EMS MEd Blog

Stroke Destination: An Opportunity for Innovation in System Design

Clinical Scenario:

In June, we posted the following scenario for comment:

EMS is called to the scene of a “possible stroke”.  The patient is a 75 yo female who was last known normal at 8 pm the night before when she went to bed with plans to watch TV before going to sleep.  She fell when she tried to get out of bed at 7 am.  Her daughter lives with her and heard her fall. When she came into the room, she noted that her mother had a right facial droop, right arm and right leg weakness. She also was unable to speak coherently.  The ambulance arrives on scene at 7:30 am and the EMT performs a Cincinnati stroke scale and confirms the findings reported by the patient’s daughter.   

The patient lives 20 minutes away from a community hospital which is designated as a primary stroke center.  The comprehensive stroke center with endovascular capability is located an hour away.

Where should the patient be taken?  What pre-notification alarm bells should be rung?  What criteria should EMS systems use to make these transportation decisions in a way that best serves patients without overburdening both the EMS system and comprehensive stroke centers?

We got many thoughtful comments on the above scenario that highlight the complexity of the systems-of-care decisions that face EMS on a local, regional and national level.


Background:  The Changing Landscape of Stroke care

Only incremental changes in stroke treatment occurred after the approval of IV tPA in 1996 which established a 3 hour window for IV thrombolysis.  After publication of the European trial ECASS III in 2008, the window extended to 3-4.5 hours.   But in 2015, a number of clinical trials were published that dramatically increased the management options available for the treatment of stroke patients and challenged the EMS community to change their destination protocols for stroke patients.  These 5 trials, MR. CLEAN, ESCAPE, SWIFT-PRIME, REVASCAT, and EXTEND-IA,  demonstrated that patients with NIHSS > 6 and proven large vessel occlusion by CT-angiogram may benefit from endovascular reperfusion therapy if they present within 6 hrs of stroke onset [1,2,3,4,5].   A subsequent metanalysis (HERMES) concluded that there may be potential benefit out to 7.3 hours after stroke onset [6].

Similarly to trauma centers, stroke centers are not all equivalent:

-        Primary stroke centers (PSCs) provide good stroke care and intravenous tPA

-        Thrombectomy-capable PSC can do everything a PSC does, but also has the capability to perform mechanical thrombectomy

-        Comprehensive Stroke Centers (CSC) have all of the above, plus extensive resources managing the most complicated patients with dedicated Neuro ICU, neurosurgical services, research and educational resources. 

Given the different capabilities of potential destinations, two main issues complicated EMS transport considerations:

(1)   To be eligible for endovascular therapy patients had to have a proven large vessel occlusion on CT angiogram. EMS needed to screen effectively for large vessel occlusions in the field using physical exam.  A number of scales were developed for this purpose, with varying and less than optimal sensitivity and specificity [7-14, Table 1].

(2)   Most of the patients in the above trials received tPA prior to going to endovascular therapy.  In many areas, bypassing a primary stroke center capable of administering tPA in favor of going directly to a comprehensive stroke center would place patients out of the tPA window.

 Table 1:  Sensitivity and Specificity for Prehospital Screens for Large Vessel Occlusion

Table 1:  Sensitivity and Specificity for Prehospital Screens for Large Vessel Occlusion

Above and beyond this, getting the right patient to the right place at the right time also included considerations for not overburdening Comprehensive stroke centers and excluding primary stroke centers.   Primarily in response to the above, the Mission: Lifeline Stroke was formed and  developed a Severity-Based Stroke Triage Algorithm for EMS to balance the competing demands of time to tPA, access to endovascular capability and overtriage/undertriage to comprehensive stroke centers.

While EMS was still collaboratively identifying best-practices for patients with possible LVO presenting within 6 hrs of last known normal, two other studies were published last summer which again challenged us reexamine our stroke process of care by extending the time window of patients eligible for endovascular treatment. 

The DAWN trial was a prospective, randomized, open-label clinical trial comparing thrombectomy plus standard care vs. standard care [15]. The trial included patients with the following characteristics:

  • Last known well between 6 to 24 hrs
  • NIHSS > 10
  • Imaging-confirmed large vessel occlusion (ICA or proximal MCA)
  • Mismatch between severity of clinical deficit and the infarct volume as determined by perfusion imaging.

The trial found a significant difference in functional independence at 90 days (49% for thrombectomy arm, 13% for standard care, p < 0.001) but no difference in 90 day mortality.

The DEFUSE-3 trial  was a randomized, open-label trial with blinded outcome assessment that compared thrombectomy + medical therapy vs. medical therapy alone [16].  The trial included patients with:

  • Last known well between 6 to 16 hrs
  • NIHSS ≥ 6
  • Imaging-confirmed large vessel occlusion (ICA or proximal MCA)
  • Initial infarct size of < 70 ml
  • Evidence of salvageable ischemic tissue on perfusion imaging defined as ratio of the volume of ischemic tissue on perfusion imaging to infarct volume of ≥1.8

Similarly to the DAWN trial, DEFUSE- found a significant improvement in functional independence at 90 days (endovascular therapy 45%, medical therapy 17%, p < 0.001).

Both trials included patients with severe deficits.  Mean and Inter-quartile range NIHSS for patients receiving thrombectomy in the DAWN and DEFUSE-3 trials were 17 (13-21) and 16 (10-20), respectively   

These trials present several new challenges for EMS transport decisions:

(1)   Patients who are clearly ineligible for IV tPA are included, leading to less competition between transport time to comprehensive stroke center (CSC) and tPA eligibility for a significant proportion of stroke patients.

(2)   The time criteria are broadened and include the very important population of “wake-up” strokes which made up a significant proportion of the LVO stroke population in the above trials. While broadening the population of patients to be screened for eligibility for endovascular therapy, the criteria are actually very narrow and imaging-based, increasing the possibility of a significant amount of over-triage to comprehensive stroke centers. In one retrospective review of all patients with acute ischemic stroke presenting to a Comprehensive Stroke Center only 1.7% of all patients would have qualified for DAWN enrollment with an additional 0.6 – 1.0% meeting DEFUSE-3 criteria. [17]. Moreover, while CT angiogram may be available at many primary stroke centers, the imaging software (like was utilized for patient selection in both DAWN and DEFUSE III) to evaluate perfusion is unlikely to be.

The comments we received on this post presented a number of responses and potential solutions to these challenges.


Comment Review:  The Brainstorming Phase and Regional Solutions

The Right Patient

 Dr. Aurora Lybeck made several great comments on this post.  She made the very important point that the first step in patient identification starts with the EMT or paramedic at the patient’s side.  Stating that “we shall use X… “ to screen for LVO without providing appropriate education and feedback to the provider at the patient’s side will decrease the sensitivity, specificity and utility of validated prehospital LVO screens:

 I think there are a few questions to answer before considering if we SHOULD as EMS to screen for LVO strokes and bypass PSCs for CSCs. 1) Can EMS reliably screen for LVO strokes and 2) What benefit is bypassing PSCs and going straight to a CSC going to have to the patient (a small margin of benefit or a large clinically significant benefit) and 3) what is the acceptable over-triage rates at the CSCs?

With regards to training, we can gather some of the evidence that demonstrates that EMTs can successfully perform one of the screening tests (LAPSS, CPSS, LAMS, RACE, or even a full NIHSS), but the implementation of that in a real-life EMS system with not just new training and competency expectations, but also embedded in a new protocol and transport guidelines that can sometimes be confusing depending on geography etc. If you are one medical director and/or educator and have hundreds of EMTs/paramedics, how are you going to adequately train them all? Have them practice the exam? Ensure competency? Scenarios or simulation? It may be possible with a smaller service or one with robust education but in reality, it's an important skill that requires not just skill training but critical thinking and a high degree of clinical competency.” – Aurora Lybeck

 If system-design changes are to succeed, they must include plans for involvement and education of the field provider if they are to effectively improve patient outcomes.


 The Right Place at the Right Time

From a system standpoint, the outcome benefit of endovascular therapy for a very select group of patients must be balanced with resource utilization within the system as a whole.  While it is easy to say that every potential LVO should go to a Comprehensive stroke center, this “transport intervention” could come with a significant amount of unnecessary overtriage that may overburden already-overcrowded centers and add significant cost to the system.

Several of the commenters specifically addressed the issue of over-triage to comprehensive stroke centers.  While there was general consensus that embolectomy candidates should be taken to CSC, there was variability in what their path to the stroke center should be.  In some cases, it was felt that prehospital LVO scale was sufficient to warrant PSC bypass.  In others, there was consideration whether the role of the PSC could still play a critical role in the care of these patients by offering a “secondary screen” in which imaging criteria was used to further narrow embolectomy candidates in such a way that significant time was not lost. While in the end this will vary by region structure and resources, these comments highlight the importance of considering different solutions to the same problem, implementing effective system metrics and measuring patient outcomes:

If the patient has signs and symptoms of a large vessel occlusion than bypass the primary stroke center for the comprehensive stroke center because tpa alone at the primary may not be effective against the large clot and clot retrieval will be needed anyway, I think???” – Kyle

 “RACE LAMS or CPSSS positive for LVO need to go to a comprehensive center. These are the prehospitally validated scales for LVO. If it is to far or time intensive call the helicopter. We are happy to help because time is brain and minutes matter.” – Bill K

What criteria should EMS systems use to make these transportation decisions in a way that best serves patients without overburdening both the EMS system and comprehensive stroke centers?
- Patient time since last known to be normal
- Willingness of comprehensive stroke center to be OK with a certain amount of over triage
.” – Greg Friese

RACE LAMS or CPSSS positive for LVO need to go to a comprehensive center. These are the prehospitally validated scales for LVO. If it is to far or time intensive call the helicopter. We are happy to help because time is brain and minutes matter.” – Bill K

We have to be careful when considering this question and come to an answer in a vacuum. EMS triage and destination is critical. But those decisions need to be made in the context of the system of care in region. A regional system of care where the primary stroke center (PSC) can perform a CTA immediately on arrival and upload it to a cloud based imaging viewer that the comprehensive stroke center (CSC) can also immediately review allows the PSC to perform the critical initial function of identifying those that are candidates for embolectomy. Add that to a system where inter-facility transport can be rapidly secured or even auto-launched, the OR can be mobilized ahead of patient arrival, and the patient can be brought directly to the OR at the CSC, and the initial medical contact by EMS to CSC groin puncture time will likely be the same or even less than if the patient was triaged pre-hospital to bypass the PSC and go to the CSC. If too many patients get triaged prehospital to the CSC, then the CSC's resources (personnel, scanners, ED beds, neuro beds) may be overwhelmed and their ability to provide care to their LVO-strokes will be compromised. If there is no LVO or they have an LVO, but aren't a candidate for embolectomy based on the initial imaging acquired, they can be cared for just as well at the PSC as at the CSC in most cases.” - Chris Zammit

Great discussion!
In this patient with wake up stroke I would transport to PSC first. Although she does have a LA Motor Score/CSTAT and RACE concerning for LVO she is a wake up and would need both a primary stroke work up (CT to evaluate for hemorrhage and CTA head and neck to identify if she has LVO lesion) It the CTA is positive then perform CTP or DWMRI to evaluate if she fits the criteria set fourth by the DAWN trial or DEFFUSE 3 for reperfusion. I believe most of this can be done at the PSC if there is a prior algorithm with EMS and cooperation for door in door out transfer direct to intervention to the CSC if she has an LVO and fits criteria.”
– Rob Dickson

So, if we decide that based on the evidence, an EMT can indeed be taught the chosen LVO screening exam and can indeed implement it within a new stroke transport destination protocol and can retain the skill and demonstrate competency over time, now how is that implemented in a given service or area? Some protocols will suggest a given time guidelines (ie if there is a CSC within 30 min, or bypassing a PSC would not extend the patient's ED arrival more than 20 minutes for example). But there is little to no evidence to guide us on how to geographically on transport- not to mention the reality of time estimates that many of us recognize from practicing in the field. If you plop yourself at any given residential address within your service area, do you know exactly how far you are from the closest PSC? CSC? The difference between those sites? Are they supposed to pull up a map with estimated arrival times and calculate the difference? There is so much subjectivity there, it's worth considering all the possible scenarios before implementing a change as important as bypassing a PSC. For some areas, it's a moot point. Where I trained in residency and in fellowship, we were in major metropolitan areas, where a CSC is rarely more than 15-20 minutes away. Unless your PSC is in the complete opposite direction and you're on the edge of the city, there is likely more to gain and less to lose by choosing the CSC over the PSC- as long as that CSC is willing to accept a lot more stroke patients, knowing that EMS may just default to the "easy" decision of bringing all stroke patients to the CSC (not saying it's the right decision, but with complex decision making we know the easiest generalization is often chosen regardless of the protocol minutiae). However, I currently practice in a more rural and suburban area, where the CSC may be over an hour away. For many of our services, it wouldn't make any sense to implement screening and new protocols for LVO occlusion when their closest local facility is a PSC and transporting to the CSC would be a delay long enough to exclude some patients from receiving TPA if they are not interventional candidates- those patients are much better served being brought to the local PSC, treated with TPA if eligible, and transported to the CSC for intervention if indeed an LVO and eligible for endovascular intervention- ie the model we are currently using.” – Aurora Lybeck


One other consideration for transport time is patient stability balanced with the clinical skills/training of the field provider:

Where should the patient be taken?
If I am in the story as an EMT ... I am going to the nearest hospital. An hour feels like a long time to be with a patient who potentially needs ALS interventions.”
– Greg Friese

Agree with Greg as well that there are considerations of long transport and risk of airway compromise so provider level of training and capability has to play a role. Also we must consider geographic location and strain on resources from having a truck out of service for 3 hours on this transport.
Lot's depends on geography and capabilities of your particular system
” - Rob Dickson


In his expert review of this post, Dr. Pete Panagos (Co-Chair of Mission:Lifeline Stroke) wrote the following:

A big issue also to at least mention is door-in-door-out (DIDO) from PSC to CSC.  IF the decision is to always go to nearest/closest stroke center, then the PSC, and EMS, must be committed to rapid identification, evaluation and transfer out, literally within 30-60 minutes of arrival and/or decision to transfer.


Don’t Forget the Basics

 Overall, while I think the prospect of identifying LVOs in the field accurately and transporting them to the most definitive care/CSC is exciting and their expedited treatment and recovery is a clinically important outcome to focus on, I don't want to lose sight of excellent basic stroke care for all patients. For high functioning urban systems with robust education and training that can implement such new screening skills and protocols, maintain competency, and demonstrate success in patient outcomes and acceptable over-triage rates to the CSCs, I think it's great. For most other services though, I think that time in education and emphasis is best spent on excellent basic prehospital stroke care- timely, accurate, checking a glucose and performing a basic Cincinnati stroke scale, appropriate monitoring, sending a stroke alert to the nearest appropriate facility, and bringing the patient straight to CT for the ED team to jump into action. Who knows, maybe someday our more rural services will start identifying LVO strokes and utilizing our HEMS services to get them to a CSC in the future. Thank you to everyone out there putting the time and passion into researching, implementing and closely QA'ing these new clinical changes. Looking forward to the research that will come out of all the systems out there implementing LVO screening by EMS, and certainly hope to see a significant clinical benefit to patients!

