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A national survey of clinical practice for the management of whiplash-associated disorders in UK emergency departments
  1. S E Lamb1,
  2. M A Williams1,
  3. E Withers1,
  4. J Perry2,
  5. S Gates1,
  6. E Williamson1,
  7. M Underwood1,
  8. M Cooke1
  1. 1
    University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  2. 2
    Coventry University, Coventry, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor S E Lamb, Warwick Clinical Trials Unit, Medical School Building, Gibbet Hill Campus, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK; s.lamb{at}


Objective: To undertake a national survey to determine current practice for the management of whiplash injuries in UK emergency departments (ED).

Methods: Postal questionnaire survey. 316 lead consultants from all UK ED with annual new attendances of over 50 000 people were asked to indicate the use of a range of treatments and the frequency with which these treatments were used. Samples of written advice were requested and content analysis was conducted and compared with survey responses.

Results: The response rate was 79% (251/316). The intervention most frequently used was verbal advice to exercise, reported by 84% of respondents for most or all cases, and advice against the use of a collar (83%). Other treatments reported as being used frequently were written advice and anti-inflammatory medication. 106 consultants (42%) provided a sample of written materials. Reference to expected recovery and encouragement for early return to activities were included in less than 6%. Nearly 50% of written materials contained information on how to use a soft collar and 61% contained information on solicitors and pursuing a personal injury claim. There were important differences between reported verbal behaviours and written advice.

Conclusion: Verbal advice is the primary method for managing whiplash injuries in ED and is usually supplemented by written advice. Within individual hospitals there is a lack of consistency between verbal and written advice. The promotion of personal injury claims is a common feature of written advice. Research is required to develop effective and consistent models of advice.

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  • ▸ Additional supplemental fig 1 is published online only at

  • Funding Financial support for this work was provided as part of funding for the Managing Injuries of the Neck Trial by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme (ISRCTN33302125).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval The study had ethical approval.

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