All posts by TheTraumaPro

EMS: Scoop and Run or Stay and Play for Trauma Care? Part 2

Yesterday, we looked at an older study that kind of examined the scoop and run vs stay and play debate.  Let’s move forward in time a little bit, and evaluate the two options in a penetrating trauma model.

This one is from the anesthesia and intensive care departments at the university hospital in Copenhagen. The authors prospectively captured information on 462 penetrating trauma victims, then looked up their 30 day survival status in a national administrative database.

Here are the factoids:

  • Only 95% of patient records (446) were available for 30 day review (better that in the US!)
  • Of those, 40 were dead (9%)
  • Using raw statistics, there seemed to be a significant increase in mortality if the prehospital crew was on scene more than 20 minutes
  • However, when corrected for age, sex, injury pattern, etc. there was no significant difference in survival for short vs longer scene stays
  • Multivariate analysis identified the number of procedures performed at the scene as a significant predictor of mortality, regardless of time

Bottom line: We still can’t seem to show a difference in patients who are tossed in the back of the squad and driven vs those who have IVs, immobilization, and other things done to begin resuscitation and increase safety prior to transport! However, the bit about number of procedures is intriguing. Is this just another surrogate for time? Are there unrecognized complications from them that affect survival?

Next time, I’ll look at a recent publication from the US that gives us yet another angle on this question.

Reference: On-scene time and outcome after penetrating trauma: an observational study. Emerg Med J 28(9):87-801, 2011.

EMS: Scoop and Run or Stay and Play for Trauma Care? Part 1

Scoop and run vs stay and play are traditionally EMS concepts. Do I stay at the scene to perform invasive procedures and begin resuscitation, or do I perform the minimum I can and get to the nearest hospital ASAP?

Some newer papers have addressed this debate very recently with some intriguing results, but I wanted to start out with one that I’ve discussed before.

For trauma patients time is the enemy and there is a different flavor of scoop and run vs stay and play. Do I take the patient to a nearby hospital that is not a high level trauma center to stay and play, or do I scoop and run to the nearest Level I or II center?

Here are the factoids:

  • Admissions to a group of 8 trauma centers were analyzed over a 3 year period, and included a total of 1112 patients
  • A total of 76% were taken directly to a Level I trauma center (scoop and run, 76%); 24% were transferred to the trauma center from another hospital (stay and play?).
  • Patients who were taken to a non-trauma center first received 3 times more IV crystalloid, 12 times more blood, and were nearly 4 times more likely to die!

Obviously, the cause of this increased mortality cannot be determined from the data. The authors speculate that patients may undergo more aggressive resuscitation with crystalloid and blood at the outside hospital making them look better than they really are, and then they die. Alternatively, they may have been under-resuscitated at the outside hospital, making it more difficult to ensure survival at the trauma center.

Bottom line: This is an interesting paper, but it’s kind of a mutant. When I think about the stay and play concent, I’m really thinking about delays going to a trauma center, not a non-trauma hospital fierst! And the authors never really define a “nontrauma hospital.” Does a Level III or IV center count? How did patients who stayed at the outside hospital do?

Obviously, a lot of work needs to be done to add detail to this particular paper. Tomorrow, I’ll look at this concept as it applies to patients with penetrating injury.

Reference: Scoop and run to the trauma center or stay and play at the local hospital: hospital transfer’s effect on mortality. J Trauma 69(3):595-601, 2010.

Why Is So Much Published Research So Bad?

I read lots of trauma-related articles every week. And as I browse through them, I often find studies that leave me wondering how they ever got published. And this is not a new phenomenon. Look at any journal a year ago. Five years ago. Twenty years ago. And even older. The research landscape is littered with their carcasses.

And on a related note, sit down with any serious clinical question in your field you want to answer. Do a deep dive with one of the major search engines and try to get an answer. Or better yet, let the professionals from the Cochrane Library or other organization do it for you. Invariably, you will find hints and pieces of the answer you seek. But never the completely usable solution you desire. 

Why is it so hard? Even with tens of thousands of articles being published every year?

Because there is no overarching plan! Individuals are forced to produce research as a condition of their employment. Or to assure career advancement. Or to get into medical school, or a “good” residency. And in the US, Level I trauma centers are required to publish at least 20 papers every three years to maintain their status. So there is tremendous pressure across all disciplines to publish something.

Unfortunately, that something is usually work that is easily conceived and quickly executed. A registry review, or some other type of retrospective study. They are easy to get approval for, take little time to complete and analyze, and have the potential to get published quickly.

But what this “publish or perish” mentality promotes is a random jumble of answers that we didn’t really need and can’t learn a thing from. There is no planning. There is no consideration of what questions we really need to answer. Just a random bunch of thoughts that are easy to get published but never get cited by anyone else.

