Helicopter Transport of Trauma Patients Saves Lives

Helicopter EMS (HEMS) transport of trauma patients is used primarily to decrease the amount of time between injury and arrival at the trauma center. Unfortunately, efficacy studies have provided conflicting answers as to whether this is actually true. Last year, the CDC completed a large sample study of this issue using the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB) in an attempt to determine if HEMS flights are effective.

Using almost 150,000 entries in the NTDB for 2007, they were able to isolate over 56,000 adult records with complete data points. They looked for mortality patterns based on age, injury severity, and revised trauma score, comparing patients who were transported by air vs ground.

They found the following:

  • Odds of dying in-hospital were 39% lower overall when transported by helicopter
  • This survival advantaged disappeared for patients age 55 and older, possibly because of decreased reserve, comorbidities, more complications, or medications that interfere with successful resuscitation
  • Regardless of type of transport, males always fared worse than females

Bottom line: This is a large and intriguing study. About 85% of the US population has access to a Level I or II trauma center within an hour. However, a third of those can only get there in that period of time if transported by air. This mode of transport has a significantly lower mortality rate. However, there are cost and safety considerations as well. The key now is to figure out which patients will have the best outcomes after air transport. This will require more work, looking at more than just mortality (e.g. disability, complications).

Reference: Reduced mortality in injured adults transported by helicopter emergency medical services. Prehospital Emerg Care 15(3):295-302, 2011.

Concussion Testing: There’s An App For That!

Smart phone programmers are becoming more and more creative! The newest trauma app is geared toward helping the user identify individuals who have suffered a concussion. It can be used by parents, coaches or physicians to help identify a concussion at sporting events.

The app is a portable and convenient system for identifying concussions based on established sports medicine research. It queries the user for common signs of concussion, tallies the results of a simple balance test, and looks for other symptoms that suggestion the injury. The exam can also be administered serially to detect changes from baseline.

To get the most from this free app, the user must purchase an optional module for $4.99 that does a more in-depth physiologic and cognitive evaluation. A report can be emailed automatically to your physician, and he or she can then respond and send a message to your team to approve or deny continuing play.

The app is provided by SportSafety Labs LLC. The basic app is free, and the add-on is $4.99. It is published for the iPhone and iPad.

Bottom line: Expect more trauma-oriented apps geared toward a variety of problems in the near future!

To get more information on this app, click here.

Ambulance 2.0: The “Super Ambulance” of the Future

Lifebot Technology has been working to upgrade the prehospital environment and connect it more closely with trauma professionals in the trauma center. They have done this by developing a so-called “super ambulance.” These ambulances are outfitted with new variations of tried and true technology. This includes a special Hewlett-Packard Slate tablet computer, multiple cameras inside the ambulance, cameras that are wearable by medics, and a state-of-the-art telemedicine system.

The Slate tablet allows for hand-held patient monitoring, GPS positioning, high resolution imaging via its built-in camera, patient medical record charting, and connection to the trauma center base station. At the base, the emergency physician or trauma surgeon can view monitoring information, control any camera in the ambulance to focus in on the action, and even draw on the Slate’s screen to show the crew areas of interest (telestration).

The system is pricey ($50,000 US), but is extremely valuable in rural areas where the nearest trauma center may be quite far away. In theory, a doctor could walk a medic through a procedure to resolve a problem that may kill their patient before they can get to the hospital. The system is already in use in select areas in Arizona, Florida and Texas.

Reference: Displayed at the HIMSS 2011 (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) annual meeting, February 20-24, 2011 in Orlando, FL.

Disclosure: I have no financial interest in Lifebot Technology or Hewlett Packard

Wii-habilitation: The New Rehab for Trauma Patients

Rehab is a critical care component for multiply injured or brain injured patients. A good rehab program optimizes physical, psychological and social function, and allows the patient to return to the highest level they are capable of.

Virtual reality technology is advancing rapidly, and hardware is now very inexpensive. This allows for integration of products such as the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 into patient care.

The Wii was first used for rehabilitation beginning in 2007, primarily for stroke rehab. More recently it has been used for brain injury rehab. The Wii balance board is very useful and a recent research paper showed a significant improvement in static balance in patients with acute brain injury.

As this technology continues to advance, expect to see further integration into both outpatient rehab and inpatient therapy services.

References

  • Wii-habilitation: is there a role in trauma? Injury 41:883-885, 2010.
  • Effectiveness of a Wii balance board-based system (eBaViR) for balance rehabilitation: a pilot randomized clinical trial in patients with acquired brain injury. J Neuroengineering and Rehab 8:30, May 2011.

Algorithm For Clearing the Pediatric Cervical Spine

I previously wrote about a straightforward way to clear the cervical spine in children. Click here to see the article. Alfred I. DuPont Children’s Hospital has condensed their clearance technique into a relatively simple algorithm that can be used in conjunction with my previous tips.

Some notes on this algorithm:

  • Can be performed only by attending physicians or a trauma resident in consultation with the attending trauma surgeon
  • Clinical clearance alone may be carried out in select cases
  • If radiographs are required, cross-table lateral, anterior/posterior, and odontoid views should be obtained (age 8 and above, non-intubated)
  • Flexion / extension views should only be ordered in consultation with neurosurgery

Download a print version of the protocol here

Related post: How Do I Clear The Pediatric Cervical Spine?

Image and protocol courtesy of the Alfred I DuPont Children’s Hospital