For reference and example, here are some Wisconsin LVO protocols currently in use:
-Milwaukee's (using BEFAST): http://county.milwaukee.gov/ImageLibrary/Groups/cntyOEM/EMS/Standards-of-care/Cardio/Stroke2018.pdf
-Madison/Dane County's (using FAST-ED, see page 73): https://em-ems.countyofdane.com/documents/pdf/2018%20DRAFT%20EMS%20Protocols%20-%20DRAFT/DCEMS%20Protocols_%203.9.18%20FINAL%20(web).pdf
-LaCrosse/TriState (using FAST-ED, see page 28): http://www.tristateambulance.org/documents/TSA%20Medical%20Guidelines.pdf
– Aurora Lybeck


Last Words

 Why would it be necessary for EMS to make this decision alone? Call stroke alert and report to online medical control” – Mario

Prehospital stroke care does not exist in isolation. The advent of endovascular therapy for stroke challenges the specialty of EMS to  take innovative approaches to system design that incorporate best evidence to improve patient outcomes while balancing the strain on resources.  The best solutions will consider regional factors, focus on field provider education and value comprehensive quality improvement initiatives that acknowledge the critical role of the EMS provider in the stroke care continuum.


Discussion Summary by EMS MEd Editor, Maia Dorsett MD PhD (@maiadorsett)

Peer Reviewed by Peter Panagos, MD (@panagos_peter)


 1. Berkhemer, O. A., Fransen, P. S., Beumer, D., Van Den Berg, L. A., Lingsma, H. F., Yoo, A. J., ... & van Walderveen, M. A. (2015). A randomized trial of intraarterial treatment for acute ischemic stroke. New England Journal of Medicine372(1), 11-20.

2. Goyal, M., Demchuk, A. M., Menon, B. K., Eesa, M., Rempel, J. L., Thornton, J., ... & Dowlatshahi, D. (2015). Randomized assessment of rapid endovascular treatment of ischemic stroke. New England Journal of Medicine372(11), 1019-1030.

3. Saver, J. L., Goyal, M., Bonafe, A., Diener, H. C., Levy, E. I., Pereira, V. M., ... & Jansen, O. (2015). Stent-retriever thrombectomy after intravenous t-PA vs. t-PA alone in stroke. New England Journal of Medicine372(24), 2285-2295.

4. Jovin, T. G., Chamorro, A., Cobo, E., de Miquel, M. A., Molina, C. A., Rovira, A., ... & Millán, M. (2015). Thrombectomy within 8 hours after symptom onset in ischemic stroke. New England Journal of Medicine372(24), 2296-2306.

5. Campbell, B. C., Mitchell, P. J., Kleinig, T. J., Dewey, H. M., Churilov, L., Yassi, N., ... & Wu, T. Y. (2015). Endovascular therapy for ischemic stroke with perfusion-imaging selection. New England Journal of Medicine372(11), 1009-1018.

6. Goyal, M., Menon, B. K., Van Zwam, W. H., Dippel, D. W., Mitchell, P. J., Demchuk, A. M., ... & Donnan, G. A. (2016). Endovascular thrombectomy after large-vessel ischaemic stroke: a meta-analysis of individual patient data from five randomised trials. The Lancet387(10029), 1723-1731.

7. Nazliel, B., Starkman, S., Liebeskind, D. S., Ovbiagele, B., Kim, D., Sanossian, N., ... & Duckwiler, G. (2008). A brief prehospital stroke severity scale identifies ischemic stroke patients harboring persisting large arterial occlusions. Stroke39(8), 2264-2267.

8.  de la Ossa, N. P., Carrera, D., Gorchs, M., Querol, M., Millán, M., Gomis, M., ... & Escalada, X. (2014). Design and validation of a prehospital stroke scale to predict large arterial occlusion: the rapid arterial occlusion evaluation scale. Stroke45(1), 87-91.

9.  Katz, B. S., McMullan, J. T., Sucharew, H., Adeoye, O., & Broderick, J. P. (2015). Design and validation of a prehospital scale to predict stroke severity: Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Severity Scale. Stroke, STROKEAHA-115.

10.  Kummer, B. R., Gialdini, G., Sevush, J. L., Kamel, H., Patsalides, A., & Navi, B. B. (2016). External validation of the cincinnati prehospital stroke severity scale. Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases25(5), 1270-1274.

11.  Lima, F. O., Silva, G. S., Furie, K. L., Frankel, M. R., Lev, M. H., Camargo, É. C., ... & Nogueira, R. G. (2016). Field assessment stroke triage for emergency destination: a simple and accurate prehospital scale to detect large vessel occlusion strokes. Stroke47(8), 1997-2002.

12.  Hastrup, S., Damgaard, D., Johnsen, S. P., & Andersen, G. (2016). Prehospital acute stroke severity scale to predict large artery occlusion: design and comparison with other scales. Stroke, STROKEAHA-115.

13.  Demeestere, J., Garcia-Esperon, C., Lin, L., Bivard, A., Ang, T., Smoll, N. R., ... & Parsons, M. (2017). Validation of the National Institutes of Health stroke scale-8 to detect large vessel occlusion in ischemic stroke. Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases26(7), 1419-1426.

14.  McMullan, J. T., Katz, B., Broderick, J., Schmit, P., Sucharew, H., & Adeoye, O. (2017). Prospective prehospital evaluation of the Cincinnati stroke triage assessment tool. Prehospital Emergency Care21(4), 481-488.

15. Nogueira, R. G., Jadhav, A. P., Haussen, D. C., Bonafe, A., Budzik, R. F., Bhuva, P., ... & Sila, C. A. (2018). Thrombectomy 6 to 24 hours after stroke with a mismatch between deficit and infarct. New England Journal of Medicine378(1), 11-21.

16. Albers, G. W., Marks, M. P., Kemp, S., Christensen, S., Tsai, J. P., Ortega-Gutierrez, S., ... & Sarraj, A. (2018). Thrombectomy for stroke at 6 to 16 hours with selection by perfusion imaging. New England Journal of Medicine378(8), 708-718.

17. Jadhav, A. Desai, S., Kenmuir C, Rocha, M, Starr, M, Molyneaux, B, Gross, B, Jankowitz, B, Jovin, T. (2018).  Eligibility for Endovascular Trial Enrollment in the 6- to24- hour time window: Analysis of a Single Comprehensive Stroke Center. Stroke. 49:00-00.



Article Bites #4: Learning from the Military - Association between Prehospital Blood Product transfusion & survival for Combat Casualties



Association of Prehospital Blood Product Transfusion During Medical Evacuation of Combat Casualties in Afghanistan With Acute and 30-Day Survival

Shackelford SA, Del junco DJ, Powell-Dunford N, et al. Association of Prehospital Blood Product Transfusion During Medical Evacuation of Combat Casualties in Afghanistan With Acute and 30-Day Survival. JAMA. 2017;318(16):1581-1591. [PMID: 2906742]

Background & Objectives:

Given that hemorrhage is the leading cause of death in patients suffering from severe traumatic injuries, the utility of prehospital blood product transfusion has been a highly debated topic. Despite the important role of early transfusion in the management of hemorrhagic shock, the majority of published data at this time has shown inconclusive findings with regards to survival benefit from prehospital blood product transfusion, particularly within civilian trauma systems. Many of these studies suffered from significant flaws, and therefore, the verdict is still out on the role of prehospital transfusion. The purpose of this study was to address these deficiencies in the medical literature by studying the effect of prehospital transfusion within the context of the US military experience on MEDEVAC aircraft in Afghanistan. More specifically, the authors of this manuscript wanted to study the following question: Is prehospital blood product transfusion among military combat casualties associated with improved survival at 24 hours and at 30 days?


The investigators conducted a retrospective cohort study of US military combat casualties in Afghanistan between April 1, 2012 and August 7, 2015. Patients were recruited from the Department of Defense trauma registry, the prehospital trauma registry, and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Database. Inclusion in the study was predicated on the following criteria being met: 

1.     US military service member who survived until MEDEVAC rescue from point of injury AND

2.     At least 1 of the following criteria for prehospital transfusion for severe trauma 

· 1 or more traumatic limb amputations with at least 1 amputation located above the knee or elbow OR 

· Hemorrhagic shock defined by systolic blood pressure <90 mmHg or heart rate >120 beats per minute 

The interventions that were examined were 1) initiation of prehospital transfusion (red blood cells and/or plasma) and 2) minutes from MEDEVAC rescue to initiation of transfusion regardless of setting (i.e. in the field vs surgical hospital). As stated earlier, the key outcomes that were examined were survival at 24 hours and at 30 days. Interestingly, the investigators compared individuals who received prehospital transfusion to nonrecipients of prehospital transfusion. These individuals were frequency matched based on 5 characteristics including mechanism of injury, prehospital shock, type and severity of traumatic limb amputation hemorrhagic torso injury assessed by Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) and finally severity of head injury assessed by AIS score. Using Cox regression analysis, further stratification was performed and adjusted for age, injury year, transport team, tourniquet use and time to MEDEVAC rescue. 

Key Results:

During the specified time frame of the study, there were 502 casualties who met inclusion criteria. 55 individuals received prehospital transfusion vs 447 individuals who did not receive transfusion. Of these individuals who did not receive transfusion, 345 were frequency matched to prehospital transfusion recipients based on the characteristics mentioned above. The key findings were as follows:

With respect to the entire study population:

· Within 24 hours of MEDEVAC rescue, 3/55 (5%) of prehospital transfusion recipients died compared to 85/447 (19%) of non-recipients (between group difference -14%; 95% CI -21% to -6%; p=0.01). 

· Within 30 days of MEDEVAC rescue, 6 prehospital transfusion recipients died (11%) compared to 102 non-recipients (23%) (between group difference -12%; 95% CI -21% to -2%; p=0.04)

With respect to matched study cohorts:

· Within 24 hours of MEDEVAC rescue, 3 (5%) prehospital transfusion recipients died compared 69 (20%) matched non-recipients (between group difference -15%; 95% CI -22% to -7%; p=0.007)

· Within 30 days of MEDEVAC rescue, 6 (11%) prehospital transfusion recipients died  compared to 78 (23%) matched non-recipients (Between group difference -12%; 95% CI -21% to -2%; p=0.05)

With respect to survival analysis:

· Among the 386 patients within the matched groups, adjusted hazard ratios were calculated. The investigators reported the adjusted hazard ratio for mortality to be 0.26 (95% CI 0.08 to 0.84; p=0.02) within the first 24 hours. Within the first 30 days, the adjusted hazard ratio for mortality was 0.39 (95% CI 0.16 to 0.92; p=0.03). 

With respect to time to first transfusion:

· The study revealed that time to initial transfusion was associated with reduced mortality within 24 hours only up to the first 15 minutes after MEDEVAC rescue (adjusted hazard ratio 0.17 95% CI 0.04-0.73; p = 0.02)


· For US military casualties in Afghanistan, prehospital blood transfusion was associated with a statistically significant improvement in survival at 24 hours and 30 days compared with a matched sample that received no prehospital transfusion. 

· Early prehospital transfusion was associated with improved mortality but only within the first 15 minutes of MEDEVAC rescue. 


What this means for EMS:

There is no question that civilian trauma care has been greatly influenced by lessons learned on the battlefield. While this study performed on MEDEVAC helicopters in Afghanistan supports the notion that improved mortality can be achieved with prehospital blood transfusion for hemorrhagic shock, the translation of these findings to EMS systems back home may be more challenging. For starters, the logistical implementation of prehospital blood transfusion would require massive utilization of precious resources. Refrigeration, coordination with blood banks and hospitals, and care as to avoid wasting of life saving blood products are few of the many obstacles to ubiquitous implementation of prehospital blood transfusion in the civilian EMS world. Furthermore, the advanced resuscitative capabilities of MEDEVAC aircraft may not always be readily available in civilian systems, which may have accounted for the improved mortality observed in the study. Overall, while the results from the study were extremely encouraging, more research needs to be done to evaluate the precise role of prehospital transfusion in civilian EMS settings. 


Mentorship Matters.

By Christopher Galton, MD NRP


When we start our EMS careers, the path forward seems easy.  You want to run every great call there is to run and you tell yourself that the path to becoming the best paramedic or EMT is through sticking tubes into people, covering up holes in the chest, and driving fast down the road.  After a few years, most of us realize that longevity in this career comes from being satisfied with the less sexy calls.  I was recently standing around with a group of EMS colleagues and we were talking about how the people that stay in this career don't depend on the drama to keep them going.  This discussion got me thinking about the value of mentorship.

My three.

Three very important people in my career shaped the paramedic and physician that I am today.   These three people helped guide me toward a healthy EMS career and are a large part of why I continue to work in EMS even though the cost to my personal life is frequently high.

My first medical director was one of the early Denver General paramedics.  After a long paramedic career, he went on to be a very successful emergency physician and eventually the EMS medical director of Colorado.  Arthur Kanowitz was the physician that introduced me to the idea that EMS patients don't need to suffer.  He believed that EMTs and paramedics had the ability to make positive impacts on the lives of every patient they interacted with.  In the late 1990s, the mindset in EMS was that pain medications were potentially dangerous and should be used in only the worst cases.  Dr. Kanowitz challenged that idea and pushed back against many powerful and prominent physician EMS leaders.  He did research on the use of prehospital analgesics and demonstrated both safety and efficacy.  He took that information to his colleagues and fought for what he believed in.  His passion for looking past the "emergency" part of what we do and treating ailments without regard to circumstance, continues to change EMS minds across the country.  Art is the reason that I am so passionate about treating pain and the reason that I will not stop preaching his vision until our collective performance is at a high level.  

The first "ALS chief" I ever worked for was another early Denver General paramedic named Jeff Forster.  Jeff was a legend in Denver as one of the best paramedics they ever turned out.  He was the type of guy that people turned to when things were going bad, and he was the paramedic that every other paramedic wanted to be, including a baby paramedic named Galton.  He was a legend for a variety of reasons, and he taught me an immense amount about not only EMS, but how to treat employees, how to lead by example, and the meaning of being a leader instead of a manager.  One day, when the world was blowing up, he hopped on an ambulance and we went on a call together.  After the call, he cleaned the back of my ambulance better than it has ever been cleaned before.  I told him that I was happy to clean up after myself and asked him why he not only cleans the floors of my ambulance so diligently, but still rides at all hours of the day taking any call that came his way.  He looked me square in the eyes and said one of the most impactful things I have every heard.  He said "never ask someone else to do something that you are not willing to do yourself."  He led by example, and of all the great people I have met over the course of my professional life, he stands out as someone that worked hard everyday to earn, and then maintain, the respect from those around him.  It did not matter whether they were the chief medical director, entry level paramedic, or housekeeping staff cleaning up at the end of the day.  He was always happy to help anyone do anything just to demonstrate that he valued them as much as we valued him.  To this day, if he called me for help, I would claw my way through a brick wall to help him without even a thought.  

