Bilateral fixed dilated pupils? Operate if extradural!

November 11, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, ICU, Kids, Resus, Trauma

Almost two-thirds of patients with extradural haematoma and bilateral fixed dilated pupils survived after surgery, with over half having a good outcome


pupilsiconNeurosurgeon, HEMS doctor, and all round good egg Mark Wilson was on the RAGE podcast recently and mentioned favourable outcomes from neurosurgery in patients with extradural (=epidural) haematomas who present with bilateral fixed dilated pupils (BFDP). Here’s his paper that gives the figures – a systematic review and meta-analysis.

A total of 82 patients with BFDP who underwent surgical evacuation of either subdural or extradural haematoma were identified from five studies – 57 with subdural (SDH) and 25 with extradural haematomas (EDH).

In patients with EDH and BFDP mortality was 29.7% (95% CI 14.7% to 47.2%) and 54.3% had a favourable outcome (95% CI 36.3% to 71.8%).

Only 6.6% of patients with SDH and BFDP had a good functional outcome.

Clearly there is potential for selection bias and publication bias, but these data certainly suggest an aggressive surgical approach is appropriate in some patients with BFDP.

The authors comment on the pessimism that accompanies these cases, which potentially denies patients opportunities for recovery:

“We believe that 54% of patients with extradural haematoma with BFDPs having a good outcome is an underappreciated prognosis, and the perceived poor prognosis of BFDPs (from all causes) has influenced decision making deeming surgery inappropriately futile in some cases.”

Scotter J, Hendrickson S, Marcus HJ, Wilson MH.
Prognosis of patients with bilateral fixed dilated pupils secondary to traumatic extradural or subdural haematoma who undergo surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Emerg Med J 2014 e-pub ahead of print Nov 11;:1–7

Primary objective To review the prognosis of patients with bilateral fixed and dilated pupils secondary to traumatic extradural (epidural) or subdural haematoma who undergo surgery.

Methods A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed using random effects models. The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and PubMed databases were searched to identify relevant publications. Eligible studies were publications that featured patients with bilateral fixed and dilated pupils who underwent surgical evacuation of traumatic extra-axial haematoma, and reported on the rate of favourable outcome (Glasgow Outcome Score 4 or 5).

Results Five cohort studies met the inclusion criteria, collectively reporting the outcome of 82 patients. In patients with extradural haematoma, the mortality rate was 29.7% (95% CI 14.7% to 47.2%) with a favourable outcome seen in 54.3% (95% CI 36.3% to 71.8%). In patients with acute subdural haematoma, the mortality rate was 66.4% (95% CI 50.5% to 81.9%) with a favourable outcome seen in 6.6% (95% CI 1.8% to 14.1%).

Conclusions and implications of key findings Despite the poor overall prognosis of patients with closed head injury and bilateral fixed and dilated pupils, our findings suggest that a good recovery is possible if an aggressive surgical approach is taken in selected cases, particularly those with extradural haematoma.

Non-ST-Elevation Acute Coronary Syndromes

September 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Guidelines, ICU, Resus

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The latest AHA/ACC guidelines on NSTEACS have been published ahead of print in Circulation.

Full text is available, and the Executive Summary is available here

Amsterdam EA, Wenger NK, Brindis RG, Casey DE, Ganiats TG, Holmes DR, et al.
2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the Management of Patients With Non-ST-Elevation Acute Coronary Syndromes: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines.
Circulation. 2014 Sep 23. [Epub ahead of print]

Blunt traumatic arrest in kids

September 24, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, Kids, Resus, Trauma

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Traumatic cardiac arrest outcomes are not great, but they’re not so bad that resuscitation is futile – a subject I’ve ranted about before.

The largest study on blunt traumatic arrest in children to date has been published, showing that 340 / 7766 kids without signs of life in the field survived to hospital discharge. Neurological status at discharge was not documented. However, this represents 4.4%, or in other words for every 22 blunt traumatically arrested children who underwent prehospital resuscitation, one survived to discharge. The authors describe this survival as ‘dismal’. It’s not great, but my take on it is that survival is possible and in most cases resuscitation should be attempted.

