All posts by TheTraumaPro

AAST 2013: Can Trauma Surgeons Place ICP Monitors?

Practice guidelines from the Brain Trauma Foundation recommend placement of an ICP monitor in trauma patients with GCS<8 and any type of intracranial hemorrhage. Some rural trauma centers may not have immediate access to a neurosurgeon for this procedure, and geography and/or weather may preclude transferring the patient. What to do?

Well, one person is guaranteed to be available at any trauma center. The trauma surgeon. Six years of data regarding placement of bolt type ICP monitors by appropriately trained and credentialed trauma surgeons or neurosurgeons was reviewed. The study was actually carried out at a Level I center, where both specialties were available. A total of 407 cases were studied. 

Here are the interesting factoids:

  • Patients tended to be young (average 41 years), and male (of course)
  • About one third were falls and one third were motor vehicle crashes
  • Trauma surgeons placed 71% of the ICP bolts, neurosurgeons 29%
  • Complication rates were low and not significantly different (2.5% for surgeons, 0.8% for neurosurgeons)

Bottom line: This study is intriguing, and I know a few centers in the US and many abroad already allow surgeons to place ICP monitors. However, this study is too small and underpowered to reach a definitive conclusion. A much larger, multicenter trial is warranted, although it will be difficult to carry out. In the meantime, if your hospital needs this resouirce, consider training your trauma surgeons for the procedure. But be sure to monitor complications and outcomes very carefully via your trauma PI process!

Related post:

Reference: Placement of intracranial bolt monitors by trauma surgeons – a 6 year review. AAST 2013 Paper 20.

New Trauma MedEd Newsletter Released Tonight To Subscribers!

The August issue of Trauma MedEd is ready to go! Subscribers will receive it tonight. This issue is devoted to trauma centers

Included are articles on:

  • The value of trauma centers
  • Benefits of transport to trauma centers
  • The “wallet biopsy” and trauma care
  • The shortage of on-call specialists
  • And more!

As mentioned above, subscribers will get the issue delivered tonight to their preferred email address. It will be available to everybody else later this week on the blog.

Check out back issues, and subscribe now! Get it first by clicking here!

Don’t Forget Trauma Education: The Next Generation!

TE:TNG is next week!

We’re breaking the mold for trauma talks! No more stodgy presenters reading from bullet-heavy PowerPoint slides! Away with the sore backside from sitting through an hour-long talk where the presenter goes over their time limit another 15 minutes!

The conference is now fast paced and to the point, with topics of interest to all trauma professionals (doctors, nurses, EMS, and anyone else who loves trauma). It consists of concise, 20 minute presentations interspersed with 5 minute videos of things you need to know. There are curbside consults, where we ask specialists the things you always wanted to. We’ll be taking questions for presenters from the audience and from Twitter using #TETNG13.

Here is a sample of some of the presentations:

  • Scott Weingart (EMCrit) joins us live from his studio in NYC, talking about finger thoracostomy
  • Michael McGonigal discusses why so much of what we think we know is wrong!
  • Felix Ankel talks about the future of trauma education
  • Field amputation, dislocated hip reduction, IO lines and more!

For those of you in the upper Midwest of the US, please join us live in St. Paul for this 4 hour program. It is located at the Minnesota History Center in a beautiful 300 seat auditorium. There is a fee to attend the live program to cover CME/CEU, food and parking. 

For those who cannot attend the live event, it will be streamed live on the internet beginning at 8am CST. Obviously, this is free but no CME/CEU’s will be offered. Park in your garage and get food from your own kitchen. 

And for anyone who just can’t tear themselves away from work on the morning of September 5, all content will be available for free on YouTube shortly after the conference.

For more information, and to register for the live event, go to 

Please feel free to email or comment with questions and suggestions!

AAST 2013: Does Brief Intervention For Alchohol Use Really Work After Arrest?

All US trauma centers verified by the American College of Surgeons are required to have programs for identifying patients who may have alcohol problems and for providing brief intervention (BI) and referral to therapy. Typically they use a standard interview tool (or the fact that patient blood alcohol exceeded a certain limit) to determine if brief intervention is indicated. If so, a trained professional (social worker, nurse, psychiatrist) sits down with the patient for a counseling session that may last 30 minutes, give or take. The idea is that the intervention has more impact in the face of the recent traumatic event, and the patient will be less likely to offend again. A number of studies have shown that alcohol consumption and risk-taking behavior decrease, at least in the short term, for patients who are taken to an emergency department and receive BI.

But does brief intervention really work for people who have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) but not injured? Researchers at UC Davis looked at 200 first-time arrestees for DUI in a county jail during a 1 month period. They randomized them for BI or no BI, and 181 of the 200 enrollees actually finished a 90-day followup, which is very good. AUDIT was used to measure the degree of problematic drinking (scale 0-40, higher means worse).

Here are the interesting factoids:

  • Mean blood alcohol was 0.14 mg/dl, which is a bit on the low side
  • Average initial AUDIT score was about 8 in both control and brief intervention groups
  • AUDIT score decreased by 3.4 in controls and 4.7 in BI subjects (not significantly different)
  • The likelihood of binge drinking, abstinence, alcohol-related injury, and seeking treatment was no different between the groups at 90 days.

Bottom line: Adding a brief intervention session to the routine after someone has been jailed for DUI does not appear to work. Although the study numbers are small, the number needed to show a difference appears to be pretty large, so the result is probably real. What this means is that jail does change behavior in first-time offenders, and brief intervention doesn’t add that much. I’ve always marveled at the fact that we try to modify behavior with just one counseling session. Much of the substance abuse literature indicates that ongoing counseling and support is needed for real problem users, and patients with alcohol related injuries don’t appear to be an exception.


AAST 2013: Epidural Analgesia for Chest Trauma

This is my first in a series of reviews of abstracts for the coming AAST meeting in September. I’m going to pick some of the most interesting abstracts and discuss them here in advance of the meeting. I’ll be attending, so I can personally listen to the presentations to see if the work presented passes muster. I always encourage people to read the entire paper, or in this case listen to the whole presentation. Hopefully you’ve realized that the abstract does not always accurately portray what the research actually showed.

The first paper deals with the use of epidural analgesia for rib fractures. First off, this is a retrospective, cohort review of a large database (National Study of Cost and Outcomes of Trauma [NSCOT]). This means that there are shortcomings built in to the study from missing information and multiple submitters. Thankfully, many of these can be reduced using clever statistics.

The authors looked at records of patients with significant blunt trauma to the chest. They excluded all patients who had conditions that would have precluded epidural catheter placement (i.e. spine injury, coagulopathy). A total of 836 patients were identified as eligible for study, and 100 had epidurals placed. 

The following interesting findings were noted:

  • Epidural patients were older, had more rib fractures and were more likely to have a chest tube
  • Placement of an epidural catheter was much more likely if the patient was taken to a trauma center
  • Epidural placement was associated with a significant reduction in mortality at 30, 90 and 365 days. This is very interesting, especially since the study numbers are small.

Bottom line: Pain control for chest trauma using an epidural catheter is one of many items in our treatment toolbox. And although this abstract is more of a “this is how they do it” study, the mortality reduction is impressive. This occurred despite the epidural patients being older and with more rib fractures. In many centers, epidural catheters are used infrequently, and only in extreme cases. This study would seem to indicate that more aggressive usage, especially in the elderly (who are twice as likely to die from rib fractures), is warranted.

Related posts:

Reference: The effect of epidural placement after blunt thoracic trauma. AAST 2013, Paper 27.