Finally, I want to end with the person that had the most significant impact on the way I operate as a paramedic today.  Thom Hillson (aka Thom Dick) is a columnist for multiple different EMS magazines and journals.  He has written books about caring for patients and fellow EMS colleagues.  To this day, I have never met another human being that cared more for every other living sole in this world.  I started off my EMS career working the night shift for eight years, and I loved it.  One of the drawbacks of the night shift is this creeping cynicism that becomes suffocating because of the typical clientele that make up your regular call volume working in an urban/suburban EMS system.  I had the pleasure of working with Thom for 4-5 years early in my career when I was an impressionable paramedic.  I remember thinking he was a wise old sage that had been everywhere and seen everything.  The two of us developed a wonderful relationship and he ended up writing me the best letter of recommendation for medical school that I have ever seen.  

One day Thom pulled me aside and asked me to go grab lunch with him and he was the type of guy that you wanted to be around all the time, so I was thrilled.  While we were out eating, he asked me if everything was all right.  Initially I thought this was just banter, but he continued to say that he was worried about me.  He had noticed a deterioration in my typically positive, upbeat attitude.  I told him about being a little depressed lately because of some bad outcomes and how I was likely going through a period of burn out, but I really just tried to blow it off.  He did not let up and we proceeded to have lunch weekly for the next few months.  During those lunch meetings, Thom and I talked about a wide variety of things, many times not mentioning EMS at all.  It was at one of these meetings that he used a phrase that has stuck with me to this day and is ever present when I am working in EMS.  We were talking about customer service in EMS and why I was worried that I stopped caring about my patients.  He specifically challenged me by saying "why not."  What he meant by that was much more complicated than I initially appreciated.  He was really asking why I was not willing to go the extra mile anymore to take care of people and why was I staying in this job if that was the case.  This was the point that I realized that a career in emergency services is not about you, it's about the people that need you.  This is when I finally understood that being an EMS professional was not about the person that could put an endotracheal tube in upside down with a patient stuck in a car that was hanging off a cliff in a snowstorm.  It was about knowing that someone is calling 911 because they need your help.  That might be taking them to the hospital because they are having chest pain, but it also might mean helping them clean up after falling on the way to the toilet.  You don't get into this career because you want to help an elderly person change out of urine soaked clothes and then start a load of laundry.  You do stay in this career because you realize that those are the patients that need your help the most and you are the person that they turned to in their moment of need.  I would encourage you to take Thom's advice and ask yourself "why not"if you ever have a question about customer service and the needs of the citizens that we are charged to care for in their time of crisis.


Finding the Right Mentor

My mentors are a large part of why I have been able to achieve professional success and reach goals that I would have thought were out of reach.  Most high level leaders at Forutne 500 companies insist that their employees have mentors and embrace those relationships while accepting the lost time required to build them.   They know that they will get more out of their employees in the long run when mentees have goals, purpose, and guidance. 

I’m sure you have all heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  Your mentor is the “who” in that expression that is capable of opening doors and making connections on your behalf.  My mentors have frequently made phone calls, sent emails, and made personal introductions to connect me with the right people.  That is how business is done and you should not be embarrassed to take advantage of those connections. 

Hopefully I sold you on the value of having a mentor in your professional life.  The first hurdle is finding the right mentor for you.  I think you need to start by identifying the personality traits that you want to emulate.  In EMS, those traits might include unconditional empathy, a calming demeanor, a driving desire to learn, or an altruistic belief in serving the community.  Your mentor should be someone who has established a benchmark for you to work towards.  

The second step is identifying people that you already have a connection to, that are 2-3 steps above you in the pile.  For instance, I am one of the Deputy Medical Directors of Monroe County.  If my professional goal was to become a Chief Medical Director of a county or region, then I would start by identifying people in those positions who would serve as good benchmarks for me.  They are doing the job that I want to have, and are consistently demonstrating  their success in that position.

Step three is approaching the potential mentor.  You anxiety level should be pretty low.  This is not asking someone out of your league on a date or walking into your boss’s office to ask for a raise.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, any good mentor will be flattered that you have asked them to help you grow in your career.  By asking them, you are saying that you think they are doing something right and that they have the ability to guide you to success.  That is a pretty impressive compliment and if they don’t see that, then they are probably not a good mentor for you anyway. 

The final step is developing that relationship.  A potential mentor needs to know that you will value their input and put their advice to good use.  You are asking them to give up their valuable time to guide your forward in your career with little direct benefit for them.  Kathy Caprino, a columnist for Forbes, recently tackled the issue of finding a mentor and she takes it to the next level by saying that a potential mentor has “to like, trust and believe in you already.” She goes on to ask the question, “are you somebody you yourself would like to mentor?”  If you cannot answer yes to that question, then you need to work to become that person before you consider engaging a mentor.  

Mentorship should not be forced.  The relationship needs to develop organically without it being coerced.  This usually occurs during the initial few meetings where your mentor will start to help you set some goals and work on the things that need to occur for you to meet your goals.  A great mentor is someone who can inspire you when you need to be inspired and can put you in your place when you need to get leveled out.  If the relationship is not that strong, then that is not mentorship.  Your mother can be your cheerleader.  Your mentor fills the role of coach, cheerleader, friend, leader, and follower based on what you need, when you need it.  It is a special relationship that should be cherished.



A Productive Mentor-Mentee Relationship

So, now that you have a mentor, how do you turn that into a productive relationship?

When I work with my mentors or I have mentees, I always start with a face to face meeting.  This can be as simple as meeting for coffee, lunch, or some other informal setting.  Before you commit to this, you need to analyze the type of relationship you have or will have with your mentor/mentee.  I think the relationship between a medical student and the dean of the medical school would be different than the relationship between an EMT working through paramedic school and their paramedic preceptor.  Some meetings should happen during normal business hours in a traditional office setting, while some will happen in the corner pub after a long shift.  Where to meet up has a lot to do with the type of relationship that will develop.

The next step is preparing for your meeting.  In my case, that means developing a list of things I want to talk about in the weeks prior to the meeting, and then writing it down on a scrap sheet of paper that lives folded into my wallet until meeting time.  Your list does not need to kill a tree if you are smart enough to use your smart phone.  Maybe it is an email sent ahead of time or memorized if you did not get hit on the head with an oxygen bottle too often.  Even if your mentor makes fun of your list (mine does every time), having a list demonstrates that you value their time and you want to be productive during your meeting.

During your meeting, what type of things should you discuss.  In my mind, this meeting is broken up in three parts.  The first part is usually spent catching up with my mentor on a personal level.  Frequently I speak with my mentor or mentee about how things have been going because this is a relationship so it’s OK to invest into it and be human.  Any good mentor wants to know that their mentee is maintaining adequate priorities and perspective with everything going on, especially when things are getting really busy.  The second part is a review of the previous meeting and progress on the subjects that you discussed at the last meeting.  The premise of this relationship is based on the mentor providing guidance to the mentee, so they certainly want to hear about how you advanced the ideas that you both spoke of previously.  The final part is the new material and this is typically where the list comes into play.

In this busy world, everyone’s time is valuable.  By the time my meeting hits, I have usually thought through what I want to say about the previous subjects as well as the newer things I want to talk about.  It is OK and expected that your ideas are not refined, that is why you have meetings with your mentor.  Part of their role is to help you refine those ideas into viable actions.  A meeting should not be one sided and the mentor expects to have ideas bounced off them.  You should expect them to critique and suggest things that you had not considered.  Along those lines, it is OK to take notes during your interaction.  Any mentor should be flattered that you are writing their ideas down.  It shows that you value their opinions enough that you do not want to risk forgetting.

I have benefited greatly from having positive mentors in my life.  I continue to have multiple mentors today who both directly and indirectly inspire me to be the greatest paramedic, physician, medical director, anesthesiologist, intensivist, coach, and friend that I can possibly be.  If only they could help me find some time to sleep …



The text above first appeared as a three part series in the University of Rochester Division of Prehospital Medicine Newletter.



Can you leave them be? A Review of The Recommendations of Hypoglycemia Treat and Release Protocols

by David Ismael Arbona Calderón, MD

Case Scenario:


A 48 y/o unconscious male presented with dizziness and weakness in his office. On arrival of paramedics, patient is diaphoretic and unresponsive, but with pulse and spontaneous respirations. Initial assessment reveals a glucose level of 23 mg/dL. Paramedics find the patients current medication list in the patient’s wallet. Patient is given IV dextrose and regains consciousness. After returning to baseline the patient is refusing transport and further treatment. How do you proceed?

Literature Review:

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic disease, with estimated diagnosis of 23.1 million people in the United States and another 84.1 million adults with prediabetes.[1] As diabetes continues to increase in our population, hypoglycemic events are rising secondary to the use of insulin and oral hypoglycemic agents. Insulin management has been related to the most serious cases of hypoglycemia, either due to strict goals of keeping normal glucose levels or due to confusion between dosing and type of insulin medication. Other diabetes medications like sulfonylureas have been linked to episodes of hypoglycemia and accidental ingestion in the pediatric population. Although hypoglycemia is more common in type 1 diabetes (T1DM), patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) experience a similar frequency of these events as they require more aggressive treatment.

The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance (NEISS-CADES) has estimated that around 97,648 ED visits occur annually due to insulin-related hypoglycemia and errors related to diabetes management. It has been accounted that around 10% of ED visits are considered under Adverse Drug Events (ADEs) occur annually.[2]

Around 95% of hypoglycemic events occur outside of medical settings, requiring assistance by family members, other caregivers, or emergency medical services (EMS)  personnel.[3] Patients with diabetes might not understand when hospital evaluation is needed for proper management of low blood sugars. EMS personnel carry most of the weight of identifying red flags of hypoglycemic episodes that require further workup as some cases can be fatal. There is a continuous debate in the ambulance service as to whether patients suffering from hypoglycemia need to be transported to the hospital after examination and treatment in the field.[4] While some studies have referred that most cases of hypoglycemia can be successfully treated at the scene, conflictive results have been reported in other cases with complications days later.[5]

On 1991, Thompson et al produced one of the earliest studies of treat and release protocols proposed five criteria that should be met before being released form prehospital care without the need for further treatment:

1.    History of either T1DM or T2DM

2.    Pretreatment blood sugar of less than 4.4 mmol/L or 80mg/dL

3.    Post-treatment blood sugar equal or greater to 4.4 mmol/L or 80mg/dL

4.    Return to normal mental status within 10 minutes of treatment

5.    Absence of complicating factors that require ED evaluation, such as renal dialysis, chest pain, alcohol, dyspnea, of falls.

Clinical manifestations of hypoglycemia are nonspecific, and can be divided into neurogenic and neuroglycopenic symptoms.[6] 



As reported by NEISS-CADES, patients over 80 years old have a higher risk of being hospitalized due to hypoglycemic events since neuroglycopenic symptoms can mimic other cardiovascular and neurologic conditions.

Other studies regarding younger groups, involving T2DM and over the age of 50 and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), suggest that both extreme hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia contribute to poor outcomes when encountering a hypoglycemic event.[7] This can also be applicable for patients with Diabetes Type 1 with extreme values of HbA1c, as recurrent episodes of hypoglycemia and impaired awareness during these episodes are known major risk factors for these events.

Concerns about inappropriate use of sulfonylureas in the elderly and hospitalization rates due to hypoglycemic episodes have been studied.[8] Around one-third of hypoglycemic episodes in the ED were exclusively related to sulfonylurea treatment as they had more prolonged hypoglycemia. Hospital admission of all patients under sulfonylurea treatment with hypoglycemia has been strongly recommended, arguing that regardless resolution of hypoglycemia was done in the ED, observation was needed.  Moreover, treatment of hypoglycemia due to sulfonylurea includes octreotide administration. [9]

The National Model EMS Clinical Guidelines (NASEMSO Model) published on 2017, facilitated hypoglycemia protocol.[10] Treatment is focused on level of consciousness and patient disposition will also rely on initial neurological presentation. In a nutshell, a conscious patient with a patent airway can obtain oral glucose, with adults receiving approximately 25 grams of dextrose (at a concentration of 10-50%) and pediatric patients receiving 0.5-1g/kg (at a concentration of 10-25%).

Under NASEMSO Model, an unconscious patient will require Dextrose IV with or without use of Glucagon. A maximum of 25g of 10-50% dextrose IV was determined for adults and for children the 0.5-1g/kg of 10-25% dextrose IV. Patient is in need of transport if hypoglycemic symptoms continue or if patient had a seizure at any point of the episode. Release without transport should only be considered if patient meets all of the following:

  1. Repeat glucose measurement over than 80mg/dL
  2. Patient takes insulin or metformin to control diabetes
  3. Patient returns to normal mental status, with no focal neurologic signs or symptoms after receiving glucose/dextrose
  4. Patient can promptly obtain and will eat a carbohydrate meal
  5. Patient or legal guardian refuses transport and EMS providers agree transport not indicated
  6. A reliable adult will be staying with patient
  7. No major co-morbid symptoms occur, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, seizures, intoxication
  8. A clear cause of the hypoglycemia is identified (e.g. skipped meal)

Regardless of National EMS guidelines established for hypoglycemia, there is still variability in EMS protocols throughout the United States. [10-12] Further studies are required to determine the reasons underlying these variations and patient outcome.

Case Scenario Follow-Up:

Patient was given an early lunch at the office, had normal vital signs, and normal EKG. On further questioning patient refers he did not eat breakfast because he was running late for work but did administer his insulin. Patient denied any other symptoms and a coworker is able to stay and watch after the patient. Paramedics used their well person protocol to determine if any abnormalities warranted further intervention. Assessed patient for capacity and oriented the patient about the need for close follow up. Patient indicated he understood all orientations and refused further care.

Take Home:

 Any patient with seizures, persistent symptoms of hypoglycemia, and that does not comply with the NASEMSO Model for release without transport criteria should be taken to the emergency department for further evaluation.



[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes statistics report: Estimates of diabetes and its burden in the United States, 2017. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services. 2017.  https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf

[2] Geller AI, Shehab N, Lovegrove MC, et al. National Estimates of Insulin-Related Hypoglycemia and Errors Leading to Emergency Department Visits and Hospitalizations. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(5):678–686. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.136

[3] Lipska, K. J. et al. "Hba1c And Risk Of Severe Hypoglycemia In Type 2 Diabetes: The Diabetes And Aging Study." Diabetes Care 36.11 (2013): 3535-3542. Web. 9 May 2018.  https://doi.org/10.2337/dc13-0610

[4] Roberts, K., and A. Smith. “Outcome of diabetic patients treated in the prehospital arena after a hypoglycemic episode, and an exploration of treat and release protocols: a review of the literature. (Prehospital Medicine).“ Emergency Medicine Journal, May 2003, p. 274+. Health Reference Center Academic. http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxyhost.library.tmc.edu/apps/doc/A102769958/HRCA?u=txshracd2509&sid=HRCA&xid=14527de1

[5] Tohira, H., Fatovich, D., Williams, T. A., Bremner, A., Arendts, G., Rogers, I. R., . . . Finn, J. (2016). Paramedic checklists do not accurately identify post-ictal or hypoglycaemic patients suitable for discharge at the scene. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 31(3), 282-293. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1049023X16000248

[6] Hepburn, D. A. et al. "Symptoms Of Acute Insulin-Induced Hypoglycemia In Humans With And Without IDDM: Factor-Analysis Approach." Diabetes Care 14.11 (1991): 949-957. Web. 9 May 2018.