The authors state:

Based on these data, EMS providers should not be discouraged from resuscitating blunt pediatric trauma patients found in the field with no signs of life

While the major focus should be on injury prevention, it is worthwhile considering whether more advanced resuscitation in the field could be provided to further increase the number of neurologically intact survivors.

Survival of pediatric blunt trauma patients presenting with no signs of life in the field
J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2014 Sep;77(3):422-6

BACKGROUND: Prehospital traumatic cardiopulmonary arrest is associated with dismal prognosis, and patients rarely survive to hospital discharge. Recently established guidelines do not apply to the pediatric population because of paucity of data. The study objective was to determine the survival of pediatric patients presenting in the field with no signs of life after blunt trauma.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective analysis of the National Trauma Data Bank research data set (2002-2010). All patients 18 years and younger with blunt traumatic injuries were identified (DRG International Classification of Diseases-9th Rev. codes 800-869). No signs of life (SOL) was defined on physical examination findings and included the following: pulse, 0; respiratory rate, 0; systolic blood pressure, 0; and no evidence of neurologic activity. These same criteria were reassessed on arrival at the emergency department (ED). Furthermore, we examined patients presenting to the ED who underwent resuscitative thoracotomy (Current Procedural Terminology code 34.02). Our primary outcome was survival to discharge from the hospital.

RESULTS: There were a total of 3,115,597 pediatric patients who were found in the field after experiencing blunt trauma. Of those, 7,766 (0.25%) had no SOL. Seventy percent of the patients with no SOL in the field were male. Survival to hospital discharge of all patients presenting with no SOL was 4.4% (n = 340). Twenty-five percent of the patients in the field with no SOL were successfully resuscitated in the field and regained SOL by the time they arrived to the ED (n = 1,913). Of those patients who regained SOL, 13.8% (n = 265) survived to hospital discharge. For patients in the field with no SOL, survival to discharge was significantly higher in patients who did not receive a resuscitative thoracotomy than in those who did.

CONCLUSION: Survival of pediatric blunt trauma patients in the field without SOL is dismal. Resuscitative thoracotomy poses a heightened risk of blood-borne pathogen exposure to involved health care workers and is associated with a significantly lower survival rate.

When to Stop Resuscitation

July 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Guidelines, ICU, Kids, Resus, Trauma

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My talk at the SmaccGOLD conference in March 2014

Cliff Reid – When Should Resuscitation Stop from Social Media and Critical Care on Vimeo.

Here are the slides:

Down with “down” time!

May 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Resus

CPR-icon2A man in his 40s has a witnessed collapse and CPR is immediately started. Paramedics are on scene within 5 minutes and initiate advanced cardiac life support. He has refractory ventricular fibrillation which degenerates to asystole. He arrives in an emergency department where, with good ongoing CPR, he appears reasonably well perfused and even demonstrates some spontaneous movements and reactive pupils. He is placed on a mechanical CPR device and activation of the cardiac cath lab is requested. The patient has been in cardiac arrest now for 32 minutes. The cardiology fellow appears and asks: ‘what’s the down time?’

What’s the right answer? Would you say ‘half an hour’? ’32 minutes’?
And does it matter? Why is the cardiology fellow asking? Does she have an arbitrary cut off in mind, over which emergency coronary reperfusion will be denied?

I think there are several problems with conversations like these.
The first, is what does ‘down time’ even mean?
The second, is how relevant is a cardiac arrest time interval to prognosis in an individual patient?
The third, is what is the significance of any time interval in a patient who at the time of assessment has some signs that CPR is providing some perfusion and there is some evidence of brain function?

Let’s take the first. The definition of ‘down time’ does not appear to be standardised:

In this publication it appears to refer to the time before resuscitation is commenced, where it is demonstrated to be prognostically important.

