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Chiropractic Research Review

Whiplash Recovery Predictors

Whiplash, although the most common injury in motor vehicle collisions, has an unclear prognosis. In 1995, the Quebec Task Force (QTF) published a systematic review of whiplash literature, concluding that the condition is self-limiting and has a favorable prognosis.

However, the review identified few prognostic factors, creating the need for an updated systematic review. In addition to the update, the authors proposed a new conceptual framework for conducting systematic reviews of the literature pertaining to prognosis. Researchers, in particular, will find this methodology useful.

After specific criteria were employed, 13 whiplash studies were included in the current study of the literature published since 1995. Most of the prognostic whiplash studies since 1995 were "descriptive in nature," based on univariate statistics, as opposed to multivariate models or hypothesis tests. Prognosis differed between populations and insurance systems (or lack thereof). Recovery from whiplash seemed faster when little or no compensation was involved. The only prognostic factors consistently reported in the literature associated with delayed recovery were older age; female gender; baseline head/neck pain; and baseline radicular symptoms.

The authors suggest that large cohort studies are necessary to improve practitioners' understanding of whiplash. They conclude, "Despite the recent publication of several good studies, there is still a lack of knowledge about the prognosis of whiplash."

Côté P, Cassidy JD, Carroll L, et al. A systematic review of the prognosis of acute whiplash and a new conceptual framework to synthesize the literature. Spine 2001:26(19), pp. e445-e458.

Chiropractic Research Review

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