[7] Moheet, Amir, and Elizabeth R. Seaquist. "Hypoglycaemia, Emergency Care And Diabetes Mellitus." Nature. N.p., 2014. Web. 9 May 2018.doi:10.1038/nrendo.2014.67

[8] Rajendran R, Hodgkinson D, Rayman G. Patients with diabetes requiring emergency department care for hypoglycaemia: characteristics and long-term outcomes determined from multiple data sources. Postgraduate Medical Journal 2015;91:65-71. doi:10.1136/postgradmedj-2014-132926

[9] McLaughlin, S. A., Crandall, C. S., & McKinney, P. E. (2000). Octreotide: an antidote for sulfonylurea-induced hypoglycemia. Annals of emergency medicine36(2), 133-138.

[10] "National Model EMS Clinical Guidelines". Nasemso.Org, 2017, http://www.nasemso.org/documents/National-Model-EMS-Clinical-Guidelines-2017-Distribution-Version-05Oct2017.pdf. Accessed 20 May 2018.

[10] Paul Rostykus, Jamie Kennel, Kristian Adair, Micah Fillinger, Ryan Palmberg, Amy Quinn, Jonathan Ripley & Mohamud Daya (2016) Variability in the Treatment of Prehospital Hypoglycemia: A Structured Review of EMS Protocols in the United States, Prehospital Emergency Care, 20:4, 524-530, doi: 10.3109/10903127.2015.1128031

[11] Howard H. Moffet, E. Margaret Warton, Lee Siegel, Karl Sporer, Kasia J. Lipska & Andrew J. Karter (2017) Hypoglycemia Patients and Transport by EMS in Alameda County, 2013–15, Prehospital Emergency Care, 21:6, 767-772, doi: 10.1080/10903127.2017.1321707

[12] Khunti, K., Fisher, H., Paul, S., Iqbal, M., Davies, M. J., Siriwardena, A. N. Severe hypoglycemia requiring emergency medical assistance by ambulance services in the East Midlands: A retrospective study. Primary Care Diabetes.2013; (7):159-165.

Article Bites #3: Does the Duration and Depth of Out-of-Hospital Hypotension affect mortality in TBI?


Outcomes related to traumatic brain injury are thought to be related to cerebral perfusion pressure (among other factors). Cerebral perfusion pressure is equal to mean arterial pressure minus the intracranial pressure. Hypotension decreases cerebral perfusion pressure to the brain and is associated with increased mortality in this patient population. This is of particular importance especially in the prehospital arena where prior research has demonstrated that hypotension is associated with increased mortality in patients with traumatic brain injury. However, there have been no studies to date have examined the relationship between both the depth and the duration of hypotension with  mortality in patients with traumatic brain injury. The investigators of this study sought to tackle this very issue.



The investigators conducted a retrospective observational study of patients with traumatic brain injury within the EPIC (Excellence in Prehospital Injury Care) database as part of the Arizona State Trauma Registry between January 2007 and March 2014. The primary outcome examined was survival to hospital discharge. Patients were determined to have traumatic brain injury based on trauma center diagnoses as a part of either isolated traumatic brain injury or multi system traumatic injury.  More specifically, participants were selected who met the classification for moderate or severe traumatic brain injury based on CDC guidelines, ICD-9 head region severity scores and Abbreviated Injury scores. Patients were excluded from the study if they were younger than 10 years of age, were involved in an interfacility transfer or had any systolic blood pressure greater than 200, or systolic blood pressure of 0 indicating traumatic arrest. Hypotension was defined as SBP <90 mmHg. To calculate the “dose” of hypotension, the investigators looked at the depth of hypotension integrated across exposure time (in minutes) AKA “area under the curve”. The integrated values from all hypotensive segments were added together to obtain a dose (in mmHg-minutes). The relationship between mortality and hypotension dose was examined by logistic regression analysis with adjustment for confounding factors.


Key Results:

A total of 16,711 transports for patients with traumatic brain injury were analyzed during the study period, of which 7,521 met inclusion criteria for the study. The key findings were as follows:

· 539 of 7,521 patients (7.2%) were hypotensive during transport

· Among patients with no hypotension (6,982 patients), mortality was 7.8% (95% CI 7.2 to 8.5%). This compared to patients who were hypotensive, where there was 33.4% (95% CI 29.4 to 37.6%) mortality

· Mortality increased in a linear relationship using a log2 hypotension dose and log odds of death (OR =1.19, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.25) per 2 fold increase in hypotension dose increase. In specific quartiles of hypotension dose, the following outcomes were established:

o   16.3% mortality with dose between 0.01 to 14.99 mmHg-minutes

o   28.1% mortality with dose between 15 to 49.99 mmHg-minutes

o   38.8% mortality with dose between 50-141.99 mmHg-minutes

o   50.4% mortality with dose greater than 142 mmHg-minutes



· A dose response exists between prehospital hypotension dosage and mortality. Each 2 fold increase in hypotension dose (depth of hypotension integrated over time) during prehospital transport is associated with a 19% increase in mortality


What this means for EMS:

Out-of-hospital hypotension for patients with traumatic brain injury is associated with worse patient outcomes, i.e. decreased survival to hospital discharge. While this study was observational and did not address whether treatment of hypotension improved survival or neurologically intact recovery, it did emphasize an important variable that may serve as the foundation for future EMS research and quality improvement initiatives regarding the management of traumatic brain injury in the field. Going forward, more accurate (and more frequent) acquisition of blood pressure measurements in the prehospital setting may prove to be invaluable in implementing future prehospital resuscitative strategies for patients with traumatic brain injury. 


The Most Appropriate Destination...


EMS is called to the scene of a “possible stroke”.  The patient is a 75 yo female who was last known normal at 8 pm the night before when she went to bed with plans to watch TV before going to sleep.  She fell when she tried to get out of bed at 7 am.  Her daughter lives with her and heard her fall. When she came into the room, she noted that her mother had a right facial droop, right arm and right leg weakness. She also was unable to speak coherently.  The ambulance arrives on scene at 7:30 am and the EMT  performs a Cincinnati stroke scale and confirms the findings reported by the patient’s daughter.   

The patient lives 20 minutes away from a community hospital which is designated as a primary stroke center.  The comprehensive stroke center with endovascular capability is located an hour away.

Where should the patient be taken?  What pre-notification alarm bells should be rung?  What criteria should EMS systems use to make these transportation decisions in a way that best serves patients without overburdening both the EMS system and comprehensive stroke centers?

Discussion Forum summary will be posted mid-July.

Happy EMS Week: Save a Life Thursday

EMS Week: Save a life day!

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Today is save a life day, something YOU do every...single...day of your profession.  Some days your life is like a grand slow motion action-Bayhem-movie scene, with mangled cars, severely injured patients, and you, the prehospital provider are the one of the heroes of the scene with dramatic slow motion camera angles focused on you.  (If you're unsure of what Bayhem is, check out the vid below and you'll get it REAL quick)

But alas, not all days are as action filled.  Some days, its the little things that make the biggest difference...like tourniquets!  Well, our very good friend, Dr. Scott Goldberg (@EMS_Boston) is quite passionate about this device and wanted to speak to highlight one of the Prehospital Emergency Care Journal's manuscripts concerning tourniquets. 

 Our tourniquet expert, Dr. Scotty G of that small institution in Boston called Harvard :P.

Our tourniquet expert, Dr. Scotty G of that small institution in Boston called Harvard :P.

Dr. Goldberg sat down with the lead author, Dr. Scerbo, to discuss her manuscript: Safety and Appropriateness of Tourniquets in 105 Civilians

 THE Dr. Michelle Scerbo.

THE Dr. Michelle Scerbo.

It's a true reminder that this simple maneuver with this little doohickeys can be a safe way to save a life.  So check out this discussion here for EMS Week day 4: Save a Life day.  Happy #EMSWeek to all our EMS providers, be safe, stay #EMSstrong, and continue doing what you do best: Saving lives.  Thank you for all you do.

Happy EMS Week: Pediatric Wednesday

Happy EMS Week Peds Day

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Yesterday we delved into our history to stress safety in a different form.  Today, we look to the future and say AWWWW how cute!!!  That's right we're talking about pediatric EMS today!


Our very own triple boarded in Pediatrics, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, and EMS Dr. Joelle Donofrio (who is waaaay smarter than the average bear) went around the nation to interview fellow triple boarded Peds EMS physicians to thank YOU, our EMS providers for taking care of our kids.

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Yes we know she's a nerd, a nerd about little ones.  But man is she passionate and so very smart about all things pediatrics!  If you ever want advice on pediatric prehospital care...go to her.  She knows her stuff!!!  But wait there's more...

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These stellar Pediatricians want to tell you what they are most looking forward to in the world of pediatric EMS so we can better serve our smaller communities.  So listen to this podcast and be melted by the cuteness, the passion, and the future of pediatric EMS care! 

Special thanks to Dr. Bjorn Peterson (@bjorn_peterson) for helping create our pediatric intro and conclusion!


So to all our EMS providers during this EMS week, remain #EMSstrong, thank you for caring for our communities, and thank you for caring for our littlest patients. 



Happy EMS Week : Safety Tuesday


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Today is SAFETY TUESDAY! I know, I know...it’s drilled into your heads.  Scene safety, scene safety, and scene safety.  Can you hear Men Without Hats?!?!?

And you know what, you’re absolutely right.  The scene SHOULD be safe.But today we’re not talking about THAT kind of safety.  We’re talking about your safety when it comes to fatigue.  Fatigue, which is the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and tiredness, is a rampant problem in our field.  It is a pernicious symptom that leaks into every aspect of our lives affecting not only patient safety, but yours in EMS as well.


Fatigue, which is the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and tiredness, is a rampant problem in our field.  It is a pernicious symptom that leaks into every aspect of our lives affecting not only patient safety, but yours in EMS as well.

So we decided to delve into our archives (well not that deep) and play for you one of our favorite interviews with a sleep scientist and colleague of paramedics, Dr. Daniel Patterson and his evidence based guideline manuscript on fatigue.  To be honest, it is very intimidating to interview Dr. Patterson because he is a paramedic AND a PhD. Fortunately, Dr. Patterson’s gentlemanly southern accent and conversational tone made this interview so relaxed and informative that it felt like we were being taught by a great mentor.  

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Now, Dr. Patterson made this interview great, but when we decided to branch out and hear from our ground medics around the nation about fatigue, we knew we had something special.  This episode provides a mixture of educational research with real life stories to drive the point home...that fatigue is a rampant problem in EMS and MUST be addressed for our patient’s safety and more importantly...our EMS provider’s safety.  So while on your drive home, working on your spring cleaning project, or even waiting to pick up your kid, check out this episode for Safety Tuesday.


Thank you EMS providers for all that you do.  Happy Safety Tuesday!

Cheers and BE SAFE!!!

Happy EMS Week from NAEMSP: Education Monday

To all our first responders and paramedics out there, Happy EMS Week!  

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NAEMSP, EMS Med Blog, and the PEC Podcast team would like to say that we are so very grateful and proud of you for keeping our communities safe every...single...day.  We fully recognize that it takes a special kind of tough yet gentle person to practice prehospital medicine. You are that kind of person that the world needs more of.  You are our heroes and know that we respect and honor you not for only this week, but every day.


As part of EMS week day 1 is dedicated to education.  Now, everyone that is part of this blog, NAEMSP, and our podcast love to teach.  It’s fun, challenging, and incredibly gratifying. Dr. Jeremiah Escajeda, my very good cat loving friend (seriously go check out his facebook page, it’s all about his cat Chester), EMS physician, and NAEMSP Education Chair obviously loves teaching.  Be it teaching about his cat Chester or prehospital cardiac arrest, Dr. Escajeda has that “special” educational gift.

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Recently he decided to have a sit-down conversation with someone who equally loves to teach. Her name is Ginger Locke.

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You may have heard of her, she is the creator of the podcast called Medic Mindset, a podcast dedicated to understanding the paramedic mind and advancing the paramedic educational agenda.  She is just as nerdy (we say this with all affection and love Ginger) as our very own Dr. Jeremiah Escajeda. Together they have a wonderfully convivial, nerd-filled conversation from why they love teaching to the joys of podcasting to what tools they learn to advance their education to who their heroes are.  They even talk about, yes you guessed it, Dr. Escajeda’s beloved cat Chester. So for your listening enjoyment in the car, in the ambulance, while on a run, or while doing chores, check out this podcast here, and be entertained by all things educational and by Dr. Escajeda’s cat, Chester :).  

And for your entertainment, here’s a picture of Dr. Escajeda with his cat in a backpack...called a catpack.  





Article Bites #2: Identifying factors associated with repeated transports of older adults


Background & Objectives:

Adults aged 65 and older make up a significant proportion of the population (estimated to be approximately 20% of the total US population by 2030). In addition, this subset of patients has disproportionate utilization of EDs as well as EMS services (estimated at 38% of EMS transports). Little is known regarding the precise characteristics of this population that is associated with higher utilization of EMS. The investigators of the study aimed to investigate the proportion of older adults receiving repeat transport within 30 days and to potentially identify characteristics that were associated with repeat use of EMS. 


The investigators conducted a retrospective analysis of EMS transports listed in the North Carolina Prehospital Medical Information Systems (PreMIS) database from 2010 to 2015. In particular, EMS encounters that were associated with 911 calls for adults aged 65 years or older that resulted in transport were examined. The primary outcome that was evaluated was repeated EMS transport within 30 days. Additional secondary outcomes that were examined included stratification of individuals by total number of EMS transports during the study period within 30 days. A multivariable logistic regression model was used to calculate adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals of repeated EMS transport within 30 days. 

Key Results:

A total of 1,719,998 transports for individuals aged 65 or greater were analyzed during the study period, of which 689,664 were for unique individuals. In this specific population, the key findings were as follows:

  • 17.7% (303,099 transports) had at least one repeated transport within 30 days
  • Odds of repeated transport within 30 days was higher in the following individuals: 

- Those from healthcare/residential facilities (OR 1.42 CI 1.38 to 1.47)

 - Black vs white (OR 1.29 95% CI 1.24 to 1.33)

 - Dispatch complaint of “sick person”, “fall”, “breathing problem”, “abdominal pain”, “diabetic problem”, “unknown person/person down”, “back pain”, “psychiatric problem”, “headache”

  • 15.6% of all repeated transports were related to falls 


  • Greater than 1 in 6 EMS transports of individuals greater than the age of 65 is followed by a repeated transport within 30 days. 
  • Individuals in healthcare/residential settings and blacks (versus whites) have increased odds of repeated transport within 30 days

What this means for EMS:

Repeat transport of elderly adults is associated with significant healthcare costs and utilization of limited resources both in the hospital and pre-hospital setting. Identification of specific variables that are associated with repeated transport may assist with the development of targeted strategies to both improve patient outcomes and simultaneously decrease the demand for EMS resources that are already stretched very thin. 