Similarly, in this medical dictionary, it is defined as the ‘temporal duration from cardiac arrest until beginning cardiopulmonary resuscitation or advanced cardiac life support.

However, a post in Life in the Fast Lane defines it as ‘time to return of spontaneous circulation

This appears to agree with The New South Wales Government’s Intensive Care Monitoring and Coordination Unit who define it as ‘the time from when a person’s heart stops beating to the time it starts beating again

Yet another definition is used in King County, Washington, where it is defined as ‘the time interval from collapse to call 911‘.

So the first thing is to clarify what we’re talking about: “This patient received immediate bystander CPR. He has had resuscitation for 32 minutes”. My friend in the UK, nurse resuscitationist Fernando Candal Carballido, coined the term ‘Time of Supported Circulation‘, or TOSC. I quite like this and think it could catch on.

The next question is so what? What if it was 90 minutes? At what point do we declare futility? This is where I believe the game has changed. Multiple survivors of prolonged resuscitation are springing up in the news and in the literature. Particularly in the subgroup of patients with minimal comorbidity, early CPR, and who receive circulatory support via ECMO or mechanical CPR while they undergo coronary reperfusion.

For a great example of a prolonged CPR survivor, check out paramedic Wayne Schneider’s story,

…or listen to Steven Bernard describe amazing results from ECMO used in Melbourne in the CHEER study, which includes survivors of over two hours of CPR.

So, in summary:

  • Be clear on your definitions when communicating with colleagues. ‘Down time’ does not appear to have a standard definition, so I would avoid its use.
  • Some patients without comorbidities who have had early bystander CPR may survive despite long periods of CPR (or ‘TOSC’), provided the underlying cause can be treated or is reversible.
  • ECMO and even more widely available mechanical CPR devices are extending the period in which these causes can be addressed.

Breaking with tradition in paediatric RSI

April 8, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, ICU, Kids, Resus

‘Traditional’ rapid sequence induction of anaesthesia is often described with inclusion of cricoid pressure and the strict omission of any artifical ventilation between paralytic drug administration and insertion of the tracheal tube. These measures are aimed at preventing pulmonary aspiration of gastric contents although there is no convincing evidence base to support that. However it is known that cricoid pressure can worsen laryngoscopic view and can occlude the paediatric airway. We also know that children desaturate quickly after the onset of apnoea, and although apnoeic diffusion oxygenation via nasal cannula can prevent or delay that, in some cases it may be preferable to bag-mask ventilate the patient while awaiting full muscle relaxation for laryngoscopy.

A Swiss study looked at 1001 children undergoing RSI for non-cardiac surgery. They used a ‘controlled rapid sequence induction and intubation (cRSII)’ approach for children assumed to have full stomachs. This procedure resembled RSI the way it is currently done in many modern critical care settings, including the retrieval service I work for:

  • No cricoid pressure
  • Ketamine for induction if haemodynamically unstable
  • A non-depolarising neuromuscular blocker rather than succinylcholine
  • No cricoid pressure
  • Gentle facemask ventilation to maintain oxygenation until intubation conditions achieved
  • Intubation with a cuffed tracheal tube
  • Still no cricoid pressure

The authors comment:

The main finding was that cRSII demonstrated a considerably lower incidence of oxygen desaturation and consecutive hemodynamic adverse events during anesthesia induction than shown by a previous study on classic RSII in children. Furthermore, there was no incidence of pulmonary aspiration during induction, laryngoscopy, and further course of anesthesia.

Looks like more dogma has been lysed, and this study supports the current trajectory away from traditional teaching towards an approach more suitable for critically ill patients.

