You know the routine. Trauma patients get the usual ATLS primary survey secondary survey double play. An important part of the secondary survey is examining the back. Without it, you’ve failed to inspect nearly 50% of the body.
Usually this part is easy, especially if you’ve got a reasonably sized trauma team. Two or three people carefully logroll the patient, one stabilizes the cervical spine, while another inspects and palpates the back. At our center, we routinely logroll to the patient’s left side, because the examiner is normally stationed at their right.
But what if they have fractured extremities? Which way to go?
Once again, this is philosophy unsupported by literature. No one does studies on mundane stuff like this. The real questions are, rolling to which side will create the least additional injury and cause the least pain?
First, let’s address the injury question. The usual rule is that all patients with fractures must have them splinted before they leave the resus room. This decreases pain, bleeding, and the opportunity for additional tissue injury. Ideally, splinting should occur before the logroll, since this maneuver can involve more movement than rolling around the hospital or moving back and forth to x-ray tables.
Next, there’s pain. Make sure that your patient has been given adequate analgesia early in the resuscitation, and sedation if indicated.
Finally, the roll. My rule is that the fractures should be rotated upwards, with helpers stabilizing each splinted extremity to keep them aligned. Avoid rolling the patient onto their own fractures (fractures down). The combination of weight and movement can and will shift the broken bones, causing exactly what you’ve sought to avoid!