The Arresting LVAD patient: A Review of the Updated Recommendations

by Stephanie Louka, MD

Case Scenario:


Paramedics are called to the home of a 59 year old male patient with an LVAD who was found unconscious and unresponsive by family members.  He was last seen 2 hours earlier acting normally. There is no evidence of trauma. Family members are unaware of any recent illness or mechanical issues with his LVAD.  Your assessment is notable for warm but pale skin, lack of palpable pulses, LVAD with “low-flow” alarm but audible hum and apneic respirations. After intubation, end-tidal CO2 shows no wave form.  How should paramedics proceed?

Literature Review:

The 2015 ACLS guidelines do not address assessment and treatment of an unresponsive patient with a mechanical assist device such as an LVAD.[1]  While there has never been a reported case of LVAD dislodgement resulting from chest compressions, for years, VAD manufacturers advised against routine use of chest compressions on these patients for fear of device dislodgement and rupture of the left ventricle.  Despite a lack of evidence of dislodgment, many hospitals and EMS systems adopted this advice in management of VAD patients and withheld chest compressions even in the setting of true cardiac arrest.[2,3] Alternatively, with the risk of dislodgement theoretical and death eminent, some institutions opted to go against the manufacturer recommendation and administer chest compressions in this setting.

In 2017, the AHA published its Scientific Statement on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation in Adults and Children with Mechanical Circulatory Support in the journal Circulation offering the first evidence-based, consensus approach to management for unconscious and/or arresting patients with mechanical assist devices.

Relying heavily on physical exam and waveform capnography for assessment, the algorithm provides a systematic approach to management of LVAD patients.  Trouble-shooting the LVAD with family members and/or LVAD coordinators is still recommended, but if the LVAD cannot be restarted or is not functioning adequately (MAP ≤ 50 mmHg and/or end-tidal CO2 ≤ 20 mmHg), external chest compressions are now recommended. 

While this AHA position was published in 2017, many EMS agencies are behind in adopting this change.  As this policy makes its way into the ACLS Provider course curriculum and manual and EMS personnel take their ACLS recertification courses, we should see broader adoption of this approach to the arresting LVAD patient.

Case Scenario Follow-up:

The Paramedic in charge contacted the regional VAD center and received online medical direction from the EMS Physician on duty who instructed the crew to administer chest compressions and transport the patient to his facility.  Firefighters on scene initiated chest compressions which resulted in a notable and sustained increase in end-tidal CO2 levels. 

The patient was transported to the Emergency Department where ROSC was obtained, and he was admitted to the ICU for continuing care.

Take Home:

Per the American Heart Association (AHA), chest compressions are now the standard of care in arresting patients with mechanical circulatory support devices (e.g. LVAD), and end-tidal CO2 <20 for whom device troubleshooting was ineffective.


Additional LVAD resources:

Make sure to review the EMS Field Guides provided at www.mylvad.com

Some additional LVAD Resources:

LVAD Management in the ED on the NUEM Blog

ALiEM PV Card on LVAD Management in the ED



[1] American Heart Association (AHA). Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) Provider Manual, 16th edition. 2016.

[2] Shinar Z, Bellezo J, Stahovich M, Cheskes S, Chillcott S, Dembitsky W. Chest compressions may be safe in arresting aptients with left ventricular assist devices (LVADs). Resuscitation. 2014 May; 85(5):702-4.

[3] Mabvuure NT, Rodrigues JN. External cardiac compression during cardiopulmonary resuscitation of patients with left ventricular assist devices. Interactive CardiVascular and Thoracic Surgery. 2014 Aug; 19(2):286-289.

[4] Peberdy MA, Gluck JA, Ornato JP, et al. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation in Adults and Children with Mechanical Circulatory Support. Circulation. 2017 Jun 13;135(24):e1115-e1134.

Dispatches from the Borderlands Part I: A Review of The Line Becomes a River, by Francisco Cantú

by Melody Glenn, MD

From 2008-2012, Francisco Cantú worked as an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol in the deserts of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Line Becomes a River is a memoir describing his experience, and like any talented memoirist, he uses his individual story to tell a bigger truth: violence has a way of seeping into the lives of those residing and working in the borderlands, and uniting over our shared humanity must be part of the solution.  His mom eloquently describes the way Cantú himself was affected by the work:


You spent nearly four years on the border. You weren’t just observing a reality, you were participating in it.  You can’t exist within a system for that long without being implicated, without absorbing its poison. And let me tell you, it isn’t something that’s just going to slowly go away.  It’s part of who you’ve become.  So what will you do?  All you can do is try to find a place to hold it, a way not to lose some purpose for it all (231).

These words could also apply to those working as first responders, medics, and emergency medicine providers. In our daily work, we come face to face with horrors that other people rarely see.  We bear witness. Similarly, Cantú describes finding people in the desert in various states of extremis: extremely dehydrated and overheated, victims of brutal violence, and near the brink of death.

Although the personal vignettes he shares about those crossing are heartfelt, they alone are not what make Cantú’s memoir so powerful. It is the bigger themes that link them together into a unified narrative, the references from poetry and sociology that deepen the work, and the beauty of his writing that really make the book shine.

The memoir is split into three parts.  In the first, we see the motivation and idealism that lead him to the Border Patrol -- he wanted to gain a boots-on-the-ground understanding to go along with the book smarts he gained while studying international relations in college.  We are right there with him during his first experiences in the field, learning more about his coworkers and the migrants they apprehend. We see how he is trying to help those in a vulnerable state, even though he is arresting them. He paints his characters as multifaceted, complex individuals, illustrating the grey area of the borderlands.

 Cantú shooting and killing a yellow songbird, a metaphor for him crossing a line that cannot be undone, marks the transition to Part II.   We see how the daily violence starts to wear on his soul and seep out around the edges.  Every morning, he reviews an email briefing about the most recent brutal murders associated with the cartel.  Although we often think of the border patrol’s primary mission as stopping immigrants from crossing, they are also trying to prevent the entry of narco-traffickers and their drugs. The victims of the cartel are faceless, nameless:

The summaries included photos of human bodies that had been disassembled, their parts scattered, separated, jumbled together and hidden away or put on display as if in accordance with some grim and ancient ritual.  Victims’ faces were frozen in death, reverberating outward from the computer screen without identity or personal history, severed from the bodies they had inhabited and the human relations that had sustained them (86).

It is unknown how many people die due to the war on drugs or crossing the border, but they are often inextricably linked. Reporter Joel Millman wrote that there has been “a shift in the people-smuggling business.  A couple of decades ago, workers commonly traveled back and forth across the U.S.- Mexico border… Now, organized gangs own the people-smuggling trade” (93).  According to U.S. and Mexican police, this takeover was in part “an unintended consequence of a border crackdown” (93). As Cantú writes, “as border crossing become more difficult, traffickers increased their smuggling fees.  In turn, as smuggling became more profitable, it was increasingly consolidated under the regional operations of the drug cartels” (93).

When Mexican president Felipe Calderón took office in 2006, he declared war on the drug cartels. From 2007-2014, the Mexican government said there were more than 164,000 homicides, which does not include the estimated 25,000 missing and disappeared, or those who have died crossing the border into the U.S. while attempting to flee their violence-ridden towns. The Border Patrol recorded over 6,000 deaths between 2000 and 2016. Both Tijuana and Juarez had to increase their morgue operations to keep up with the rising demand. The numbers become overwhelming and have a tendency to turn the individual victims into an anonymous mass. As Cantú puts it:

It is difficult, of course, to conceive of such numbers in any tangible and appropriate way.  The number of border deaths, just like the number of drug war homicides… does little to account for all the ways that violence rips and ripples through a society, through the lives and minds of its inhabitants (107).

Even though Cantú was finally in the field, he was no closer to “figuring it out.”  He tells his coworker:

When I made the decision to apply for this job, I had the idea that I’d see things in the patrol that would somehow unlock the border for me, you know? I thought I’d come up with all sorts of answers.  And then working here, you see so much, you have all these experiences.  But I don’t know how to put it into context, I don’t know where I fit in it all. I have more questions now than ever before (142).

Cantú thinks the answers lie in humanizing others, in transforming the numbers and statistics into human stories, and in part III, he does just that.  This section focuses on his friend José, who is detained and separated from his family when he tries to cross back into the U.S. after visiting his sick mother in Mexico.  He takes the story from the perspective of law enforcement to that of someone victimized by the system, further allowing us to see the border from multiple angles.

Taking a cue from Cantú, I turned to various voices in healthcare to help paint a picture of the unique challenges of practicing medicine in the borderlands. My goal was to highlight their individual perspectives, as personal stories can shed light into dark spaces that numbers alone cannot reach.  Furthermore, I believe these stories can form a bridge across divided political views, bringing us to a platform of shared human experience.  Stay tuned for interviews with EMS providers, medical practitioners, and patients living and working along La Frontera, from Texas to California.


Article Bites #1: Bystander Efforts and 1-Year Outcomes in Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest


Reference: Kragholm K, Wissenberg M, Mortensen RN, et al. Bystander Efforts and 1-Year Outcomes in Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest. N Engl J Med. 2017;376(18):1737-1747. [PMID: 2846789]

Background & Objectives:

Bystander CPR and defibrillation has been associated with increased survival in patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). It is well studied that many patients who survive cardiac arrest have long term neurological deficits secondary to anoxic brain injury. Many of these patients require assistance with activities of daily living in the form of nursing home care. However, there is little known whether there is any improvement in functional outcomes for patients with OHCA in the setting of bystander CPR and defibrillation. The authors of this study hypothesized that bystander CPR in addition to use of an automated external defibrillator would potentially augment cerebral perfusion and reduce the extent of neurological insult by decreasing the amount of time to acquisition of ROSC. The authors sought to examine whether bystander CPR and bystander defibrillation would affect long term risk of anoxic brain damage or nursing home admission among 30 day survivors of OHCA over a 1 year period.  


Danish investigators evaluated all 30 day survivors for OHCA aged 18 and older who were listed in the Danish Cardiac Arrest Registry from 2001 to 2012. Using nationwide registries, 1 year risk of anoxic brain injury, nursing home admission and all cause mortality was examined. Survivors of cardiac arrest were divided into four groups: 1) no bystander resuscitation 2) bystander CPR but no bystander defibrillation 3) bystander debrillation (regardless of bystander CPR status) and 4) EMS witnessed cardiac arrest. In addition, temporal changes in bystander interventions were studied (i.e. outcomes in relationship to increasing rates of bystander interventions in Denmark over the study period). 

Key Results:

Of the 34,459 individuals eligible for the study, 2,855 patients were 30 day survivors of OHCA during the 2001-2012 study period. The key findings were as follows:

  • 10.5% of patients had anoxic brain injury or were admitted to a nursing home. 9.7% of patients died within 1 year.  
  • Percentage of 30 day survivors increased from 3.9% to 12.4% over the course of the study
  • Percentage of bystander CPR in OHCA unwitnessed by EMS (n=2084) increased from 66.7% to 80.6% (p<0.001) over the course of the study. Percentage of bystander defibrillation increased from 2.1% to 16.8% (p<0.001). In concert, the rate of brain damage or nursing home admission decreased from 10.0% to 7.6% (p<0.001). All cause mortality decreased from 18.0% to 7.9% (p=0.002). 
  • Bystander CPR was associated with lower risk of brain damage or nursing home admission compared to no bystander resuscitation (adjusted hazard ratio 0.62 95% CI 0.47-0.82). Similar findings were observed with bystander defibrillation compared to no bystander resuscitation (adjusted hazard ratio 0.45 95% CI 0.24-0.84) 


  • There is lower risk of anoxic brain damage, nursing home admission or death from any cause in 30 day survivors of OHCA who undergo bystander CPR or bystander defibrillation compared to those who do not receive bystander intervention.
  • Increasing rates of bystander interventions in Denmark during the course of the study period was associated with decreased rates of anoxic brain injury, nursing home admission, and all-cause mortality

What this means for EMS:

Denmark has instituted widespread initiatives including mandatory and voluntary CPR training, dissemination of automated external defibrillators throughout the country, health care professionals at emergency dispatch centers and dispatcher-assisted CPR. System wide measures and efforts to educate the lay public on BLS skills including high quality CPR and use of automated external defibrillation, is a critical step in both increasing survival rates from OHCA and improving functional outcomes for patients. 


A Patient by Any Other Name: Approach to the "Lift Assist"

On March 3rd, we published the following case stem:


EMS is dispatched to the home of a 75 yo female for a “lift assist”.  Reportedly, the patient slipped out of bed when getting up in the morning and needs assistance in getting off the floor.  Per dispatch, she is alert and denies other complaints.  This is not the first time EMS has been dispatched to this household for a similar complaint.  Driving to the scene, the EMS crew begins to debate whether a full Patient Care Record should be completed.  

We asked our readers three questions with regard to this scenario:

How do you define a "patient" in EMS?  

What defines a "lift assist" in your system?

What is the minimum assessment that should be performed and/or documented?


Our readers responded with a number of thoughtful comments and references.


How do you define a "patient" in EMS?  

There was general consensus that the term “patient” should be defined broadly within EMS: 

 “A patient is an individual requesting or potentially needing medical evaluation or treatment. The patient-provider relationship is established by either phone, radio, or personal contact. It is the providers responsibility to insure all potential patients regardless of the size of the incident are offered the opportunity for evaluation, treatment, and/or transport.”  - Eddie, from Wake Co EMS

 Is it safe to say any one an ems professional physically touches is a patient? - Jeremiah Escajeda

 “A patient is any member of the community served by the EMS that has a health problem requiring assessment and management by an EMT.” - Bill Lord

“My definition would be any person who needs or requests care. I have struggled with this question as an EMS Medical Director for over 30 years. My corporate legal counsel and our legal counsel for our state EMS agency gives this opinion: a person becomes a patient when they are contacted by an EMS provider. Period. No questions in their mind. My classic example is a non-injury MVC, called in by a passerby who dutifully calls 911 making the report. When asked if there are any injuries, they say "don't know", and they don't because they drove on. In our system, "don't know" gets a fire/ems/law enforcement response. If the people have no injury, did not request ems service, have a low or non-existent MOI, do not request evaluation or transport, I would think this would be a "no patient contact" response. However, as long as my legal consultants have the opinion that these folks are "patients" we will evaluate them and complete a PCR.”  - Irvin Smith, MD. Mercy Regional EMS. Paducah, Ky

Indeed, in a review of EMS liability cases (albeit from 1987 – 1992), the most common negligence allegations in patient care cases were arrival delay, inadequate assessment, inadequate treatment, patient transport delay and no patient transport. [1]  Legally speaking, proof of negligence does not require intent, but it does require that the EMS provider has a duty to act. [2] While the above definitions of patients are rather broad, they have important differences regarding interpretation of this duty to act.  The definition of patient provided by Bill Lord requires that you have a health problem requiring evaluation, while the Wake County definition considers someone with the potential to need evaluation and treatment a patient as well.  As alluded to by Irvin Smith, this becomes tricky when a third party caller requests assistance on the behalf of someone who does not want it, but it seems reasonable that there is some sort of documentation of this encounter (i.e. a person with decision making capacity refused evaluation and care) in case an accusation of negligence or abandonment were to appear in the future.