Controlled rapid sequence induction and intubation – an analysis of 1001 children
Paediatr Anaesth. 2013 Aug;23(8):734-40

BACKGROUND: Classic rapid sequence induction puts pediatric patients at risk of cardiorespiratory deterioration and traumatic intubation due to their reduced apnea tolerance and related shortened intubation time. A ‘controlled’ rapid sequence induction and intubation technique (cRSII) with gentle facemask ventilation prior to intubation may be a safer and more appropriate approach in pediatric patients. The aim of this study was to analyze the benefits and complications of cRSII in a large cohort.

METHODS: Retrospective cohort analysis of all patients undergoing cRSII according to a standardized institutional protocol between 2007 and 2011 in a tertiary pediatric hospital. By means of an electronic patient data management system, vital sign data were reviewed for cardiorespiratory parameters, intubation conditions, general adverse respiratory events, and general anesthesia parameters.

RESULTS: A total of 1001 patients with cRSII were analyzed. Moderate hypoxemia (SpO2 80-89%) during cRSII occurred in 0.5% (n = 5) and severe hypoxemia (SpO2 <80%) in 0.3% of patients (n = 3). None of these patients developed bradycardia or hypotension. Overall, one single gastric regurgitation was observed (0.1%), but no pulmonary aspiration could be detected. Intubation was documented as ‘difficult’ in two patients with expected (0.2%) and in three patients with unexpected difficult intubation (0.3%). The further course of anesthesia as well as respiratory conditions after extubation did not reveal evidence of ‘silent aspiration’ during cRSII.

CONCLUSION: Controlled RSII with gentle facemask ventilation prior to intubation supports stable cardiorespiratory conditions for securing the airway in children with an expected or suspected full stomach. Pulmonary aspiration does not seem to be significantly increased.

Palpating neonatal tracheal tubes

April 6, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, ICU, Kids, Resus

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infant-intubate-iconAfter neonatal intubation, the incidence of malposition of the tip of the tracheal tube is fairly high.

A technique was evaluated involving palpation of the tube tip in the suprasternal notch, which in this small study was superior to insertion length based on a weight-based nomogram.

The suprasternal notch was chosen because it anatomically corresponds to vertebral level T2, close to the optimal position at the mid-tracheal point. Correct position on the chest radiograph was defined as any position <0.5 cm above the interclavicular midpoint and more than 1 cm above the carina.

During tracheal tube placement, the tip was gently palpated in the suprasternal notch with the index or little finger of the left hand while holding the body of the tube with the fingers of the right hand. The tube tip was adjusted until the bevelled edge was just palpable in the the suprasternal notch.

Digital palpation of endotracheal tube tip as a method of confirming endotracheal tube position in neonates: an open-label, three-armed randomized controlled trial.
Paediatr Anaesth. 2013 Oct;23(10):934-9

OBJECTIVE: To compare the malposition rates of endotracheal tubes (ETTs) when the insertional length (IL) is determined by a weight-based nomogram versus when IL is determined by palpation of the ETT tip.

DESIGN: Open-label, randomized controlled trial (RCT).

SETTING: Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

SUBJECTS: All newborn babies admitted in NICU requiring intubation.

INTERVENTIONS: Subjects were randomly allocated to one of three groups, wherein IL was determined by (i) weight-based nomogram alone, (ii) weight-based nomogram combined with suprasternal palpation of ETT tip performed by specially trained neonatology fellows, or (iii) combination of weight-based and suprasternal methods by personnel not specially trained.

PRIMARY OUTCOME: Rate of malposition of ETT as judged on chest X-ray (CXR).

RESULTS: Fifty seven babies were randomized into group 1(n = 15), group 2 (n = 20), and group 3 (n = 22). The proportion of correct ETT placement was highest in group 2, being 66.7%, 83.3%, and 66.7% in groups 1 through 3, respectively (P value = 0.58). No complication was attributable to palpation technique.

CONCLUSION: Suprasternal palpation shows promise as a simple, safe, and teachable method of confirming ETT position in neonates.

Atropine for Paediatric RSI?

