Tag Archives: Trauma

Hilar Twists & Human Error

This engaging scene from ‘Code Blue‘ demonstrates a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service team managing a patient with major thoracic haemorrhage. They have done a right thoracotomy and want to clamp the hilum but there’s some kit missing from the pack.

This scene has some great discussion points for prehospital professionals, even if the specific scenario is somewhat unlikely for most people’s practice:

  • Non-compressible haemorrhage is possibly the biggest single clinical challenge when you’re a long way from hospital
  • Agitated friends and family can be disruptive – allocate a rescuer to look after them
  • Having blood products to give is essential
  • Don’t rely on the memory of individuals, who are fallible, to pack your equipment. “I was sure I put them in” didn’t cut it when the team needed forceps to clamp the pulmonary hilum and stop the bleeding. Checklists are the in thing, for good reason.
  • Luckily, you don’t need to clamp the hilum (which is tricky) in massive unilateral thoracic haemorrhage. You can just twist the lung 180 degrees on the hilum so it’s upside down. This can prevent further haemorrhage and air embolism.


What’s a hilar twist then?

The hilar twist manoeuvre, as it’s called, is worth learning if you’re a clinician who is prepared to do resuscitative clamshell thoracotomy for penetrating traumatic cardiac arrest. The clamshell is quick and provides excellent exposure(1) and is preferred to lateral thoracotomy(2).

The primary purpose of clamshell thoracotomy in penetrating traumatic arrest is to relieve cardiac tamponade and control a cardiac wound(3). It is well described and continues to save lives in the prehospital setting(4).

However, sometimes you’ll open the chest and the pericardium will be empty (other than containing the heart of course), and there will be massive haemorrhage on one side of the chest. Although most of these patients will be unsalvageable outside a trauma centre’s operating room, it’s worth trying something once you’ve gone to all the trouble of opening the chest. The hilar twist(5) is probably the best option for the non-surgeon, especially when some muppet’s forgotten to pack a clamp.

In order to make the lung mobile enough to twist, it’s first necessary to cut through the inferior pulmonary ligament. This is also known as simply the pulmonary ligament (because there’s no superior equivalent) and sometimes the inferior hilar ligament. It’s not actually a ligament, but an extension of the parietal pleura extending downwards in a fold from the hilum. Some describe it as hanging down from the hilum like a ‘wizard’s sleeve’, which invariably gets a giggle from some of our trainees from the United Kingdom for some reason.

Hilar Twist


After cutting the ligament completely to the level of the inferior pulmonary vein, the lung is then twisted ‘lower lobe towards you’, ie. lower lobe is rotated anteriorly over the upper lobe until the lung is oriented ‘upside down’. The twisted vessels around the hilum become occluded and further haemorrhage from that side should be limited. Other priorities in the arrested patient will be aortic occlusion, internal cardiac massage, and blood products. Packs may be required to keep the lung from untwisting, and if return of spontaneous circulation is achieved, there is a risk of dysrhythmia, right heart failure, and refractory hypoxaemia.

I’ve only done this on pigs and human cadavers so am not speaking from any reassuring level of experience or competence. The literature is out there to read, and it’s up to you to decide how you want to expand or limit your options when you’ve cracked that chest in an arrested patient.


1. Flaris AN, Simms ER, Prat N, Reynard F, Caillot J-L, Voiglio EJ. Clamshell incision versus left anterolateral thoracotomy. Which one is faster when performing a resuscitative thoracotomy? The tortoise and the hare revisited. World J Surg. 2015 May;39(5):1306–11.

2. Simms ER, Flaris AN, Franchino X, Thomas MS, Caillot J-L, Voiglio EJ. Bilateral Anterior Thoracotomy (Clamshell Incision) Is the Ideal Emergency Thoracotomy Incision: An Anatomic Study. World J Surg. 2013 Feb 23;37(6):1277–85.

