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Operational Medicine 2001
Cervical Collar


Order the Operational Medicine CD, developed by the US Navy and US Special Operations Command

Prior to moving a seriously injured victim, it is desirable to try to stabilize the neck. In the event of the cervical spine injury, this may prevent further injury during movement. One option for such stabilization is applying a cervical collar.

This adjustable cervical collar is pre-set to the "regular - short" position. This position is appropriate for 90% of the population. 

  • If the victim is unusually short or a child, change the adjustment to "Thick - Pedi."
  • If the victim is unusually tall, change the adjustment to "Tall"
  • With the head in a neutral position (looking straight ahead, neither up nor down), slide the collar behind the victims neck, position the chin notch to fit the chin, and fasten the velcro strap loosely.
  • Slide the chin support adjustment upward until there is slight pressure on the chin. Don't push it up so hard that it extends the head.
  • Re-fasten the velcro strap firmly.

If a cervical collar is not available, other means of supporting the head and neck can be employed. Boots work reasonably well for this.

In tactical military settings (battle), even if there is a strong suspicion of a spinal injury, cervical spine immobilization (CSI) may not be possible. It can take as long as 5 minutes for an experienced paramedic to perform CSI. In the case of extrication of a victim from a burning tactical vehicle, it is probably better to quickly get them out, than to run the risk of explosion during the 5 minutes it might take to apply CSI.

  • While under fire, it is generally better to take cover, return fire, and when feasible, remove the victim from danger as quickly as possible, rather than to run the risk of the victim (or you) taking additional hits while you are applying CSI. 

  • In the case of penetrating neck wounds, CSI is of possible benefit to only 1.4% of the victims. In the case of blunt trauma to the neck (falls, vehicle accidents), most victims to not have a cervical spine injury, and of those who do, the damage to the spinal cord is most likely already done.

In non-tactical situations, or training situations, CSI generally should still be employed, as there will be a few victims for whom it may still provide some benefit.

Cervical Collar, Adjustable, Ambu Product Number 000-281-000

Weight: 0.32 pounds


Approved for public release; Distribution is unlimited.

The listing of any non-Federal product in this CD is not an endorsement of the product itself, but simply an acknowledgement of the source. 

Operational Medicine 2001
Health Care in Military Settings

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Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
Department of the Navy
2300 E Street NW
Washington, D.C

Operational Medicine
 Health Care in Military Settings
CAPT Michael John Hughey, MC, USNR
  January 1, 2001

United States Special Operations Command
7701 Tampa Point Blvd.
MacDill AFB, Florida

*This web version is provided by The Brookside Associates Medical Education Division.  It contains original contents from the official US Navy NAVMED P-5139, but has been reformatted for web access and includes advertising and links that were not present in the original version. This web version has not been approved by the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense. The presence of any advertising on these pages does not constitute an endorsement of that product or service by either the US Department of Defense or the Brookside Associates. The Brookside Associates is a private organization, not affiliated with the United States Department of Defense.

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