Category Archives: Prehospital

The Rise And Fall Of MAST Trousers

Remember MAST Trousers (Military Anti-Shock Trousers)? They were a staple of prehospital care starting in the 1970s and lasting through the turn of the century. But what happened after that? They seem to have disappeared. I recently received a question on the topic recently and wanted to share the real story with you readers.

The basic MAST trouser consists of three inflatable compartments: two legs and one covering the abdomen and pelvis. Each can be inflated or deflated separately. The basic concept was first described by a surgeon who wanted to increase blood pressure during neurosurgical procedures in the early 1900s. The US military embraced the concept during the Vietnam war, using it to augment systolic pressure in servicemen in shock.

Military surgeons migrated this device into civilian prehospital care during the mid-1970s, and the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma listed this device as essential on all ambulances in 1977. MAST trousers then came into widespread use throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Early research in the 1970s suggested that this device could provide up to a 20% boost in volume to the upper part of the body when applied. But as occurs with so many new toys, additional research demonstrated that this auto-transfusion effect was actually only about 5% of blood volume. Some significant complications also came to light as lower extremity ischemia and compartment syndromes were described. Ben Taub Hospital published a study in 1987 which showed no improvement in mortality in patients with penetrating injury.

At the end of the century, support for MAST started to dry up. The NAEMSP published a position paper limiting use to ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms and pelvic fractures with hypotension. The final straw was a review by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2000 that confirmed no reduction in mortality with MAST use.

Although a few older textbooks may still mention MAST trousers, they are no longer the standard of care. There are no longer any accepted indications for their use, and the few trousers that remain are gathering cobwebs in some corner of the trauma basement.

Reference: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan.

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Cool EMS Stuff: The Backboard Washer!

Backboards are made to get messy. And every time your friendly EMS provider brings you a patient, they invariably have to swab it down to give the next patient a reasonably sanitary surface to lie on. But sometimes the boards get downright nasty and the cleanup job is a major production.

Enter… the backboard washer. I recently saw one of these for the first time at a Level III hospital in Ohio. Fascinating! Pop the board inside and seven minutes later it’s clean. And I mean really squeaky clean. You may think it looks clean and a good hand wash, but just take a look at the effluent water coming out of this washer!

These units use standard 100V 20A power and only require a hot water hookup and a drain. They can wash two boards at once.

Hospitals in the know need to locate one of these next to a work area for completing paperwork and some free food. What could be better?

Reference: Aqua Phase A-8000 spec sheet. Click to download.

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Trauma Patient Transport By Police, Not EMS

When I was at Penn 30+ years ago, I was fascinated to see that police officers were allowed to transport penetrating trauma patients to the hospital. They had no medical training and no specific equipment. They basically tossed the patient into the back seat, drove as fast as possible to a trauma center, and dropped them off. Then they (hopefully) hosed down the inside of the squad car.

Granted, it was fast. But did it benefit the patient? The trauma group at Penn decided to look at this to see if there was some benefit (survival) to this practice. They retrospectively looked at 5 years of data in the mid-2000’s, thus comparing the results of police transport with reasonably state of the art EMS transport.

They found over 2100 penetrating injury transports during this time frame (!), and roughly a quarter of those (27%) were transported by police. About 71% were gunshots vs 29% stabs.

Here are the factoids:

  • The police transported more badly injured patients (ISS=14) than EMS (ISS=10)
  • About 21% of police transports died, compared to 15% for EMS
  • But when mortality was corrected for the higher ISS transported by police, it was equivalent for the two modes of transport

Although they did not show a survival benefit to this practice, there was certainly no harm done. And in busy urban environments, such a policy could offload some of the workload from busy EMS services.

Bottom line: Certainly this is not a perfect paper. But it does add more fuel to the “stay and play” vs “scoop and run” debate. It seems to lend credence to the concept that, in the field, less is better in penetrating trauma. What really saves these patients is definitive control of bleeding, which neither police nor paramedics can provide. Therefore, whoever gets the patient to the trauma center in the least time wins. And so does the patient.

Related posts:

Reference: Injury-adjusted mortality of patients transported by police following penetrating trauma. Acad Emerg Med 18(1):32-37, 2011.

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What Is The Safest Extrication Method From A Car Crash?

Today’s post is directed to all those prehospital trauma professionals out there.

Car crashes account for a huge number of injuries world-wide. About 40% of people involved in them are initially trapped in the vehicle. And unfortunately, entrapped individuals are much more likely to die.

There are four basic groups (and their category in parentheses) of trapped car occupants:

  • those who can self-extricate or extricate with minimal assistance (self-extrication)
  • individuals who cannot self-extricate due to pain or their psychological response to the event, but can extricate with assistance (assisted extrication)
  • people who are advised or choose not to self-extricate due to concern for exacerbating an injury, primarily spine (medically trapped)
  • those who are physically trapped by the wreckage who require disentanglement (disentanglement and rescue)

Prehospital providers have several choices to help extricate patients  in the second and third categories: encourage self-extrication, rapid extrication without the use of tools, or traditional extrication where the vehicle is cut away to allow egress. The fourth category always requires tools for extrication.

Although rescue services try to minimize or mitigate unnecessary movement of the patient, stuff happens. Large and forceful movement is considered high risk, but smaller movement do occur. This is of particular concern in patients who might have a spine injury.