3. Wise D. Emergency thoracotomy: “how to do it.” Emerg Med J. 2005 Jan 1;22(1):22–4.

4. Davies GE, Lockey DJ. Thirteen Survivors of Prehospital Thoracotomy for Penetrating Trauma: A Prehospital Physician-Performed Resuscitation Procedure That Can Yield Good Results. The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. 2011 May;70(5):E75–8.

5. Wilson A, Wall MJ Jr., Maxson R, Mattox K. The pulmonary hilum twist as a thoracic damage control procedure. The American Journal of Surgery. 2003 Jul;186(1):49–52.

Louisa in London – Prehospital Lessons from LTC2015

The London Trauma Conference remains up there on my list of ‘must go’ conferences to attend. It marks the end of the year, fills me with hope and inspires me for the future. Unfortunately this year I was torn between the conference and the demands of clinical directorship so I could only get to the “Air Ambulance & Prehospital Care Day”. At least this way I’m saved from the dilemma of which sessions to attend!
So what were the highlights of the Prehospital Day? For me, they were Prehospital ECMO,’Picking Up the Pieces’, and the REBOA update.

Prehospital ECMO
Professor Pierre Carli gave us an update on prehospital ECMO. Professor Carli (not to be confused with the equally awesome Professor Carley) is the medical director of Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente (SAMU) in Paris. They’ve been doing prehospital ECMO in Paris since 2011 and the data analysed over three years reveals a 10% survival to hospital discharge rate. We know from the work in Asia that successful outcome following traditional cardiac arrest management and ECPR is related to the speed of the intervention. Transposing the time to intervention from his 2011 – 2013 data onto the survival curve that Chen et al produced explains why the success rate is limited:


The revised 2015 process aims to reduce the duration of CPR, reduce time to ECMO and therefore improve survival to discharge rates. They are doing this by dispatching the ECMO team earlier.

The eligibility criteria for ECPR is also changing; patients >18 and <75years, refractory cardiac arrest (defined as failure of ROSC after 20min of CPR), no flow for < 5 minutes with shockable rhythm or signs of life or hypothermia or intoxication, EtCO2 > 10mmHg at time of inclusion and no major comorbidity.

Already there appears to be an improvement with 16 patients treated using the revised protocol with 5 survivors (31%) – although we must be wary of the small numbers.
A concern that was expressed by the French Department of Health was the fear of a reduction in organ donation with the introduction of ECPR – it turns out that rates have remained stable. In fact the condition of non heart beating donated organs is better when ECMO has been instigated; the long term effects on organ donation are being assessed.

I’m without doubt that prehospital ECMO/ED ECMO is the future although currently in the UK our hospital systems aren’t ready for this. If you want to learn more then look at the ED ECMO site or book on one of the many emerging courses on ED ECMO including the one that is run by Dr Simon Finney at the London Trauma Conference, or if you want to go further afield you could try San Diego (although places are fully booked on the next course).

Picking Up the Pieces
The Keynote speaker was Professor Sir Simon Wessely. He is a psychiatrist with a specialist interest in military psychology and his brief was to describe to us the public response to traumatic incidents. He has worked with the military and in civilian situations. After the 7/7 London bombings the population of London was surveyed: those most likely to be affected were of lower social class, of Muslim faith, those that had a relative that was injured, those unsure of the safety of others, those with no previous experience of terrorism and those experiencing difficulty in contacting others by mobile phone. Obviously there are many factors that we cannot influence however on the basis of the last risk factor our response to incidents has changed – the active discouragement to make phone calls has been changed to a recommendation of making short calls to friends and relatives.
The previous practice of offering immediate psychological debriefing to those involved in incidents was discounted by Prof Wessely – his research demonstrated that this intervention was not only not required but could actually result in harm: only a minority have ongoing psychological distress that can benefit from formal psychological input, which should occur later.
The approach that should be taken is to allow that individual to utilise their own social networks (family, friends, and colleagues) and to accept that in some cases the individual may not want or need to talk. This has led to the development of the Trauma Risk Management (TRIM) system which provides individuals within organisations that are exposed to traumatic events the skills required to identify those at risk of developing psychological problems and to recognise the signs and symptoms of those in difficulty. To a certain extent we naturally do this for our peers – I have spent many a night sitting in the ‘Good Samaritan’ pub with colleagues from the Royal London Hospital and London’s Air Ambulance – but having a more formal system is probably of benefit to enable those who have ongoing difficulties to access additional support.

