Effects of unconsciousness during spinal immobilization on tissue-interface pressures: A randomized controlled trial comparing a standard rigid spineboard with a newly developed soft-layered long spineboard

B. Hemmes*, P.R. Brink, M. Poeze

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Immobilization of the spine of patients with trauma at risk of spinal damage is usually performed using a rigid long spineboard or vacuum mattress, both during prehospital and in-hospital care. However, disadvantages of these immobilization devices in terms of discomfort and tissue-interface pressures have guided the development of soft-layered long spineboards. We compared tissue-interface pressures between awake and anaesthetized (unconscious) patients during immobilization on a rigid spineboard and a soft-layered long spineboard. METHODS: In this comparative study, 30 anaesthetized patients were randomized to immobilization on either the rigid spineboard or the soft-layered spineboard for the duration of their elective surgery. Tissue-interface pressures measured using an Xsensor pressure-mapping device were compared with those of 30 healthy volunteers who were immobilized sequentially on the rigid spineboard and the soft-layered spineboard. Redness of the sacrum was also recorded for the anaesthetized patients immediately after the surgery. RESULTS: For both anaesthetized patients and awake volunteers, tissue-interface pressures were significantly lower on the soft-layered spineboard than on the rigid spineboard, both at start and after 15min. On the soft-layered spineboard, tissue interface pressure and peak pressure index (PPI) for the sacrum were significantly lower for anaesthetized patients than for awake volunteers. Peak pressures and PPI on the rigid spineboard were equal for both groups. Tissue-interface pressures did not change significantly over time. Redness of the sacrum was significantly more pronounced on the rigid spineboard than on the soft-layered spineboard. CONCLUSIONS: This prospective randomized controlled trial shows that using a soft-layered spineboard compared to a rigid spineboard for spinal immobilization resulted in lower tissue-interface pressures in both awake volunteers and anaesthetized patients. Moreover, tissue-interface pressures on the soft-layered spineboard were lower in anaesthetized patients than in awake volunteers. These findings show the importance of using a soft-layered spineboard to reduce tissue-interface pressure, especially for patients who cannot relieve pressure themselves by changing position.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1741-1746
Number of pages6
JournalInjury-International Journal of the Care of the Injured
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Spineboard
  • Tissue-interface pressure
  • Anaesthetized patients
  • Trauma
  • COST
  • RISK

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