants and the prevalence at 1%. The cause of chronic symptoms after whiplash injury is still unknown and no effective treatment has been presented so far.

The present study is divided into two parts; the first part includes clinical, radiographic and psychological investigations, and the second part the effect of surgical intervention as well as intervention with medication.

MRI studies (n=39) showed a larger proportion of pathologic findings compared to normal subjects, but no correlation with initial neurologic deficits was found. At the 2-year follow-up all patients with disc herniations with medullary impingement had persistent symptoms. Three patients had disc herniations that deteriorated from slight and moderate initial changes on the MRI to severe changes with medullary cord impingement. This deterioration might be a first sign of disc degeneration. Thus our results indicate that disc pathology is a contributing factor in the development of chronic symptoms.

Measurements from standard lateral radiographs taken in neutral position were evaluated (n=48). A graphic digitizer connected to a microcomputer was used and the sagittal diameters were determined. Multivariate analysis of variance showed that the spinal canal was significantly smaller in patients with persistent symptoms indicating that a narrow spinal canal is unfavourable in patients subjected to whiplash injury.

A psychological investigation (n=70) revealed no relationship between pre-existing personality traits and persistent symptoms. In our study, whiplash patients showed no differences in personality traits compared to normal controls.

Our results after discectomy and anterior cervical fusion (n=20) because of chronic symptoms after whiplash injury were not satisfactory. We noticed that about half of the cases had less headache and neck pain but no beneficial effects on radicular pain, vertigo, visual and auditory symptoms were observed. Based on the criteria of a surgical evaluation, two patients were classified as good, nine as fair and nine as poor.

A prospective randomised double-blind study of high-dose methyl-prednisolone compared to placebo was conducted (n=40). A clinical follow-up with repeated neurological examinations and a standardised questionnaire including VAS-scales and a pain sketch form were used for the evaluation of initial symptoms, before drug administration and at the follow-ups at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and 6 months after the injury. At the 6-month follow-up there was a significant difference between the actively treated patients and placebo concerning disabling symptoms defined as inability to return to previous work, number of sick-days and sick-leave profile. All the actively treated patients had returned to work and none had multiple symptoms though three of them complained of intermittent neck pain. Our conclusion is therefore that acute treatment with high-dose corticosteroids might be beneficial to the prevention of disabling symptoms after whiplash injury.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet , 1996. , 57 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 484
Keyword [en]
Cervical spine, whiplash injury, MRI, personality traits, steroid therapy, sagittal canal diameter, chronic symptoms
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96904ISBN: 91-7191-233-9OAI: diva2:769174
Public defence
1996-11-08, sal B, byggnad ID, 9 tr Norrlands Universitetssjukhus, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 09:00

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Available from: 2015-02-02 Created: 2014-12-05 Last updated: 2015-04-10Bibliographically approved

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