Monday, October 31, 2011

Prevalence of Chronic Pain Following an Auto Collision

Prevalence of Chronic Pain Following an Auto Collision

A very recent study (June 2010), published the assessment of whiplash-injured patients 30 years after injury, making this the longest follow-up of whiplash-injured patients to date. Once again, this study shows that a significant number of those injured in whiplash trauma will suffer with chronic symptoms. Thirty years after being injured, 40% of patients retain nuisance symptoms and 15% have significant symptoms and impairments, requiring ongoing treatment. (Rooker, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, British, 2010)

A 2005, 7.5-year prospective study on whiplash-injured patients found that 21% had intrusive symptoms that interfered with work and leisure, and required continued treatment and drugs. In addition, 2% of these whiplash-injured patients had severe pain and problems that required ongoing medical investigations and drugs. This means that 23% of whiplash-injured patients had significant problems more than 7 years after being injured. (Tomlinson, Injury, 2005)

Researchers at the Spine Research Institute in San Diego found that the number of people who develop chronic pain after an auto collision is as high as 10%. They also found that about 45% of people with chronic neck pain attribute their pain to a past auto injury. (Croft, et al.)

75% of patients with whiplash injuries will heal within 2-3 months. These patients sustained minor injuries to their muscles and ligaments, but not to their discs or facet joints. 25% of patients with whiplash injuries will progress to chronic symptoms. These patients injured their intervetebral discs, zygapophyseal joints, or alar ligaments. These patients will not resolve spontaneously and they become chronic. Bansley, Lord, Bogduk. Whiplash Injury: Clinical Review. Pain 58, 1994, 283-307.

Simply said, when the vehicle bends or ‘crushes’, it absorbs much of the impact. In slower speed collisions or collisions involving minimum vehicle damage, the impact velocity sustained is thus transferred to the occupants who absorb the effects of the impact trauma! This is confirmed in Foret-Bruno, Maag, Morris and Ono’s research involving over three hundred thousand test studies, which concluded: “In accidents less than 9.3 mph, 36% resulted in neck injuries; if speeds were greater than 9.3 mph, 20% resulted in neck injuries. Neck whiplashes occurred in 22% of collisions if traveling less than 31 mph; 17% whiplashes occurred if traveling greater than 31 mph. If the seat back broke, there was a 39% whiplash occurrence, whereas there was a 61% whiplash occurrence if the seat did not break. (This is because the broken seats have absorbed the impact velocity and thus decrease the shearing force transferred to the body). Fifty percent of neck injuries occur at low speed impacts with minimum vehicle damage.”

According to both the US Dept. of Transportation (USDOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic accidents can be broken down this way---
On average, from year to year, Motor Vehicle Crashes (MVCs) in the U.S. are statistically similar:
  • 6,000,000 total accidents per year
  • 3,000,000 claimed injuries per year
  • Every 12 minutes, a person dies in a MVC
  • Every 14 seconds, someone is injured in a MVC
  • Accidents are largely the result of
    1. Drunken drivers (40%)
    2. Speeding (30%)
    3. Reckless driving (33%)

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