April 5, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, ICU, Kids, Resus

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paedRSIdrugiconIn some areas it has been traditional to pre-medicate or co-medicate with atropine when intubating infants and children, despite a lack of any evidence showing benefit. It is apparently still in the American Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) Provider Manual when age is less than 1 year or age is 1–5 years and receiving succinylcholine. However it is not recommended with rapid sequence intubation in the British and Australasian Advanced Paediatric Life Support manual and course.

A French non-randomised observational study compares intubations with and without atropine in the neonatal and paediatric critical care setting. Atropine use was associated with significant acceleration of heart rate, and no atropine use was associated with a higher incidence of new dysrhythmia, the most common being junctional rhythm, but with none appearing to be clinically significant.

The incidence of the most important peri-intubation cause of bradycardia – hypoxia – is not reported. It is also not clear how many intubation attempts were required. The authors admit:

it is not possible using our methodology to deduce whether bradycardia was due to hypoxia, laryngoscopy, or sedation drugs.

Actual rapid sequence was rarely employed – their use of muscle relaxants was low – making this difficult to extrapolate to modern emergency medicine / critical care practice.

My take home message here is that this study provides no argument whatsoever for the addition of atropine in routine RSI in the critically ill child. Why complicate a procedure with an unnecessary tachycardia-causing drug when the focus should be on no desat / no hypotension / first look laryngoscopy?

The Effect of Atropine on Rhythm and Conduction Disturbances During 322 Critical Care Intubations
Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2013 Jul;14(6):e289-97

OBJECTIVES: Our objectives were to describe the prevalence of arrhythmia and conduction abnormalities before critical care intubation and to test the hypothesis that atropine had no effect on their prevalence during intubation.

DESIGN: Prospective, observational study.

SETTING: PICU and pediatric/neonatal intensive care transport.

SUBJECTS: All children of age less than 8 years intubated September 2007-2009. Subgroups of intubations with and without atropine were analyzed.


MEASUREMENT AND MAIN RESULTS: A total of 414 intubations were performed in the study period of which 327 were available for analysis (79%). Five children (1.5%) had arrhythmias prior to intubation and were excluded from the atropine analysis. Atropine was used in 47% (152/322) of intubations and resulted in significant acceleration of heart rate without provoking ventricular arrhythmias. New arrhythmias during intubation were related to bradycardia and were less common with atropine use (odds ratio, 0.14 [95% CI, 0.06-0.35], p < 0.001). The most common new arrhythmia was junctional rhythm. Acute bundle branch block was observed during three intubations; one Mobitz type 2 rhythm and five ventricular escape rhythms occurred in the no-atropine group (n = 170). Only one ventricular escape rhythm occurred in the atropine group (n = 152) in a child with an abnormal heart. One child died during intubation who had not received atropine.

CONCLUSIONS: Atropine significantly reduced the prevalence of new arrhythmias during intubation particularly for children over 1 month of age, did not convert sinus tachycardia to ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation, and may contribute to the safety of intubation.

High Flow Nasal Cannulae In Paediatric Retrieval

April 2, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, ICU, Kids

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High Flow Nasal Cannulae (HFNC) oxygen therapy was introduced in paediatric interfacility retrievals undertaken by the Mater Children’s PICU Retrieval Team in Queensland, Australia. In 793 under 2 year olds, HFNC was associated with a reduction in infants receiving invasive or non-invasive ventilation. 77% of the patients had bronchiolitis.

The rationale for this treatment is explained as:

Owing to the inherent properties of the infant respiratory system with small airways and high chest compliance, the risk of developing atelectasis is high in bronchiolitis. HFNC therapy applied early in the disease process may prevent progression of the disease and maintain normal lung volumes, thereby preventing atelectasis. As a result, the functional residual capacity can be maintained and work of breathing reduced, which may stabilize the patient sufficiently to avoid the need for intubation. For this purpose we used flow rates of 2 L/kg/min which have been shown to result in a positive end-expiratory pressure of 4–5 cmH2O

Read more on high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy.