Bottom line: How do we fix this? Not easily. Give every work a “quality score.” Instead of focusing on the quantity of publications, the “authorities” (tenure committees and the journal editors themselves) need to focus in on their quality. Extra credit should be given to multicenter trial involvement, prospective studies, and other higher quality projects. These will increase the quality score. The actual number of publications should not matter as much as how much high quality work is in progress. Judge the individual or center on their total quality score, not the absolute number of papers they produce. Sure, the sheer number of studies published will decline, but the quality will increase exponentially!

Are You Overusing Chest CT In Kids?

Many centers have developed guidelines for ordering various imaging studies, mostly in adults. These frequently dictate indications for head, cervical spine, and abdominal CT. The use of chest CT guidelines are far less common. And for the most part, such guidelines are significantly lacking for pediatric trauma evaluation.

Oregon Health Sciences University published a study detailing the use and utility of chest CT in pediatric patients, which they defined as age less than or equal to 18. They also looked at the impact of implementation of imaging guidelines for chest CT. They pooled data on blunt injuries from two Portland children’s hospitals. They collected a historical cohort over 8 years ending in 2015. One hospital had implemented region-specific imaging guidelines in 2010, and the impact of this was observed. They pooled data from both centers to identify mechanisms predictive of significant thoracic injury.

Here are the factoids:

  • Nearly 3000 patients were reviewed for thoracic CT use across the study period.
  • 1451 had chest x-ray only, 933 had chest CT only, and 567 had both
  • Although CT use in other body regions significantly declined across the study period, thoracic CT did not.
  • Chest CT changed management on only 17 of 1500 patients (1%).  There were 2 operations, 1 stent placement, 1 medical management, and 13 changes I consider rather weak (chest tube insertion, negative workup)
  • All clinically significant findings were predicted by an abnormal chest x-ray and motor vehicle mechanism

Bottom line: Chest CT continues to be overused in pediatric blunt trauma (and adults too!). This is especially unsettling due to it’s low yield and the unclear future danger of high dose radiation received during childhood. The major issue with this study is that it mixes adults and children and calls them all children. Specifically, most patients age 13-14 or above act anatomically and physiologically more like adults. It would have been nice to separate out the lower age group, but this typically results in very low numbers for analysis. In this case, it should have been possible because the median age was 13.

I recommend that all centers adopt some kind of blunt imaging guidelines to reduce clinician variability and unneeded radiation exposure. This is particularly true for children, since they are more sensitive to it and will live long enough to potentially experience the adverse effects from it. 

For both children and adults, chest CT should be reserved for evaluation of potential aortic injury, and nothing else. Rib fractures, hemothorax, and pneumothorax are best evaluated by traditional chest x-ray, and therapeutic decisions based on this alone. Abnormal chest x-ray findings, coupled with a high-energy mechanism (MVC, crush, pedestrian struck, and fall from a real height (3+ storys) should drive the decision to obtain a chest CT.

Related posts:

Reference: Limiting thoracic CT: a rule for use during initial pediatric trauma evaluation. J Ped Surg, In press, Aug 28, 2017.

Why Is NPO The Default Diet For Trauma Patients?

I’ve watched it happen for years. A trauma patient is admitted with a small subarachnoid hemorrhage in the evening. The residents put in all the “usual” orders and tuck them away for the night. I am the rounder the next day, and when I saunter into the patient’s room, this is what I find:

They were made NPO. And this isn’t just an issue for patients with a small head bleed. A grade II spleen. An orbital fracture. Cervical spine injury. The list goes on.

What do these injuries have to do with your GI tract?

Here are some pointers on writing the correct diet orders on your trauma patients:

  • Is there a plan to take them to the operating room within the next 8 hours or so? If not, let them eat. If you are not sure, contact the responsible service and ask. Once you have confirmed their OR status, write the appropriate order.
  • Have they just come out of the operating room from a laparotomy? Then yes, they will have an ileus and should be NPO.
  • Are they being admitted to the ICU? If their condition is tenuous enough that they need ICU level monitoring, then they actually do belong to that small group of patients that should be kept NPO.

But here’s the biggest offender. Most trauma professionals don’t think this one through, and reflexively write for the starvation diet.

  • Do they have a condition that will likely require an emergent operation in the very near future? This one is a judgment call. But how often have you seen a patient with subarachnoid hemorrhage have an emergent craniotomy? How often do low grade solid organ injuries fail if they’ve always had stable vital signs? Or even high grade injuries? The answer is, not often at all! So let them eat!

Bottom line: Unless your patient is known to be heading to the OR soon, or just had a laparotomy, the default trauma diet should be a regular diet!