REBOA update
Finally, the REBOA update – Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta. One year on, Dr Sammy Sadek informed us that there are now more courses teaching the REBOA technique than there are (prehospital) patients that have received it. Over the last year only seven patients have qualified for this intervention in London, far fewer than they had anticipated. Another three patients died before REBOA could be instigated. All patients had a positive cardiovascular response. Four of the seven died from causes other than exsanguination. Is it worth all the effort and resource to deliver this intervention when such a select group will benefit?

Obviously there was much more covered in the day, this is just a taste. If you’ve never been to the London Trauma Conference then I definitely would recommend it and even if you have been before there are so many breakout sessions now there is always something for everyone.

More on the London Trauma Conference:

Merry Christmas and see you next year!

Louisa Chan

London Trauma Conference 2014 Part 1

I’ve travelled almost the entire length of England to get to the London Trauma Conference this year. What could be more important than attending one of the best conferences of the year? Examining for the DipRTM at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh

So was it worth the 4am start? Absolutely!

tomMy highlights would be Tom Evens explaining why trauma can be regarded like an elite sport. His background is as a sports coach in addition to his medical accomplishments and walking us through the journey he went through with the athlete he was coaching demonstrates the changes that need to occur when cultivating a performance culture and the results speak for themselves.

I can see similarities in the techniques used by athletes and those we are using in medicine now. Developing a highly performing team isn’t easy as anyone involved in the training of these teams will know.



jerry3Dr Jerry Nolan answered some questions about cervical spine movement in airway management. The most movement is seen in the upper cervical spine and there is no surprise that there is an increased incidence of cervical spine injury in unconscious patients (10%). The bottom line is that no movement clinicians will make of the cervical spine is greater than that at the time of injury. And whether it be basic airway manoeuvres, laryngoscopy or cricoid pressure the degree of movement is in the same ball park and unlikely to cause further injury. He states that he would use MILS like cricoid pressure and have a low threshold for releasing it if there are difficulties with the intubation. Of course many of us don’t use cricoid pressure in RSI anymore………..


After watching Tom and Jerry we heard that ATLS has had its day. Dr Matthew Wiles implores us to reserve ATLS for the inexperienced and move away from this outdated system and move to training in teams using local policies. The Cochrane reviewers found an increase in knowledge but no change in outcomes.

And finally Dr Deasy has convinced me that I will be replaced by a robot roaming around providing remote enhanced care. On the up side I might be the clinician providing that support.

More from me on this fantastic conference soon. In the meantime follow it on Twitter!



Bilateral fixed dilated pupils? Operate if extradural!

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.

Early femur fixation recommended

The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma recommends early (<24 hours) open reduction and internal fracture fixation in trauma patients with open or closed femur fractures.

They acknowledge the strength of the evidence is low, but suggests a trend toward lower risk of infection, mortality, and venous thromboembolic disease.

They conclude: “the desirable effects of early femur fracture stabilization probably outweigh the undesirable effects in most patients

Check out the rest of the EAST Trauma Guidelines

Optimal timing of femur fracture stabilization in polytrauma patients: A practice management guideline from the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 2014;77(5):787-795

Femur fractures are common among trauma patients and are typically seen in patients with multiple injuries resulting from high-energy mechanisms. Internal fixation with intramedullary nailing is the ideal method of treatment; however, there is no consensus regarding the optimal timing for internal fixation. We critically evaluated the literature regarding the benefit of early (<24 hours) versus late (>24 hours) open reduction and internal fixation of open or closed femur fractures on mortality, infection, and venous thromboembolism (VTE) in trauma patients.

A subcommittee of the Practice Management Guideline Committee of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis for the earlier question. RevMan software was used to generate forest plots. Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluations methodology was used to rate the quality of the evidence, using GRADEpro software to create evidence tables.

