Ultrasound offers new diagnosis for whiplash injury

Lengthy waits for personal injury compensation after car crashes could be a thing of the past, thanks to research being carried out at The University of Nottingham.

Whiplash proves to be more than just a pain in the neck, it also hits the pocket — in the UK alone these injuries cost £3.1 billion every year, with 20 per cent of all motor insurance claims being whiplash related.

At present, patients reporting with whiplash are given a physical examination by a doctor followed by an x-ray to rule out more serious injury. However, muscle damage cannot be identified using these techniques and it is often this type of injury that can cause the patient to suffer.

However, researcher Mandy Roshier, in the School of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering has shown that ultrasound can be used to identify neck injuries. She is piloting this new approach at the Queen’s Medical Centre, with the help of colleague Dr Donal McNally, a biomedical expert, and Professor of Orthopaedic and Accident Surgery Angus Wallace, Consultant Spinal Surgeon Brian Freeman and Spinal Fellow Clare Morgan-Hough in the University’s School of Medical and Surgical Sciences. So far, ultrasound scans have revealed bleeding and swelling of the neck muscles in some patients.

In the future, ultrasound could be used to reliably assess the extent of whiplash injury, speeding up the diagnosis and treatment of this painful condition.

Mandy explained: "It’s a win, win situation. Car insurance companies want to see evidence of injury before paying out and those suffering want answers."

The importance of Mandy’s research was recognised at the recent festival of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Exeter, where a poster of her work on display at the event was voted the best by members of the public.

http://www.nottingham.ac.uk

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