Risk Factors for Persistent Problems Following Acute Whiplash Injury: Update of a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Academic Article uri icon

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  • STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review and meta-analysis. OBJECTIVE: To update a previous review and meta-analysis on risk factors for persistent problems following whiplash secondary to a motor vehicle accident. BACKGROUND: Prognosis in whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) has become an active area of research, perhaps owing to the difficulty of treating chronic problems. A previously published review and meta-analysis of prognostic factors included primary sources up to May 2007. Since that time, more research has become available, and an update to that original review is warranted. METHODS: A systematic search of international databases was conducted, with rigorous inclusion criteria focusing on studies published between May 2007 and May 2012. Articles were scored, and data were extracted and pooled to estimate the odds ratio for any factor that had at least 3 independent data points in the literature. RESULTS: Four new cohorts (n = 1121) were identified. In combination with findings of a previous review, 12 variables were found to be significant predictors of poor outcome following whiplash, 9 of which were new (n = 2) or revised (n = 7) as a result of additional data. The significant variables included high baseline pain intensity (greater than 5.5/10), report of headache at inception, less than postsecondary education, no seatbelt in use during the accident, report of low back pain at inception, high Neck Disability Index score (greater than 14.5/50), preinjury neck pain, report of neck pain at inception (regardless of intensity), high catastrophizing, female sex, WAD grade 2 or 3, and WAD grade 3 alone. Those variables robust to publication bias included high pain intensity, female sex, report of headache at inception, less than postsecondary education, high Neck Disability Index score, and WAD grade 2 or 3. Three existing variables (preaccident history of headache, rear-end collision, older age) and 1 additional novel variable (collision severity) were refined or added in this updated review but showed no significant predictive value. CONCLUSION: This review identified 2 additional prognostic factors and refined the estimates of 7 previously identified factors, bringing the total number of significant predictors across the 2 reviews to 12. These factors can be easily identified in a clinical setting to provide estimates of prognosis following whiplash.


  • Walton, David M
  • MacDermid, Joy
  • Giorgianni, Anthony A
  • Mascarenhas, Joanna C
  • West, Stephen C
  • Zammit, Caroline A

publication date

  • February 2013