There have been a number of recent papers suggesting there might be greater benefits to self-extrication. A group of authors in the UK and South Africa designed a biomechanical study to test these methods of extrication in healthy volunteers.

The authors wanted to find out exactly how much movement occurred using the various extrication techniques. The volunteers were fitted with an Inertial Measurement Unit, which measures the orientation of the head, neck, torso, and sacrum in real time.  The IMU can detect even very small changes in orientation of the body. The volunteers were placed in a standard 5-door hatchback sedans that were prepared for each type of extrication as seen above.

Here are the factoids:

  • A total of 230 extrications were performed for analysis
  • The smallest amount of maximal and total movement of body segments was seen in the self-extrication group
  • The greatest amount of movement was found in the rapid extrication group, with 4x to 5x the movement in the self-extrication group
  • The difference in body movement between the self-extrication group and all others was significant
  • In general, movement increased as extrication techniques progressed from roof removal to B post removal to rapid extrication

The authors concluded that self-extrication resulted in the smallest amount of movement and the fastest extrication time, and that it should be the preferred technique.

Bottom line: This is the first study that specifically evaluated spinal movement occurring with commonly used extrication techniques. Other similar studies have used a variety of measurement techniques, none of which are as precise as this. One potential weakness with this one is that it used healthy volunteers. But obviously, it is not practical to attempt anything like this with real, injured patients. 

Since we know that patients trapped in cars are more likely to die, time is of the essence. This study shows that self-extrication is both fast and safe with respect to spinal movement. The information will assist our prehospital colleagues in making the best decisions possible when faced with patients trapped in their car.

Reference: Assessing spinal movement during four extrication methods: a biomechanical study using healthy volunteers. Scand J Trauma  open access 30: article 7, 2022.

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Best Of EAST #16: More On TXA

Here’s another abstract dealing with TXA. But this one deals with the classic CRASH-2 use for patients with major bleeding. The original patient showed that TXA improves survival if given within 3 hours of injury. More and more prehospital units (particularly aeromedical services) have been administering TXA enroute to the trauma center to ensure that this drug is given as early as possible.

Many of these same services carry packed cells (or in rare cases, whole blood) so that proper resuscitation can be started while enroute as well. A multicenter group led by the University of Pittsburgh evaluated the utility of giving both TXA and blood during prehospital transport.

Their study summarizes some of the results of the Study of Tranexamic Acid During Air and Ground Medical Prehospital Transport Trial (STAAMP Trial). This study ran from 2015 to 2019 and randomized patients to receive either TXA or placebo during air or ground transport to a trauma center. It included blunt or penetrating patients at risk for hemorrhage within 2 hours of injury who were either hypotensive or tachycardic. Outcome measures included 30-day mortality, 24-hour mortality, and a host of complications.

This abstract outlines a secondary analysis that retrospectively reviewed the impact of using prehospital packed red cells (pRBC) in addition to the TXA/placebo during transport. 

Here are the factoids:

  • There were 763 patients in total, broken down as follows
    • TXA only – 350
    • pRBC only – 35
    • TXA + pRBC – 22
    • Neither – 356
  • Patients who received blood with or without TXA were more severely injured with ISS 22 vs 10-12 in the non-pRBC groups
  • Mortality was higher in the pRBC (23%) and TXA+pRBC groups (29%)
  • TXA alone did not decrease mortality
  • TXA + pRBC resulted in a 46% reduction in 30-day mortality but not at 24 hours
  • packed cells alone decreased 24-hour mortality by 47%

The authors concluded basically what was stated in the results: short term mortality was decreased by pRBC alone, and 30-day mortality with TXA + pRBC. They recommended further work to elucidate the mechanisms involved.

Bottom line: This abstract may also suffer from the “low numbers” syndrome I’ve written about so many times before. The conclusions are based on two small groups that make up only 7% of the entire study group. And these are the two groups with more than double the ISS of the rest of the patients. The authors used some sophisticated statistics to test their hypotheses, and they will need to explain how and why they are appropriate for this analysis. Nevertheless, the mortalities in the blood groups number only in the single digits, so I worry about these statistics.

Here are my questions for the authors and presenter:

  • How do you reconcile the significantly higher ISS in the two (very small) groups who got blood? How might this skew your conclusions regarding mortality? Couldn’t the TXA just be superfluous?
  • How confident are you with the statistical analysis? Could the results be a sampling error given that red cells were given to only 7% of the overall study group?
  • I am having a difficult time understanding the conclusion that mortality was reduced in the blood groups. Specifically, it is stated that 24-hour mortality is reduced by 47% in the blood-only group.  But the mortality is 14% (5 patients)! Reduced 47% from what? I don’t see any other numbers to compare with in the table. Confusing!

Obviously, there must be more information that was not listed in the abstract. Can’t wait to see it!

Reference: PREHOSPITAL SYNERGY: TRANEXAMIC ACID AND BLOOD TRANSFUSION IN PATIENTS AT RISK FOR HEMORRHAGE. EAST 35th ASA, oral abstract #39.

 

 

Reference: PREHOSPITAL SYNERGY: TRANEXAMIC ACID AND BLOOD TRANSFUSION IN PATIENTS AT RISK FOR HEMORRHAGE. EAST 35th ASA, oral abstract #39.

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