Safe and effective cervical spine protection for civilian trauma victims


Member profile details

Membership level
2011-2012 Team
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Team Name
Project Title
Safe and effective cervical spine protection for civilian trauma victims
Design Challenge
Cervical collars (c-collars) are supposed to stabilize the neck of patients suffering from blunt trauma injuries, but it has recently been discovered that the c-collar places the cervical spine in tension in its attempt to immobilize the spine. This can exacerbate initial injuries and cause paralysis or death. With 15 million collars used each year in the US, there is a significant need for a new device to more effectively protect trauma victims. Team CivSAFE has developed the HeadCase, a device that will properly immobilize the neck without further damaging the spine.
Design Summary
A new device is needed for the following reasons:
• Spinal cord injuries can result in severe neurological and physical debilitation, if not death.
• 12,000 new injuries occur annually in the U.S.
• 25% of these patients suffer from preventable secondary injuries, in addition to the initial traumatic injury.
• The current cervical collar distracts the spine, exacerbating initial injuries.

For emergency responders to effectively use the Headcase, we have to accommodate the following considerations:
• Limited space availability on an ambulance
• No interference with life support techniques or equipment (e.g. intubation, IVs)
• No interference with diagnostic imaging machines (e.g. CT, MRI)
• Compatible with backboard (full body immobilization device)
• Provides access for neck palpation in front and back
• Allows observation of ears

After consulting with the Director of the Baylor Spine Research Laboratory, we identified several design objectives, which are listed below in order of importance:
• Effective cervical immobilization
• Minimization of tensile, compressive, and shear forces on neck to prevent secondary injuries
• Versatility to different body sizes
• Minimization of application time
• Less than $15 after mass production to be competitive with current collar
• Maximization of comfort

Our device, The Headcase, is composed of two pieces that will be applied on each side of the head and connect on the chest and back. Velcro straps are used to anchor the device to the body.

Our Rice IRB approved tests on the HeadCase to verify that it quickly immobilizes the neck without applying dangerous tension, compression, or shear forces have been successful. We are currently seeking funding to field test our device while seeking FDA approval and developing a business plan to commercialize the device.

Last Updated: 4/29/2012
Sponsor Logo
  • Bioengineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Maria Oden
Faculty Advisor 2 - Name
John Hipp

Team Members

Award(s) and Recognition
Engineering Houston's Future Conference 2011 Poster Session: 1st Place-Entrepreneurship, Exellence in Engineering Prize

Rice Engineering Design Showcase Winner- Best Health Related Design Project

Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS 2012)- En

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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