No significant reduction in mortality was associated with early stabilization, with a risk ratio (RR) of 0.74 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.50–1.08). The quality of evidence was rated as “low.” No significant reduction in infection (RR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.10–1.6) or VTE (RR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.37–1.07) was associated with early stabilization. The quality of evidence was rated “low.”

In trauma patients with open or closed femur fractures, we suggest early (<24 hours) open reduction and internal fracture fixation. This recommendation is conditional because the strength of the evidence is low. Early stabilization of femur fractures shows a trend (statistically insignificant) toward lower risk of infection, mortality, and VTE. Therefore, the panel concludes the desirable effects of early femur fracture stabilization probably outweigh the undesirable effects in most patients.

Blunt traumatic arrest in kids

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.

London Trauma Conference Day 4

London Trauma Conference Day 4 by Dr Louisa Chan

It’s the last day of the conference and new this year is the Neurotrauma Masterclass running in parallel with the main track which focuses on in-hospital care.

We heard a little from Mark Wilson yesterday. He believes we are missing a pre-hospital trick in traumatic brain injury. Early intervention is the key (he has data showing aggressive intervention for extradural haemorrhage in patients with fixed dilated pupils has good outcomes in 75%).

Today he taught us neurosurgery over lunch. If you have a spare moment over then go to his website and you too can learn how to be a brain surgeon!

Dr Gareth Davies talks about Impact Brain Apnoea. Many will not heard of this phenomenon. Clinicians rarely see patients early enough in their injury timeline to witness

Essentially this term describes the cessation of breathing after head injury. It has been described in older texts (first mentioned in 1894!) The period of apnoea increases with the severity of the injury and if non fatal will then recover to normal over a period of time. Prolonged apnoea results in hypotension.

This is a brain stem mediated effect with no structural injury.

The effect is exacerbated by alcohol and ameliorated by ventilatory support during the apnoeic phase.

Associated with this response is a catecholamine surge which exacerbates the cardiovascular collapse and he introduces the concept of Central Shock.

So how does this translate into the real world?

Well, could we be miscategorising patients that die before they reach hospital as succumbing to hypovolaemic when in fact they had central shock?

These patients essentially present with respiratory arrest, but do well with supported ventilation. Identification of these patients by emergency dispatchers with airway support could mean the difference between life and death.

Read more about this at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025619611642547

Prof Monty Mythen spoke on fluid management in the trauma patient after blood (not albumin, HES or colloids) and Prof Mervyn Singer explained the genetic contribution to the development of MODS after trauma.

LTC-BrohiProf Brohi gave us the lowdown on trauma laparotomies – not all are the same! With important human factors advice:

1. Task focus kills
2. Situational awareness saves lives
3. The best communication is non verbal
4. Train yourself to listen

Prof Susan Brundage is a US trauma surgeon who has been recruited into the Bart’s and the London School of Medicine and the Royal College of Surgeons of England International Masters in Trauma Sciences for her trauma expertise.

She tells us that MOOCs and FOAM are changing education. Whilst education communities are being formed, she warns of the potential pitfalls of this form of education with a proportion of participants not fully engaged.

The Masters program is growing and if you’re interested you can read more here.

This has been a full on conference, with great learning points.

Hopefully see you next year!

London Trauma Conference Day 3

Dr Louisa Chan reports on Day 3 of the London Trauma Conference

There was a jam-packed line up for the Pre-hospital and Air Ambulance Day which was Co-hosted by the Norwegian Air Ambulance Foundation.

My highlights were:


Dr Rasmus Hesselfeldt works in Denmark where they have a pretty good EMS system with ambulances, RRV’s and PHC doctors. Road conditions are good with the longest travel distance of 114 miles. So would the introduction of a HEMS service improve outcomes? He did an observational study looking at year of data post-trial and compared this with 5 months pre-trial. Trauma patients with ISS > 15 and medical emergencies greater than 30 min by road to the Trauma Centre (TC). Primary endpoint was time to TC, secondary outcomes were number of secondary transfers and 30 day mortality.

