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.
Reference: Injury-adjusted mortality of patients transported by police following penetrating trauma. Acad Emerg Med 18(1):32-37, 2011.
IO lines are a godsend when we are faced with a patient who desperately needs access but has no veins. The tibia is generally easy to locate and the landmarks for insertion are straightforward. They are so easy to insert and use, we sometimes “set it and forget it”, in the words of infomercial guru Ron Popeil.
But complications are possible. The most common is an insertion “miss”, where the fluid then infuses into the knee joint or soft tissues of the leg. Problems can also arise when the tibia is fractured, leading to leakage into the soft tissues. Infection is extremely rare.
This photo shows the inferior vena cava of a patient with bilateral IO line insertions (black bubble at the top of the round IVC).
During transport, one line was inadvertently disconnected and probably entrained some air. There was no adverse clinical effect, but if the problem is not recognized and the line is not closed properly, there could be.
Bottom line: Treat an IO line as carefully as you would a regular IV. You can give anything through it that can be given via a regular IV: crystalloid, blood, drugs. And even air, so be careful!
In this day and age of ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, it is possible to get a cheap ride virtually anywhere there is car service and a smart phone. And of course, some people have used these services for transportation to the hospital in lieu of an ambulance ride. What might the impact be of ride services on patient transport, for both patient and EMS?
A paper in preparation suggests that ambulance service calls decreased by 7% after the introduction of UberX rides. Now, there are a lot of questions here, because the full paper has not yet been peer reviewed, and the results write-up is pretty sketchy. But it does beg the question.
Ambulance rides are expensive. Depending on region, they may range from $500-$5000. And although insurance may reduce the out of pocket cost, it can still be expensive. So what are the pros vs the cons of using Uber or Lyft for medical transport?
- Ride shares are inexpensive compared to an ambulance ride
- They may arrive more quickly because they tend to circulate around an area, as opposed to using a fixed base
- Riders may select their preferred hospital without being overridden by EMS (although it may be an incorrect choice)
- May reduce EMS usage for low acuity patients
- No professional medical care available during the ride
- May end up being slower due to lack of lights and siren
- Damage fees of $250+ for messing up the car
Bottom line: Uber and Lyft are just another version of the “arrival by private vehicle” paradigm. Use of these services relies on the customer/patient having very good judgment and insight into their medical conditions and care needs. And from personal experience, this is not always the case. I would not encourage the general public to use these services for medical transport, and neither do the companies themselves!
Reference: Did UberX Reduce Ambulance Volume? Unpublished paper, October 24, 2017.
I’ve previously written about the difficulties estimating how much blood is on the ground at the trauma scene. In general, EMS providers underestimated blood loss 87% of the time. The experience level of the medic was of no help, and the accuracy actually got worse with larger amounts of blood lost!
A group in Hong Kong developed a color coded chart (nomogram) to assist with estimation of blood loss at the scene. It translated the area of blood on a non-absorbent surface to the volume lost. A convenience study was designed to judge the accuracy that could be achieved using the nomogram. Sixty one providers were selected, and estimated the size of four pools of blood, both before and after a 2 minute training session on the nomogram.
Here’s what it looks like:
Note the areas across the bottom. In addition to colored square areas, the orange block is a quick estimate of the size of a piece of paper (A4 size since they’re in Hong Kong!)
Here are the factoids:
- The 61 subjects had an average of 3 years of experience
- Four scenarios were presented to each: 180ml, 470ml, 940ml, and 1550ml. These did not correspond exactly to any of the color blocks.
- Before nomogram use, underestimation of blood loss increased as the pool of blood was larger, similar to the previous study
- There was a significant increase in accuracy for all 4 scenarios using the nomogram, and underestimation was significantly better for all but the 940ml group
- Median percentage of error was 43% before nomogram training, vs only 23% after. This was highly significant.
Bottom line: This is a really cool idea, and can make estimation of field blood loss more accurate. All the medic needs to do is know the length of their shoe and the width of their hand in cm. They can then estimate the length and width of the pool of blood and refer to the chart . Extrapolation between colors is very simple, just look at the line. The only drawback I can see occurs when the blood is on an irregular or more absorbent surface (grass, inside of a car).
Reference: Improvement of blood loss volume estimation by paramedics using a pictorial nomogram: a developmental study. Injury article in press Oct 2017.
How long does it take for EMS to get to the scene of an emergency? That’s a loaded question, because there are many, many factors that can impact this timing. If you look at the existing literature, there are few, if any, articles that have actually looked at this successfully.
A group from Aurora, IL and Wake Forest reviewed EMS records from across the country, spanning 485 agencies over a one year period. Only 911 responses were reviewed, and outliers with arrival times of more than 2 hours and transport times of 3 hours were excluded. Over 1.7 million records were analyzed, and 625 were excluded for this reason.
Here are the factoids:
- In 71% of cases, the patient was transported to a hospital. In one quarter of cases, they were evaluated but not transported. 1% were dead on arrival, and in 2% no patient was found at the scene (!)
- 4% of patients were transported in rural zip codes, 88% in suburban ones, and 8% from urban locations
- Overall response time averaged 7 minutes
- Median response times were 13 minutes for rural locations, and 6 minutes for both suburban and urban locations
- Nearly 1 in 10 patients waited 30 minutes for EMS response in rural locations
Bottom line: There is an obvious difference in EMS response times between rural and urban/suburban locations. And there are many potential reasons for this, including a larger geographic area to be covered, volunteer vs paid squads, etc. Many of these factors are difficult, if not impossible to change. The simple fact that it takes longer to reach these patients increases their potential morbidity and mortality. Remember, time is of the essence in trauma. The patient is bleeding to death until proven otherwise. It is far easier and cost-effective to equip bystanders with the skills to assist those in need (basic first aid, CPR, Stop the Bleed, etc) while waiting for EMS to arrive.