High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) support in interhospital transport of critically ill children
Intensive Care Med. 2014 Feb 15. [Epub ahead of print]

BACKGROUND: Optimal respiratory support for interhospital transport of critically ill children is challenging and has been scarcely investigated. High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) therapy has emerged as a promising support mode in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), but no data are available on HFNC used during interhospital transport. We aimed to assess the safety of HFNC during retrievals of critically ill children and its impact on the need for invasive ventilation (IV).

METHODS: This was a retrospective, single-centre study of children under 2 years old transported by a specialized paediatric retrieval team to PICU. We compared IV rates before (2005-2008) and after introduction of HFNC therapy (2009-2012).

RESULTS: A total of 793 infants were transported. The mean transport duration was 1.4 h (range 0.25-8), with a mean distance of 205 km (2-2,856). Before introduction of HFNC, 7 % (n = 23) were retrieved on non-invasive ventilation (NIV) and 49 % (n = 163) on IV. After introduction of HFNC, 33 % (n = 150) were retrieved on HFNC, 2 % (n = 10) on NIV, whereas IV decreased to 35 % (n = 162, p < 0.001). No patients retrieved on HFNC required intubation during retrieval, or developed pneumothorax or cardiac arrest. Using HFNC was associated with a significant reduction in IV initiated by the retrieval team (multivariate OR 0.51; 95 % CI 0.27-0.95; p = 0.032).

CONCLUSIONS: We report on a major change of practice in transport of critically ill children in our retrieval system. HFNC therapy was increasingly used and was not inferior to low-flow oxygen or NIV. Randomized trials are needed to assess whether HFNC can reduce the need for IV in interhospital transport of critically ill children.

i-STAT® analysis of intraosseous aspirate

March 6, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, ICU, Kids, Resus

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In the absence of vascular access we may resort to sending intraosseous aspirates for analysis, but in some laboratories there is concern that the samples can block autoanalysers.

A study on haematology/oncology patients undergoing diagnostic bone marrow aspiration showed clinically acceptable agreement between venous and intraosseous measurements for pH, base excess, sodium, ionised calcium and glucose using an an i-STAT® point-of-care analyser.

Key points are:

  • The first 1-2 ml should be discarded (as in this study)
  • Lactate hasn’t been assessed
  • These patients weren’t critically ill

Analysis of bloodgas, electrolytes and glucose from intraosseous samples using an i-STAT® point-of-care analyser
Resuscitation. 2014 Mar;85(3):359-63

BACKGROUND: Intraosseous access is used in emergency medicine as an alternative when intravenous access is difficult to obtain. Intraosseous samples can be used for laboratory testing to guide treatment. Many laboratories are reluctant to analyse intraosseous samples, as they frequently block conventional laboratory equipment. We aimed to evaluate the feasibility and accuracy of analysis of intraosseous samples using an i-STAT(®) point-of-care analyser.

METHODS: Intravenous and intraosseous samples of twenty children presenting for scheduled diagnostic bone marrow aspiration were analysed using an i-STAT(®) point-of-care analyser. Sample types were compared using Bland Altman plots and by calculating intraclass correlation coefficients and coefficients of variance.

RESULTS: The handheld i-STAT(®)point-of-care analyser proved suitable for analysing intraosseous samples without technical difficulties. Differences between venous and intraosseous samples were clinically acceptable for pH, base excess, sodium, ionised calcium and glucose in these haemodynamically stable patients. The intraclass correlation coefficient was excellent (>0.8) for comparison of intraosseous and intravenous base excess, and moderate (around 0.6) for bicarbonate, sodium and glucose. The coefficient of variance of intraosseous samples was smaller than that of venous samples for most variables.

CONCLUSION: Analysis of intraosseous samples with a bedside, single-use cartridge-based analyser is feasible and avoids the problem of bone marrow contents damaging conventional laboratory equipment. In an emergency situation point-of-care analysis of intraosseous aspirates may be a useful guide to treatment.

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