Increase in intracranial pressure by application of a rigid cervical collar: a pilot study in healthy volunteers

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Rigid cervical collars are known to increase intracranial pressure (ICP) in severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Cerebral blood flow might decrease according to the Kellie Monroe doctrine. For this reason, the use of the collar in patients with severe TBI has been abandoned from several trauma protocols in the Netherlands. There is no evidence on the effect of a rigid collar on ICP in patients with mild or moderate TBI or indeed patients with no TBI. As a first step we tested the effect in healthy volunteers with normal ICPs and intact autoregulation of the brain.


In this prospective blinded cross-over study, we evaluated the effect of application of a rigid cervical collar in 45 healthy volunteers by measuring their optical nerve sheath diameter (ONSD) by transocular sonography. Sonographic measurement of the ONSD behind the eye is an indirect noninvasive method to estimate ICP and pressure changes.


We included 22 male and 23 female volunteers. In total 360 ONSD measurements were performed in these 45 volunteers. Application of a collar resulted in a significant increase in ONSD in both the left (β=0.06, 95% confidence interval: 0.05–0.07, P<0.001) and the right eye (β=0.01, 95% confidence interval: 0.00–0.02, P=0.027)


Application of a rigid cervical collar significantly increases the ONSD in healthy volunteers with intact cerebral autoregulation. This suggests that ICP may increase after application of a collar. In healthy volunteers, this seems to be of minor importance. On the basis of our findings the effect of a collar on ONSD and ICP in patients with mild and moderate TBI needs to be determined.

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