Designing a Better Cervical Collar for Accident Victims
Cervical collars were first developed during the Vietnam War to stabilize the heads and necks of accident victims, but research has shown that this device may be overdue for an update. Students at Rice University tested a currently used cervical collar and found that when a patient's neck is injured, the collar can push the head away from the body — potentially doing more harm than good. They recently built a prototype of a new type of cervical collar, called the HeadCase, that immobilizes the head without putting pressure on the neck.
“Problems with the current collar are being discovered,” said Kelsey Horter, a bioengineering student and a certified emergency medical technician. “We went back to basic emergency-care ideas. As EMTs, we're taught that if the knee is hurt, you stabilize above and below it. You never just stabilize the part that's injured — which is exactly what we think the current cervical collar does. We jumped on the premise that if we could stabilize the head and torso right beneath the neck, then we could stabilize the neck. That's what our device does.”
The newly developed device places support on the side of the cheeks and the chest, and at the top of the back. The HeadCase is disposable and is expected to cost less than the $15 price tag on current disposable collars, of which 15 million are used in the United States each year. It stores flat for easy transport and can be placed on a patient in 60 seconds, team members said. The team has filed a provisional patent through Rice.
Also: A lockable knee brace was born out of a design by a Marshall Space Flight Center employee.