What defines a "lift assist" in your system and what is the minimum assessment that should be performed and/or documented?

Commenters generally agreed that “lift assist” was a potentially dangerous term because it puts providers in the mindset that the patient is not ill.

Heard this conversation in hospital ems room one day btw two different agency medics: “does your medical director make you get vital signs on your lift assists? Ours does!”

We should also ask what is response level in your EMS system for a “lift assist” call? Does your 911 system use the term “lift assist”

We should stop using that term. Exchange it with “fall.” A simple approach to highlighting a high risk pt population who we know are often elderly (high under triage rate [1]) and have a frequent short term representation rate with the healthcare system for what is often serious pathology[2].

1.Kodadek LM, Selvarajah S, Velopulos CG et al. Undertriage of older trauma patients: is this a national phenomenon? J Surg Research. 2015;199:220-229.
- Jeremiah Escajeda


There is no such term. Anyone with impaired mobility that requires assistance to mobilize requires an assessment of their health status before deciding that the patient does not require further medical assessment or referral to an agency that can implement a falls assessment and mitigation program with the patient’s consent….We know that a significant number of elderly who experience a fall but are not transported by EMTs have a subsequent fall, often resulting in a catastrophic injury such as a fractured neck of femur. The mortality rate in this cohort is also alarmingly high. http://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/15/6/390
This reinforces the need for a focused examination in any older person who has fallen, even if they appear uninjured. Assessment should include tests of proprioception, balance and ability to mobilize. This is particularly important where the patient lives independently or has inadequate support. This suggests the need for an experienced clinician trained in this type of clinical assessment. However, there is evidence that paramedics don’t see this as their “core business”. We need to change this perception. See: https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-017-2243-y
Bill Lord


My mentor and EMS fellowship program director, Sabina Braithwaite, describes her approach to the “lift assist” the same way she describes most things: directly and logically.  Per Sabina, “When you need to call 911 to get your ass off the floor, that ain’t normal. You’ve probably got a problem and you deserve to be evaluated.”  Two studies that have examined outcomes of the “lift assist” patient have provided evidence for this clinical approach.  Cone et. al. examined the outcomes of 9-1-1 responses coded as “lift assists” from 2004-2009.  They found that these accounted for a total of 4.8% of all EMS calls and more than half of these had a return visit within 30 days.  On return visits, more than 50% were transported to the hospital. [3] More recently, Leggatt at al. published a retrospective analysis of 14-day morbidity and mortality among patients with an index lift-assist call. They found that out of 414 patients who called for a lift-assist, 21% had an ED visit, 11.6 % had a hospital admission and 1.1% died within 14 days of the index lift assist call.[4] These findings suggest that the index “lift-assist” call could have been an indicator of a functional decline, or alternatively just represent an overall sicker population. [5] While not every “lift assist” patient is a fall (e.g. the patient who needs assistance from the toilet to their bedroom), the vast majority likely fit the criteria for broad definition of patient as described above and deserve a medical assessment.

The commenters also make a more subtle and important point about the role of EMS in caring for these patients.  While few paramedics enter school with the goal of taking care of geriatric fallers, this population makes up a substantial proportion of EMS calls. [6,7]  As EMS providers find themselves spending their time on non-life-threatening work, this fosters  “low acuity fatigue”,  a “misplaced preconception before arriving at the scene that there will be nothing seriously wrong with the patient.” [6] While a substantial proportion of these patients will not require transport and should not be transported [8,9], a number of serious illnesses can lead to patient being on the floor and unable to get up (e.g. hypotension, stroke etc.).  Even in the absence of serious illness, visits to patients’ homes by EMS represent a unique opportunity for intervention for elderly patients who fall. EMS providers are able to assess multiple factors that likely affect long term health of elderly patients, such as the safety of their home environment or what their home environment conveys about their ability to care for themselves at their current level of assistance. [10]   Ideally, in cases of both transported and non-transported patients who fall, EMS can be incorporated into the integrated healthcare network that provides preventative care to this population to both decrease their risk of subsequent fall or their risk of harm from a subsequent fall. [11,12] EMS education will be essential to this process by promoting the perception that the care of the geriatric fall patient is “legitimate work” and an opportunity to do a tremendous amount of good. [6] Indeed, the health of the community and EMS provider job satisfaction stand to gain a lot from such a culture change.

Summary by EMS MEd Editor  Maia Dorsett, MD PhD @maiadorsett

1.     Ogilvie, W. (2017). EMS, Legal and Ethical Issues.

2.     Morgan, D. L., Wainscott, M. P., & Knowles, H. C. (1994). Emergency medical services liability litigation in the United States: 1987 to 1992. Prehospital and disaster medicine9(4), 214-220.

3.     Cone, D. C., Ahern, J., Lee, C. H., Baker, D., Murphy, T., & Bogucki, S. (2013). A descriptive study of the “lift-assist” call. Prehospital Emergency Care17(1), 51-56.

4.     Leggatt, L., Van Aarsen, K., Columbus, M., Dukelow, A., Lewell, M., Davis, M., & McLeod, S. (2017). Morbidity and mortality associated with prehospital “lift-assist” calls. Prehospital Emergency Care21(5), 556-562.

5.     Brown, Lawrence H. "Researching Lift-Assists: Nebulous Complexity." (2017): Prehospital Emergency Care . 670-672.

6.     Simpson, P., Thomas, R., Bendall, J., Lord, B., Lord, S., & Close, J. (2017). ‘Popping nana back into bed’-a qualitative exploration of paramedic decision making when caring for older people who have fallen. BMC health services research17(1), 299.

7.     Evans, C. S., Platts-Mills, T. F., Fernandez, A. R., Grover, J. M., Cabanas, J. G., Patel, M. D., ... & Brice, J. H. (2017). Repeated emergency medical services use by older adults: analysis of a comprehensive statewide database. Annals of emergency medicine.

8.     Williams, J. G., Bachman, M. W., Jones, A. W., Myers, J. B., Kronhaus, A. K., Miller, D. L., ... & Tibbo-Valeriote, H. (2015). Retrospective validation of a protocol to limit unnecessary transport of assisted-living residents who fall. Prehospital Emergency Care19(1), 68-78.

9.     Williams, J. G., Bachman, M. W., Lyons, M. D., Currie, B. B., Brown, L. H., Jones, A. W., ... & Myers, J. B. (2017). Improving decisions about transport to the emergency department for assisted living residents who fall. Annals of internal medicine.

10.  Weiss, S. J., Chong, R., Ong, M., Ernst, A. A., & Balash, M. (2003). Emergency Medical Services Screening of Elderly Falls in the Home. Prehospital Emergency Care7(1), 79-84.

11.  Snooks, H. A., Anthony, R., Chatters, R., Dale, J., Fothergill, R. T., Gaze, S., ... & Lyons, R. A. (2017). Paramedic assessment of older adults after falls, including community care referral pathway: cluster randomized trial. Annals of emergency medicine

12.  Wofford, J. L., Schwartz, E., & Byrum, J. E. (1993). The role of emergency services in health care for the elderly: a review. The Journal of emergency medicine11(3), 317-326.


This is why we do advocacy

by Ritu Sahni, MD, MPH, FAEMS


On the Friday before this past Thanksgiving, the President signed HR304, otherwise known as the Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act.  In a year in which dysfunction would have been an improvement in the political world, this important legislation was passed in a bipartisan manner.  As EMS physicians, we have a unique view.  We look at our population as a whole – not necessarily individual cases and certainly just unique disease processes and specialties.  We are not responsible for one patient at a time but an entire community. This is why advocacy matters.  We have a responsibility to do what is right for our patients and as system-thinkers, we have a unique responsibility to do what we can to enhance the system.  This is especially true when it comes to advocating on behalf of our patients and our system and this is why we helped create and advocated for HR304.

In January of 2015 I was completing my term as President of NAEMSP.  We had been discussing issues regarding the management of controlled substances in EMS for years.  The only consistency was inconsistency.  In some locales, EMS Medical Directors were required to get a separate DEA license for every location that stored controlled substances of any variety.  Some EMS agencies were required to get a distributors license because they “distributed” controlled substances among their various rigs and stations.  It was in this context that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s policy/regulatory section approached the EMS community proposing to create a set of rules specific to EMS.  We were pleased that there would possibly some consistency and excited to hear that the DEA was reaching out to the EMS community.  During the NAEMSP meeting in New Orleans we had the opportunity to meet with the DEA’s policy personnel  As we sat in my presidential suite in New Orleans it became increasingly clear that we had a problem.   The DEA’s authority comes from the Controlled Substances Act.  The CSA was written two years before Johnny and Roy premiered on television (for you youngsters – Johnny and Roy are a reason many of us ended up in EMS).   The law didn’t anticipate the use of controlled substances in a mobile environment and without a physician present.  Ultimately, the DEA stated that the CSA had some very specific guidelines as to when controlled substances could be delivered.  The crux was this, all orders for controlled substances had to be “patient-specific.”   There couldn’t be a “standing order” that allowed non-physicians to deliver controlled substances without an order given to them directly by a physician in real-time.  When we suggested that the new EMS rules could allow this, the DEA representatives appropriately pointed that they could not write a rule that was counter to the requirements of the statute.  The only way to get rules that made sense was to change the law.

NAEMSP had seen the importance of advocacy many years earlier.   Dr. Richard Hunt correctly identified that EMS had been left out in the cold when there was a large increase in preparedness funding following the attacks on 9/11.  Law enforcement and operational fire had received specific funding lines.  Medical preparedness was focused on hospitals, who controlled local distribution of federal funds.   He asked a staff member of his local congressman why was EMS left out and the answer was simple: EMS had no one at the table when decisions were being made.  NAEMSP realized that caring for our patients required being involved when policy was made.   A spot at the table requires resources, which NAEMSP was unable to afford by itself.   As a result, Advocates for EMS (AEMS) was born.

Advocates was born from a desire to be provide a “Generic EMS” advocacy arm.   NAEMSP sought to bring the “alphabet soup” of EMS organizations together to provide a patient-focused advocacy outlet separate from some of the issues that may divide us in EMS.   Early on, the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) was a key partner.  Later on, the National Association of EMTs (NAEMT) was the major partner.  This allowed the organizations to pool resources and invest in professional lobbying along with a more strategic legislative focus.  AEMS adopted many strategies as it strove for relevance.  Early on, AEMS sought to ensure that “report language” and grant requirements included EMS.  It was successful in these endeavors and some small victories were helpful to the EMS community.   Ultimately, AEMS attempted to get more aggressive and developed the EMS Field Bill.  This bill was large and meant to be impactful.  It called for a formal Federal “Home” for EMS that was in Health and Human Services (not NHTSA).  It led to significant discussion and even controversy in the EMS community – but did not achieve passage. Ultimately, trying to run an “Association of Associations” can be difficult. Each association has a slightly different “twist” on EMS issues and more importantly, different processes when it comes to setting legislative goals.  As this became more difficult, AEMS had to come to end.  This does not mean AEMS was a failure.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  EMS associations realized that “You must be present to win.”  Having a presence in Washington, DC is imperative or national policy will roll right over you.  Based on this experience, NAEMSP decided that it needed to invest its resources into a permanent presence in Washington.

This brings us back to the DEA.  Shortly after NAEMSP formalized its own government affairs plan by creating an Advocacy Committee and contracting with Holland & Knight as our DC representation, it became apparent that any regulations regarding controlled substances would negatively impact patient care.  This is not because regulations are inherently bad, but because the CSA was not designed for prehospital use.  Because of the lobbying experience available to us from our Holland and Knight partners, we were able to identify a Member of Congress willing to listen to us and take up our fight.  Representative Hudson from North Carolina heard us and, as a result introduced the Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act.  We tried our hand at Advocacy.  NAEMSP members starting contacting Congress.   Additionally, we quickly partnered with ACEP and NAEMT – both of whom activated their membership on the issue.   NAEMT agreed to make the bill a priority on EMS on the Hill and members of the EMS community walked the hall of Congress to advocate for a bill in which NAEMSP led the development.  Our issue almost got done in 2016 – which would have been amazing.  But politics prevailed, and the bill didn’t pass.  Representative Hudson didn’t give up and he reintroduced the bill in the House and Senator Cassidy introduced the bill in the Senate.  This time, the pieces fell into place and the bill was passed by both the House and the Senate, and signed by the President.  To some it was a small thing, but using protocols or “standing orders” for EMS to deliver controlled substances was now legal.  Presence in Washington would have a direct and positive impact on the provision of care at the patient’s side.

What next?

NAEMSP strives to continue to be a force in healthcare policy development, especially as it relates to time-critical emergencies and high quality prehospital care.  As we move forward, the issue of medical oversight and its value to the system and role in driving quality care is key.  High quality medical direction improves patient outcomes and the system should acknowledge that and fund it.   NAEMSP plans to lead this discussion.  Your membership in NAEMSP helps fund this.  Additionally, NAEMSP has decided to form a political action committee or PAC.  Unfortunately, neither George Soros or the Koch Brothers can fund this PAC.  Only NAEMSP members can fund the PAC.  Why do we do this?  It allows NAEMSP to do it what it can in an aboveboard and ethical manner to support legislators who are open and supportive to EMS.  How can you help?  Here are a couple of things:

  • Donate money to the PAC (www.naemsppac.com)
  • Attend the NAEMSP Government Relations Academy on April 10 (Space available on First come, First Serve Basis, Click here to RSVP)
  • Attend the NAEMT EMS on the Hill Day on April 11 (https://www.naemt.org/events/ems-on-the-hill-day)
  • Get involved in local politics
  • Be present at local and state meetings, especially when EMS issues arise.
  •  Serve on local and state policy committees that impact EMS
  • Here’s the crazy one – RUN FOR OFFICE.  Imagine a world in which your county commissioner is an actual EMS physician?   It could be a game changer.  We can provide information but only when holding the levers of power can you truly make change. 

In EMS, we are system-thinkers.  Our primary objective is to improve the care of patients in our entire community.  We cannot assume that lawmakers will understand the intricacies of the care we provide or the barriers we face in achieving our primary objective.  We must be at the table. 



Lift Me Up Before You Go Go: Defining A Patient in EMS


EMS is dispatched to the home of a 75 yo female for a “lift assist”.  Reportedly, the patient slipped out of bed when getting up in the morning and needs assistance in getting off the floor.  Per dispatch, she is alert and denies other complaints.  This is not the first time EMS has been dispatched to this household for a similar complaint.  Driving to the scene, the EMS crew begins to debate whether a full Patient Care Record should be completed.  


 How do you define a "patient" in EMS?  

What defines a "lift assist" in your system?

What is the minimum assessment that should be performed and/or documented?


Thank you all for all your commentary.  You can read the Discussion forum summary here.