Results: Increase in on scene time 20 min vs 28 min, time to hospital increased but time to TC was less – 218 min vs 90 min, reduced mortality, increased direct transfer to TC and fewer secondary transfers.

Full article here: A helicopter emergency medical service may allow faster access to highly specialised care. Dan Med J. 2013 Jul;60(7):A4647



Prof Dan Davis ran through pre-hospital intubation. It seems that this man has spent his life trying to perfect airway management. Peter Rosen was his mentor and imprinted on him that RSI is the cornerstone of airway management.

So surely pre-hospital intubation saves lives. The evidence however begs to differ, or does it? As with all evidence we need to consider the validity of the results and luckily Prof Davis has spent a lot of time thinking through the reasons why there no evidence.

During his research he opened a huge can of worms:
1. Hyperventilation was common – any EtCO2 <30mmHg lead to a doubling in mortality.
2. First pass intubation is great, but not if you let your patient become hypoxic or hypotension or worse still both!
3. Hospital practice had similar issues.

So really the RSI processes he was looking at weren’t great.

The good news is that things have improved and he can now boast higher first pass rates and lower complication rates for his EMS system. His puts this success down to training.



AIRPORT-LTCThe AIRPORT study was discussed at last years LTC. This year we have the results. 21 HEMS services in 6 countries were involved in the data collection including GSA HEMS. The headline findings are that intubation success rates are high (98%) with a complication rate of 10-12%. The more difficult airways were seen in the non-trauma group. 28.2% patients died (mainly cardiac arrest).



Matt Thomas reported on REVIVE – a pre-hospital feasibility study looking at airway management in OHCA (I-Gel vs LMA Supreme vs standard care). It was never powered to show a difference in these groups, the main aim was to see if research in this very challenging area was possible. And the answer is YES. The paramedics involved recruited more patients than expected and stuck to the protocol (prob better that docs would have!). A randomised controlled trial to look at the I-Gel vs ETT is planned.



ReboaLTCFinally, Pre-hospital Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta (REBOA) seems eminently possible – Dr Nils Petter Oveland showed us the training manikin they developed for training. Through training on this manikin they achieved an average skin to balloon time of 3.3mins. Animal data supports this procedure as a bridge to definitive care in non compressible haemorrhage.

London HEMS will be starting (P)REBOA in the New Year.

So now it’s stand up science, I’m off for my glass of wine…………….

Check out what they’re saying about the London Trauma Conference on Twitter

Guidelines on prehospital drug-assisted LMA insertion

The UK’s Faculty of Prehospital Care has published a number of consensus guidelines in this month’s EMJ

Dr Minh Le Cong‘s PHARM blog has summaries of three of them:

The final one is the most contentious: Pharmacologically assisted laryngeal mask insertion: a consensus statement(1). Here is the summary:

  1. The PALM technique is an acceptable tool for managing the prehospital airway
  2. The PALM technique is indicated in a rare set of circumstances
  3. The PALM procedure is a rescue technique
  4. The PALM procedure should be checklist driven
  5. At least a second generation SAD should be used
  6. End-tidal CO2 monitoring is mandatory
  7. No preference is expressed for any particular drug
  8. No preference is expressed for any particular dosing regime
  9. Flumazenil is highly unlikely to have a role in managing the PALM patient
  10. The PALM procedure should only be carried out by practitioners of level 7 or above competences
  11. The availability of a trained assistant, familiar with the procedure would be advantageous
  12. The training required to achieve competency in performing the PALM procedure must include in-hospital insertion of SADs, simulation training and training in the transfer of critically ill patients
  13. Data should be collected and collated at a national level for all patients who receive the PALM procedure

They qualify the first point with the statement: The consensus group felt that, in the hands of a specific set of practitioners and in certain circumstances, patients would benefit from the technique. It was recognised that pre-hospital airway management can be very challenging, and deeming the technique unacceptable could deprive patients of a potentially life saving intervention. It was felt that having another tool available to clinicians which could potentially improve patient outcome was important. This was despite the lack of a robust evidence base. It was felt that the technique is indicated in, and should be limited to, a very specific set of circumstances as described below

The publication lists some ‘Organisations represented at the consensus meeting’, which include some commercial training and equipment companies.

