prognosis

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The prognosis is of whiplash injury is variable:

  • in 1995 the Quebec Task Force (QTF) stated that :
    • 50% return to usual activity by 31 days
    • only 26% are off work between 2 and 6 months
    • only 12.5% remain off work 6 months after injury
    • only 1.9% remain off work over 1 year
    • 15.3% with multiple injuries are off work after 6 months

  • Suissa (an author of the 1995 QTF report) et al have investigated the relationship between initial symptoms and signs and the prognosis of whiplash:
    • the signs and symptoms that were found to be independently associated with a slower recovery from whiplash, besides female gender and older age, were neck pain on palpation, muscle pain, pain or numbness radiating from the neck to arms, hands or shoulders, and headache. Together, these factors in older females (age 60) predicted a median recovery time of 262 days, compared with 17 days for younger males (age 20)
    • the paper quotes a median recovery time was about 32 days in patients with whiplash injury and states that 12% of subjects had still not recovered after 6 months (2).

Recovery and return to full function is best aided by sympathy and encouraging the patient to take an active role in dealing with the symptoms.

Reference:

  1. Spitzer WO, Skovron ML, Salmi LR, Cassidy DJ, Duranceau J, Suissa S, Zeiss E. Scientific Monograph of the Quebec Task Force on Whiplash-Associated Disorders: Redefining 'Whiplash" and its Management. Spine 1995;Suppl: 20(8S):2S-73S.
  2. Eur Spine J 2001 Feb;10(1):44-9

Last reviewed 06/2020