Tranexamic Acid: Does it Have A Role In Prehospital Management of Trauma Patients?

by Carly Loner, MD

Case Scenario:

EMS is called to the scene of a motorcycle accident involving a 42 year old male.  The patient was helmeted and his head is atraumatic, but he is confused.  Breath sounds are equal bilaterally. The patient’s abdomen is diffusely tender and he has an open left femur fracture that is bleeding profusely.  A tourniquet is applied to the left proximal thigh with control of active bleeding and a pelvic binder is placed. Initial vitals are HR 132, BP 85/60, RR 28.  The patient is loaded into the ambulance and they depart towards the Level One trauma center 35 minutes away.  The ground team does not carry blood, but they have been considering adding TXA for situations such as this…

Literature Review:


Tranexamic acid (TXA) is a synthetic analog of the amino acid lysine that stabilizes clot formation by binding to lysine receptor sites on plasmin, thus preventing it from binding to and degrading fibrin.  It has been used in the medical arena for many years for the treatment of bleeding.  TXA is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only for use in heavy menstrual bleeding and for patients with hemophilia undergoing procedures, but it has a long history of off label use in the elective surgery setting [1]. More recently, it has been utilized as a therapy for the prevention and treatment of hemorrhagic shock.    TXA use to treat traumatic hemorrhagic shock became more widespread following publication of the Clinical Randomization of an Antifibrinolytic in Significant Hemorrhage-2 (CRASH-2) trial [2].  This study showed that administration of TXA within 3 hours of injury reduced mortality, but had increased mortality if given after the 3 hours time-point.  The results of CRASH-2 were substantiated by the military application of tranexamic acid in trauma emergency resuscitation (MATTERs) study.  This retrospective study of a UK combat hospital found that subjects (combat casualties receiving 1 L or more of RBCs) had improved survival due to TXA versus placebo, and this benefit was increased in patients requiring massive transfusion [3].  Another study by Gayet-Ageron et al. sought to quantify the effects of treatment delay on TXA.  Simulated models determined that the benefit of TXA decreased by 10% for every 15 min of treatment delay until the 3 hour mark, after which there was no longer a benefit of TXA administration [4].  The literature supporting the use of TXA has continued to develop and the Department of Defense’s Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC), American college of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, European Task Force for Advance bleeding Care in Trauma all recommend administering TXA to hospitalized trauma patients as soon as possible [5, 6].

The time-dependent benefit for TXA may be due to the pathophysiology of trauma-induced coagulopathy.  Massive bleeding within trauma patients has been shown to have distinct phases.  The fibrinolytic phase shows these patient are prone to acute blood loss not only from hypovolemia but also from coagulopathy resulting from acidemia, hypothermia, shock, and hemodilution [1].    The coagulation cascade is activated immediately after a trauma with increased tissue factor and thrombin production and activation [1].  Tissue hypoxia due to hemorrhagic shock causes release of tissue-plasminogen factor [1].  The early phase of response to trauma is a fibrinolytic coagulopathy and studies have shown that this is where TXA may be most beneficial [2-4].  If given at a later stage of post-trauma coagulopathy, the fibrinolytic shut-down phase,  TXA could enhance the pro-thrombotic state and increase multi-organ dysfunction secondary to vascular microvascular occlusion [1, 11].  The coagulation/fibrinolysis states of the patient may be important for determining benefit versus detriment of administering TXA. 

There are multiple mechanisms by which TXA is thought to contribute to improved outcomes in trauma patients.  In addition to its anti-fibrinolytic role in preventing fibrin breakdown, TXA prevents trauma- induced coagulopathy by preserving the endothelial glycocalyx and thereby reducing vascular permeability and intervascular hypovolemia contributing to shock [1,6,7].  TXA also has anti-inflammatory effects that reduces post-ischemic neutropenic and mast cell activation which protects lung tissue, reduces vasopressor requirements, and reduces chest tube output [8-10].

However, prehospital TXA administration remains controversial.

On the positive side, TXA administration has a time-dependent effect on mortality reduction:  a post-hoc analysis of the CRASH-2 data suggests that the mortality benefit is achieved by administration within one hour of injury [12].  Several studies have found benefits of prehospital TXA administration. A UK prospective analysis studied the effects of prehospital administration of 1 g TXA in patients with concern of hemorrhagic shock. This study found that reduced multi-organ failure (OR 0.27, 95% CI 0.10 – 0.73) and reduced mortality (OR 0.16, 95% CI 0.03 – 0.86) in patients with shock when TXA was given by prehospital providers [13].   A more recent retrospective, propensity-matched German study of trauma patients transported by helicopter found significantly reduced 24 hr mortality (5.8 %  with TXA vs. 12.4 % without TXA), but no significant difference in overall mortality (14.7% with TXA vs. 16.3 % without).  TXA was found to prolong time to death (8.8 +/- 13.4 days vs. 3.6 +/- 4 days) [14].  Preliminary evidence from the  Cal-Pat Study suggests a non-significant trend towards decreased 24 hr, 48 hr and 28 day mortality in patients receiving prehospital TXA [15].  In Israel, TXA is given at the point of injury in both civilian and military settings [16]. In the pediatric population, Eckert et al. studied the effects of TXA in pediatric patients  injured in a combat setting in Afghanistan and found reduced mortality [18].  Multiple studies of prehospital TXA use in trauma are ongoing, including the Study of TXA During Air and Ground Medical Prehospital Transport Trial (STAAMP Trial) is a US multicenter randomized control trial investigating TXA on US Helicopter EMS services and is expected to be completed in March 2018 [17]. 

On the opposite side, TXA use is associated with side effects induce GI pain, joint pain, fatigue, visual disturbances, and of greatest concern, thromboembolic events.  However, the CRASH-2 trial found no significant difference in vascular occlusive events between TXA group and controls, but did contribute thromboembolic events with delayed administration during fibrinolytic shut down phase [2].  Multiple other studies have found no significant increase in occurrence of thromboembolic events [4, 15].    However, in the UK prospective analysis, while favorable of TXA administration did find 4-fold increase of thromboembolic events in the shock group which received TXA [13].  TXA has not been found to increase thromboembolic events in the elective setting and thromboembolic events in the setting of trauma may be due to additional factors such as stasis and surgery [3].   

Given concern for increased coagulopathy and incidence of multi-organ failure if TXA is administered during the fibrinolytic shutdown phase, some argue that TXA should be withheld until coagulation testing can be done which demonstrates hyperfibrinolysis [5,19]. However, awaiting for this testing delays time to administration and puts patients closer to the fibrinolytic shut down phase of trauma- induced coagulopathy.  A study by Stein et al. compared coagulation studies both on scene and upon arrival to the hospital between patients administered TXA versus placebo.  On-scene samples showed no significant difference but coagulation studies of the TXA group on hospital arrival demonstrated reduced hyperfibrinolysis and preserved fibrinogen levels [20].  

A 2017 review of the literature of prehospital TXA administration recommends an intermediate approach where the 1 g initial bolus of TXA is given in the field with further administration of TXA only given after coagulation testing at the hospital demonstrates continued hyperfibrinolysis [6].  There is no current evidence to support this two-step approach,  bringing up the ever-important point that prehospital and in-hospital trauma care are two points on the same continuum.  Regardless of location, prehospital implementation of a TXA protocol requires a collaborative effort with hospital emergency department and trauma services to ensure that care that is initiated is continued.  

Take Home: The use of TXA within trauma is controversial and still developing as literature expands.  However, studies do indicate that there is greater benefit to early administration of TXA versus delayed administration.  The negative effects of TXA may also be decreased if given early in the course of hemorrhagic shock.  There is growing evidence demonstrating reduced morbidity and mortality with prehospital TXA administration.  The role of TXA will likely continue to expand and it has potential to be employed in the prehospital setting to improve survival of patients in hemorrhagic shock.  

EMS MEd Editors Maia Dorsett, MD PhD (@maiadorsett) & Jeremiah Escajeda (@jerescajeda)



Additional Resources:

Current clinical prehospital trials of TXA use in Trauma at ClinicalTrials.gov

Enthusiasm for prehospital TXA use may be premature (JEMS)

Tranexamic acid's potentially bright future relies on collaborative data (JEMS)

Trending: More EMS Agencies administering TXA (EMS1)



1.         Nishida, T., T. Kinoshita, and K. Yamakawa, Tranexamic acid and trauma-induced coagulopathy. J Intensive Care, 2017. 5: p. 5.

2.         Roberts, I., et al., The CRASH-2 trial: a randomised controlled trial and economic evaluation of the effects of tranexamic acid on death, vascular occlusive events and transfusion requirement in bleeding trauma patients. Health Technol Assess, 2013. 17(10): p. 1-79.

3.         Morrison, J.J., et al., Military Application of Tranexamic Acid in Trauma Emergency Resuscitation (MATTERs) Study. Arch Surg, 2012. 147(2): p. 113-9.

4.         Gayet-Ageron, A., et al., Effect of treatment delay on the effectiveness and safety of antifibrinolytics in acute severe haemorrhage: a meta-analysis of individual patient-level data from 40 138 bleeding patients. Lancet, 2017.

5.         Chang, R., B.J. Eastridge, and J.B. Holcomb, Remote Damage Control Resuscitation in Austere Environments. Wilderness Environ Med, 2017. 28(2s): p. S124-s134.

6.         Huebner, B.R., W.C. Dorlac, and C. Cribari, Tranexamic Acid Use in Prehospital Uncontrolled Hemorrhage. Wilderness Environ Med, 2017. 28(2s): p. S50-s60.

7.         Diebel, M.E., et al., The temporal response and mechanism of action of tranexamic acid in endothelial glycocalyx degradation. J Trauma Acute Care Surg, 2018. 84(1): p. 75-80.

8.         Jimenez, J.J., et al., Safety and effectiveness of two treatment regimes with tranexamic acid to minimize inflammatory response in elective cardiopulmonary bypass patients: a randomized double-blind, dose-dependent, phase IV clinical trial. J Cardiothorac Surg, 2011. 6: p. 138.

9.         Peng, Z., et al., Intraluminal tranexamic acid inhibits intestinal sheddases and mitigates gut and lung injury and inflammation in a rodent model of hemorrhagic shock. J Trauma Acute Care Surg, 2016. 81(2): p. 358-65.

10.      Reichel, C.A., et al., Plasmin inhibitors prevent leukocyte accumulation and remodeling events in the postischemic microvasculature. PLoS One, 2011. 6(2): p. e17229.

11.         Moore, E.E., et al., Postinjury fibrinolysis shutdown: Rationale for selective tranexamic acid. J Trauma Acute Care Surg, 2015. 78(6 Suppl 1): p. S65-9.

12.         Crash-2 Collaborators. (2011). The importance of early treatment with tranexamic acid in bleeding trauma patients: an exploratory analysis of the CRASH-2 randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 377(9771), 1096-1101.

13.         Cole, E., et al., Tranexamic acid use in severely injured civilian patients and the effects on outcomes: a prospective cohort study. Ann Surg, 2015. 261(2): p. 390-4.

14.         Wafaisade, A., Lefering, R., Bouillon, B., Böhmer, A. B., Gäßler, M., & Ruppert, M. (2016). Prehospital administration of tranexamic acid in trauma patients. Critical Care, 20(1), 143.

15.         Neeki, M.M., et al., Efficacy and Safety of Tranexamic Acid in Prehospital Traumatic Hemorrhagic Shock: Outcomes of the Cal-PAT Study. West J Emerg Med, 2017. 18(4): p. 673-683.

16.        Nadler, R., Gendler, S., Benov, A., Strugo, R., Abramovich, A., & Glassberg, E. (2014). Tranexamic acid at the point of injury: the Israeli combined civilian and military experience. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 77(3), S146-S150.

17.        https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02086500

18.         Eckert, M.J., et al., Tranexamic acid administration to pediatric trauma patients in a combat setting: the pediatric trauma and tranexamic acid study (PED-TRAX). J Trauma Acute Care Surg, 2014. 77(6): p. 852-8; discussion 858.

19.        La Rochelle, P., Prehospital transfer strategies and tranexamic acid during major trauma. The Lancet. 389(10079): p. 1604-1605.

20.      Stein, P., et al., The Impact of Prehospital Tranexamic Acid on Blood Coagulation in Trauma Patients. Anesth Analg, 2017.

We Gave an Inch, They Took a Mile

by Clayton Kazan, MD MS


EMS Physicians need to be drivers of the EMS system and recognize that we are a Mobile Community Healthcare Provider and not providing medical direction to a fleet of glorified Ubers.  This seems like a total “no-brainer,” yet we find ourselves grappling with problems like Ambulance Patient Offload Delay (APOD, aka Ambulance Wall Time) that we should never have allowed to happen.  If, in your system, APOD is not a problem, then I suggest you stop reading this and migrate over to your Facebook account because you must be the Medical Director of the Shangri-La EMS system.  For those of you who share my system’s difficulties, I am going to blow your mind…we often blame the hospitals for APOD, but the fault lies with us because we depended on the hospitals to fix a problem that they have little incentive to address.  Meanwhile, despite the fact that EMTALA gives us firm legal ground to hold hospitals accountable, our inaction on the issue has led the problem to fester to the point of ridiculousness. 


EMTALA is quite clear about who bears responsibility for patients that present to Emergency Departments.  The 250 yard rule has always been a bit difficult for me to understand, especially when it means that my ER is responsible for a “patient” in the Burger King Drive-Thru across the street.  Regardless, there is no question that a patient belongs to the hospital the minute the ambulance wheels stop.  So, the ambulance enters the ER doors, passes through the gauntlet of parked ambulance gurneys  a volley of offcolor remarks from our inebriates, and vomiting in stereo from our flu patients, and our patient finds their way to the triage nurse.  With the state of ED’s these days, it would be laughably unrealistic to expect them to have a space for our patient, but when did this become an EMS problem?  Our shared experience is that the triage nurse, in true pirate captain form, shanghais the ambulance crew and sentences them to hours on the wall as unpaid members of the ED staff.  Part of this comes from a mistaken belief by some that the patient remains the responsibility of the EMS crew until such a time as the ED is ready to accept the patient, and part of this is sheer desperation at paralyzed ED and hospital throughput.  But, again, when did this become an EMS problem?  If the EMS call volume was ever too high, would it be OK for us to kidnap 2 ER nurses and put them on an ambulance?  Why is the opposite any more reasonable or palatable?  Is this a game of chicken with the hospitals to see how long our crews will wait on the wall until we direct them to start leaving?


None of this speaks to the ethics of a formalized handoff of patient care.  I certainly understand the importance of providing critical care, and I recognize that sometimes ED’s need a few minutes to rein in their chaos.  I do not suggest that ambulance patients be placed on luggage carousels in the ambulance bay to be claimed inside (or not), but the kindness and patience of EMS crews has clearly been taken advantage of.  EMS and ED work is a team sport, but the ED has become a Kobe Bryant-like teammate, that takes all the shots and glares at any dissent.  When did 10-15 minutes of acceptable waiting become 4 hours?  When did the priorities of the ED outweigh the importance of insuring that someone shows up when communities dial 911?  Perhaps the root of the problem lies in our background as hospital workers and our sympathy to the ED. 

So, I cannot raise a problem without proposing a solution.  The answer truly is fixing hospital throughput, and I spent 4 years on various hospital committees championing just that, with uninspiring results.  How about if the hospitals hire their own EMTs to hold the wall with these patients…the standard of care is the same, but, at least the hospital bears the cost and the community gets its ambulance back.  The hospital can carve roast beef in the ambulance bay if it wants to, but their overcrowding and failure to address their throughput issues really isn’t an EMS problem.  Until we hold the hospitals’ feet to the fire, they have no incentive to fix the problem. 


