There are plans for a major overhaul of how people are rescued from car wrecks amid growing evidence that current methods where people wait to be cut free may be harmful.
Last year there were 127,967 casualties and 1,560 deaths in England caused by motor vehicle collisions. During the same period, more than 7,000 patients needed to helped out of the vehicle through a process known as extrication, where rescue crews use “Jaws of Life” and other tools to pry apart the wreckage, and then carefully lift people out.
“Since at least the 1980s, firefighters have been trained with movement minimisation as the absolute paradigm,” said Dr Tim Nutbeam, an NHS emergency medicine consultant, and medical lead for the Devon air ambulance. “They’ve been told that one millimetre of movement could turn someone into a wheelchair user, so will often disassemble the car around the patient, to avoid movement of the neck.”
Yet, doing so takes time – 30 minutes on average – and if that person has another serious injury, such as a head, chest, or abdominal injury, every minute counts.
Nutbeam began researching the issue and discovered that trapped patients were almost twice as likely to die as those who were rapidly freed from the wreckage. Further, that the prevalence of spinal injuries among such patients was, in fact, extremely low – just 0.7% – and in around half of these cases, they had other serious injuries needing urgent medical attention.
“Our absolute focus on movement minimisation works for maybe 0.3% of patients, but it extends the entrapment time for 99.7% of them,” Nutbeam said. “Potentially hundreds of people in this country have died as a result of extended entrapment times, and if you multiply that worldwide, it’s many, many people.”
Source: The Guardian, 6 July 2022