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Warwick neck brace improves prospects for spinal injury patients

An innovative neck brace that could reduce the risk of paralysis for potential spinal injury patients is being designed by researchers at the University of Warwick.

The team, led by Professor Matthew Cooke, Director of Emergency Care and Systems Improvement Group at Warwick Medical School, is currently looking for collaborators to take an initial prototype to be ready for manufacturing and sales.

Designed to be safer and more effective than current spine immobilisation techniques, the Warwick device also avoids the discomfort, risk of pressure sores and difficulties of inserting a breathing tube when necessary.

Existing devices widely used by paramedics involve fitting a semi-rigid collar and head immobilisation device with the patient lying on a board or a trolley. The drawback of these systems is that they can only be applied once the patient is lying flat, and our research shows that they do not adequately immobilise the patient’s neck. The collar also prevents the mouth opening, which can make a patient feel claustrophobic and risks them inhaling vomit. Also, if a patient stops breathing, the collar has to be removed before a breathing tube can be inserted.

Using the Warwick device, paramedics will be able to fully immobilise a patient’s spine before moving them, so it could be particularly useful in situations where the patient is trapped, for example following a road collision. After fitting, it still allows the patient’s mouth to open, reducing feelings of claustrophobia and panic.

Traumatic spinal cord injury, although rare, can have devastating consequences, often leading to permanent disability. Spinal immobilisation reduces this risk and is a highly common technique used by paramedics for trauma patients. It is estimated that around 500,000 patients in the UK require treatment involving spinal immobilisation each year.

Professor Cooke says: “We believe we have developed a device that is effective, more comfortable and safer for patients. It will also be easier for paramedics to use and employs principles which are already familiar. We hope that we will soon be undertaking clinical trials of a prototype.”

Further information:
Dr. Shum Prakash
Business Development Manager
Warwick Ventures Ltd.
s.prakash@warwick.ac.uk
44 (0) 2476 574145