It also states that ‘The Royal College of Anaesthetists, although represented at the initial meeting, was unable to support the outcomes agreed by the other represented organisations.

This is a very interesting development. I can see the pros and cons of this. Since practitioners are out there doing PALM anyway, it is in the interests of patients to produce a statement that encourages monitoring, checklists, training, and data collection. To meet all the requirements, one must undergo ‘training in the transfer of critically ill patients’, which would normally necessitate more advanced airway and anaesthesia skills anyway.

A tough one – what would you want if there was no RSI capability but you were hypoxic with trismus and basic airway maneouvres were failing? An all out ban on PALM, or PALM provided by someone trained in surgical airway if it fails (as per the consensus recommendations)?

This and some of the other statements can be downloaded in full at the Faculty of Pre-hospital Care site

1. Pharmacologically assisted laryngeal mask insertion: a consensus statement
Emerg Med J. 2013 Dec;30(12):1073-5

Blood products in trauma & survivor bias

Esky-label.001The observation that patients with haemorrhagic trauma in military and civilian settings do better if they receive coagulation factors and platelets is yet to be replicated in a randomised trial. It has been suggested that the effect may in part be a consequence of survivor bias – ie. that if a patient lives long enough to received some thawed fresh frozen plasma, then they were already more likely to be a survivor and therefore more survivors will be represented in the ‘FFP’ groups vs a ‘no-FFP’ comparison group.

An attempt to eliminate survivor bias was made in the PROMMTT study, which documented the timing of transfusions during active resuscitation and patient outcomes in adult trauma patients who received a transfusion of at least 1 unit of RBCs within 6 hours of admission.

Increased ratios of plasma:RBCs and platelets:RBCs were independently associated with decreased 6-hour mortality, when haemorrhagic death predominated. In the first 6 hours, patients with ratios less than 1:2 were 3 to 4 times more likely to die than patients with ratios of 1:1 or higher.

A prospective trial is underway to identify the optimal ratio of blood products, in the PROPPR study, in which 1:1:1 ratio of plasma:platelets:RBC will be compared with 1:1:2.

The Prospective, Observational, Multicenter, Major Trauma Transfusion (PROMMTT) Study
Arch Surg. 2012 Oct 15:1-10

Objective: To relate in-hospital mortality to early transfusion of plasma and/or platelets and to time-varying plasma:red blood cell (RBC) and platelet:RBC ratios.

Design: Prospective cohort study documenting the timing of transfusions during active resuscitation and patient outcomes. Data were analyzed using time-dependent proportional hazards models.

Setting: Ten US level I trauma centers.

Patients: Adult trauma patients surviving for 30 minutes after admission who received a transfusion of at least 1 unit of RBCs within 6 hours of admission (n = 1245, the original study group) and at least 3 total units (of RBCs, plasma, or platelets) within 24 hours (n = 905, the analysis group).

Main Outcome Measure: In-hospital mortality.

Results: Plasma:RBC and platelet:RBC ratios were not constant during the first 24 hours (P < .001 for both). In a multivariable time-dependent Cox model, increased ratios of plasma:RBCs (adjusted hazard ratio = 0.31; 95% CI, 0.16-0.58) and platelets:RBCs (adjusted hazard ratio = 0.55; 95% CI, 0.31-0.98) were independently associated with decreased 6-hour mortality, when hemorrhagic death predominated. In the first 6 hours, patients with ratios less than 1:2 were 3 to 4 times more likely to die than patients with ratios of 1:1 or higher. After 24 hours, plasma and platelet ratios were unassociated with mortality, when competing risks from nonhemorrhagic causes prevailed.

Conclusions: Higher plasma and platelet ratios early in resuscitation were associated with decreased mortality in patients who received transfusions of at least 3 units of blood products during the first 24 hours after admission. Among survivors at 24 hours, the subsequent risk of death by day 30 was not associated with plasma or platelet ratios.