The effect of steroid treatment on whiplash associated syndrome: a controlled randomized prospective trial

Gad Shaked, Daniela Shaked, Gilbert Sebbag, David Czeiger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: There is significant evidence in the literature that low or relatively low cortisol concentrations near the time of an accident are associated with more severe forms of whiplash-associated disorders. We hypothesized that treating patients that were involved in a motor vehicle accident with hydrocortisone would alleviate the incidence and severity of these disabling disorders. Methods: A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Blunt trauma patients that underwent a motor vehicle crash were allocated into a study group that received a single bolus of hydrocortisone and a control group that received saline. The patients were followed for 1 month. The incidence and severity of whiplash associated disorder, functional disturbances, and post-traumatic stress disorder were compared between the two groups. The analyses were repeated for sub-divisions into groups of high and low admission cortisol. Results: The more severe forms of whiplash-associated disorders on the day of accident were associated with low cortisol levels; mean cortisol concentration of the lower grade of whiplash patients (13.09 ± 7.35 µg%) was higher than that of whiplash syndrome of the severe forms (8.33 ± 3.45 µg), p = 0.001. There were no differences between study and control groups regarding whiplash-associated disorders, functional tests, and severity of stress disorder 1 month after the accident. Significant differences were evident between high and low cortisol sub-groups. Those who had low cortisol level on admission and received hydrocortisone had worse outcomes. Conclusion: Steroid treatment of patients with whiplash might be harmful to those who present with low cortisol concentrations (< 9.5 μg/dL). Trial registration: Clinical Trials: Association between low cortisol levels and whiplash syndrome. Date of registration: March 18, 2014. Date the first participant was enrolled: May 10, 2014. Trial registration number: NCT02090309. URL:

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1115-1122
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortisol
  • Neck injury
  • PTSD
  • Steroids
  • Trauma
  • Whiplash

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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