So, when people ask you how much APOD time is acceptable, the answer is zero.  This is a hospital problem that demands a hospital solution.  We wait out of courtesy and support for our ED partners, but our patience is wearing thin.  The day we start walking out when our clock runs out or when it hits the hospital’s pocket book is the day the hospitals will engage.

When Vfib is Stubborn...


On December 5th we posted the following case for discussion and asked our readers to comment on the management of refractory ventricular fibrillation.  Here is the summary of comments received, both on the blog, and via twitter.

The Case….

A 56 year-old male is cleaning out his garage with his wife when she hears him fall.  She turns around to find him unresponsive on the ground.  He is making gasping breath sounds but otherwise does not respond when she shakes him and yells at him.  She is instructed to perform CPR by pre-arrival instructions after calling 911 on her cellphone.  Within minutes, the BLS Fire Department arrives and takes over.  After confirming that the patient is pulseless, they resume CPR while applying an AED.   The AED states “shock advised” for ventricular fibrillation.  After resuming CPR after one shock is delivered, the ALS ambulance arrives.  High performance CPR is continued and the patient is defibrillated three more times for persistent ventricular fibrillation.  The end-tidal CO2 is 40 mmHg.   The patient has now been pulseless for almost twenty minutes.  The paramedics plan on continuing high performance CPR, but wonder what they will do if the patient remains in ventricular fibrillation with a good end-tidal 10 minutes from now…


Improvements in the care of patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest have changed patient outcomes dramatically.  More uniform collection of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest data  has allowed benchmarking and the identification of high performance CPR as the key ingredient in neurologically intact survival.  We have learned that doing the basics well makes the critical difference.  Cardiac arrest management has undergone a major transition from the ‘load and go’ strategy to high-performance CPR on scene.

However, a small proportion of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients may benefit from more than what we typically are able to offer prehospital.  Emerging evidence suggests that patients with refractory ventricular fibrillation(VF) may be one such population.   However, as pointed out by comments made by Dr. Aurora Lybeck, this population remains ill-defined:


“One major issue/barrier to researching this in a meaningful way is that there doesn't seem to be a consensus definition of what "refractory" or "persistent" VF/pVT is. Is it 3 shocks? 5? 7? a predefined number of minutes? To date, there doesn't seem to be even a majority agreement as to how we define this.” – Aurora Lybeck


One Japanese study defined refractory ventricular fibrillation as presentation to the hospital in ventricular fibrillation after at least one out-of-hospital defibrillation [1].  In this study, refractory VF accounted for 23% of all patients with VF as a presenting rhythm and 4% of witnessed OHCA.   In other studies, refractory VF was VF that was unresponsive to at least 3 defibrillation attempts and administration of 300 mg of IV amiodarone [2], or a median of 6 defibrillation attempts and anti-arrhythmic administration [3].  As discussed over twitter by Tom Bouthillet and John Lyng, “refractory” may be considered persistent VF despite already excellent high-performance CPR and correctly performed defibrillation:


If at minimum we define refractory VF as VF unresponsive to the best we have to offer with standard high performance prehospital ALS care, what are some of the non-standard interventions that we may be able to offer?


“There is an ever- growing body of literature to help us understand at least how to get the patient OUT of VF/VT. We are better understanding therapeutic options, be it pharmaceutical, electric (shameless plug for changing pad vectors, double sequential defibrillation), or some of the more aggressive options such as ECMO, an amazing but obviously not universally feasible option” – Aurora Lybeck


Dr. Lybeck starts by mentioning pharmaceutical options and double sequential defibrillation.  Let’s review the evidence regarding these as adjuncts to high performance CPR.

Pharmaceutical options: Recently, a small number of observational studies have been published suggesting that esmolol administration should be considered for patients in refractory ventricular fibrillation.  In a paper published in 2014, Driver et. al. reviewed the cases of 25 patients with OHCA and refractory ventricular fibrillation (no ROSC despite three defibrillation attempts, 300 mg of amiodarone and 3 mg of epinephrine) and arrival in ED with persistent ventricular fibrillation [3].  They compared patients with received esmolol (n=6) to patients who did not (n=19).  Patient’s had a similar proportion of patients with VF as their presenting rhythm and with witnessed arrest. 3/6 (50%) of patients receiving esmolol survived to hospital discharge with good neurologic outcome compared with 2/19 (10.5%) of patients in the no-esmolol group. A subsequent paper published in 2016 by a Korean group (Lee et. al.) was a pre-post study of inclusion of esmolol in a treatment algorithm for refractory VF [4].  Using the same inclusion criteria as the Driver et. al. study, they compared patients who did and did not receive esmolol.  While patients who received esmolol were more likely to get ROSC [9/16 (53%) vs. 4/25 (16%)], there was no statistically significant difference in neurologically-intact survival at 30 days (18.8% in esmolol group vs. 8% in non-esmolol group).  The numbers were overall very small.

Double Sequential Defibrillation: Double Sequential defibrillation (DSD), the use of two sets of pads and defibrillators to deliver two nearly simultaneously shocks at two different vectors, has gained attention as a therapy for refractory ventricular fibrillation.  The majority of examples are case reports [5] or case series [6].  The few retrospective studies that have been published have very small numbers of patients who received the therapy. In Ohio, a retrospective study of 2428 patients with OHCA found that 12 were treated with DSD.  Of these, 9 patients were converted out of VF, with 2 surviving to hospital discharge with a good neurologic outcome (CPC 1 or 2) [7].   A subsequent retrospective review of DSD use in OHCA in London found that of 45 patients treated with DSD in an 18 month period, only 7% survived to hospital discharge.  This rate was comparable to a that in a comparator group that continued to receive standard defibrillation alone [8]. The jury on double sequential defibrillation is still undecided and a randomized control trial does not exist, but it remains something to consider in the case of refractory VF.  

Above and beyond drugs and electricity, Dr. Lybeck mentions another less available but more aggressive intervention – ECMO (aka ECPR).  The goal of ECMO is to restore oxygenation and perfusion while enabling interventions that treat the underlying etiology of the arrest.  In the case of refractory VF, it is worthwhile thinking about etiologies that are not reversible with standard prehospital ALS care.   The most common etiology for refractory Vfib in multiple studies is acute coronary syndrome, anywhere from 42.1% in a French study to 84% in a study in Minnesota [2,8].  Other less common etiologies include aortic dissection and pulmonary embolism [3].  This suggests that what a subset of patients with refractory VF need is coronary reperfusion therapy in order to re-establish a perfusing rhythm. 

ECMO/ Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) and coronary reperfusion therapy has been pursued in a number of EMS systems internationally, some with very impressive results.   The CHEER trial was carried out in Melbourne, Australia [10].  They utilized a combination of mechanical CPR, hypothermia, ECMO and early reperfusion for patients with refractory cardiac arrest.  Inclusion criteria included age 18-65 years, cardiac arrest due to suspected cardiac etiology, chest compressions initiated within 10 minutes by bystanders or EMS, an initial rhythm of VF and availability of mechanical CPR.  A total of 11 patients were transported over a 32 month period and 9 received ECLS.  Five of 11 (45%) transported patients survived with good neurologic outcome.  Subsequently, a larger trial has been carried out in the United States (Minnesota).  Using a more protocolized approach, patients with VF/VT as their initial rhythm, age 18-75 yrs and VF refractory to 3 EMS delivered shocks, 300 mg of IV/IO amiodarone, lack of pre-existing severe comorbidities or terminal illness, body habitus to fit within a mechanical CPR device and estimated transfer time from scene to the cardiac catheterization lab < 30 minutes were transported with mechanical CPR in progress. ECLS was initiated in the cardiac catheterization lab and patients underwent cardiac catheterization which identified coronary occlusion in 84%.   62 patients met transport criteria and 55 had ECLS initiated.  Of these, 28 (45%) survived to hospital discharge, 26 of whom (42%) had good neurologic outcome [2].  This was better than outcomes in a historical comparison group (15.3% neuro-intact survival).  These findings are consistent with a prior prospective observational study in Japan comparing outcomes for patients with refractory VF who underwent conventional cardiopulmonary resuscitation versus ECLS [11].   The authors compared neurologically-intact survival for patients transported to tertiary centers that performed ECLS on standard protocol versus those that did not. They found that patients who received ECLS had significantly high neurologically-intact survival (12.3%) than those who did not (1.5%), although these rates were overall lower than those documented in the CHEER and Minnesota trials. This trial was unable to account for differences in baseline care between ECLS and non-ECLS tertiary care centers.

ECLS, however, is a resource-intensive endeavor.  Low threshold for implementation of advanced therapies such as EPCR is not likely to lead to a high value intervention.  Can we identify patients who both require advanced therapies to convert out ventricular fibrillation and are likely to do well?

With the respect to our case, In Princess Bride-like form, Dr. Jeremiah Escajeda stated the following:  “This patient has aliveness. He should be transported …”


What features of this patient’s case make it so that he is only “mostly dead”?  Dr. Escajeda goes on to share the criteria in the Pittsburgh area for transport for EPCR:

We have a prehospital alert system in place here in Pittsburgh that when providers identify a refractory organized rhythm, in a "young," healthy person, they speak with a command physician to run our prehospital ECPR checklist. If criteria are met, the patient is then expeditiously transported to our ECPR center with an alert sent to our ECMO team, ED team, Post Cardiac Arrest team and Cardiology. After the patient is placed on the circuit, next destination is cath lab.

Here is the prehospital checklist:
* Strongly suggested to place patient on LUCAS Device as soon as available
* Call attending medic command physician to run checklist

[ ] Witnessed arrest
[ ] Bystander CPR
[ ] Age ≥ 18 and ≤60
[ ] Initial shockable rhythm or PEA rate > 20 bpm
[ ] Good functional status prior to arrest (patient living independently and not from a skilled nursing facility/ LTAC and no prior neurocognitive dysfunction)
[ ] No signs of irreversible organ dysfunction (such as COPD on home O2, stigmata of liver cirrhosis or ESRD such as AV fistula or terminal cancer)
[ ] No morbid obesity (Morbid obesity defined as inability to fit into LUCAS device and/or abdominal pannus overhanging inguinal crease)
[ ] End tidal CO2 >10 mmHg with CPR
[ ] Expected time from collapse to ED arrival <= 30 mins

Hey maybe even one day we will be placing ECLS devices prehospital, has this has already been done in France https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28414164
and now they have impella devices that deliver 5L/min, and are the size of a pencil. Exciting future for these refractory cases

 Image Source/Reference:&nbsp;Reynolds, J. C., Grunau, B. E., Elmer, J., Rittenberger, J. C., Sawyer, K. N., Kurz, M. C., ... &amp; Callaway, C. W. (2017). Prevalence, natural history, and time-dependent outcomes of a multi-center North American cohort of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest extracorporeal CPR candidates.&nbsp; Resuscitation .

Image Source/Reference: Reynolds, J. C., Grunau, B. E., Elmer, J., Rittenberger, J. C., Sawyer, K. N., Kurz, M. C., ... & Callaway, C. W. (2017). Prevalence, natural history, and time-dependent outcomes of a multi-center North American cohort of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest extracorporeal CPR candidates. Resuscitation.

This prehospital checklist accounts for factors that we already know are associated with favorable neurologically-intact survival from OHCA.  But a critical question (and perhaps gets back to the question of the term “refractory”) is at what time interval should we start thinking about transporting the patient? How can we identify patients who have received the maximum potential benefit of on-scene care while still retaining benefit from care escalation in the form of ECLS?  Many patients will achieve ROSC without EPCR and initiating EPCR too early may distract from continuous, high-quality chest compressions.  The Pittsburgh protocol of time of collapse to ED arrival of < 30 minutes has evidence behind it.  A retrospective study of patients with OHCA within the ROC consortium examined the probability of good neurologic outcome in patients who would be considered eligible for EPCR (met age and pre-cardiac arrest functional status data) versus duration of resuscitation [12]. They found that amongst all eligible patients, the probability of neurologically-intact survival dropped below 10% after 30 minutes of resuscitation (see Figure).  They thus concluded that mobilization towards EPCR resources should be considered after 9-20 minutes of active resuscitation. Interestingly, amongst patients who achieved ROSC, longer durations of CPR were no longer associated with impaired neurologic outcomes (See Figure).  The results of this study concurred with a prior study of consecutive patients age < 65 with witnessed arrest and initiation of CPR in < 10 minutes that concluded that “transport for ECPR should be considered between 8 to 24 minutes of professional on-scene resuscitation, with 16 minutes balancing the risks and benefits of early and later transport. Earlier transport within this window may be preferred if high quality CPR can be maintained during transport and for those with initial non-shockable rhythms.” [13]


In the end, every EMS system has a limited amount of time and resources for training.  The healthcare system itself is resource-limited.  After years of focus on “Airway” before “Circulation”, we have come to the understanding that we need to focus on circulation; excellent BLS care in the form of high quality CPR and early defibrillation is the cornerstone of cardiac arrest care.  However, there are a subset of patients with potential for neurologically-intact survival that may be saved by additional circulatory intervention, including extracorporeal support and coronary reperfusion therapy.  Identifying who these patients are and the best way to both provide this therapy while utilizing limited healthcare resources in a high value manner may be the future of cardiac arrest care. 

Dr. Lybeck said it best, so we’ll end with her quote:

Particularly on the topic of OHCA, it's an exciting time to be an EMS physician, many thanks to our researchers, educators, and advocates out there, keep up the great work!”

Case Summary by  Maia Dorsett,  MD PhD, @maiadorsett


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2.     Yannopoulos, D., Bartos, J. A., Raveendran, G., Conterato, M., Frascone, R. J., Trembley, A., ... & Wilson, R. F. (2017). Coronary artery disease in patients with out-of-Hospital refractory ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest. Journal of the American College of Cardiology70(9), 1109-1117.

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9.     Pozzi, M., Koffel, C., Armoiry, X., Pavlakovic, I., Neidecker, J., Prieur, C., ... & Obadia, J. F. (2016). Extracorporeal life support for refractory out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: should we still fight for? A single-centre, 5-year experience. International journal of cardiology204, 70-76.

10.  Stub, D., Bernard, S., Pellegrino, V., Smith, K., Walker, T., Sheldrake, J., ... & Cameron, P. (2015). Refractory cardiac arrest treated with mechanical CPR, hypothermia, ECMO and early reperfusion (the CHEER trial). Resuscitation86, 88-94.

11.  Sakamoto, T., Morimura, N., Nagao, K., Asai, Y., Yokota, H., Nara, S., ... & SAVE-J Study Group. (2014). Extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation versus conventional cardiopulmonary resuscitation in adults with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: a prospective observational study. Resuscitation85(6), 762-768.

12.  Reynolds, J. C., Grunau, B. E., Elmer, J., Rittenberger, J. C., Sawyer, K. N., Kurz, M. C., ... & Callaway, C. W. (2017). Prevalence, natural history, and time-dependent outcomes of a multi-center North American cohort of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest extracorporeal CPR candidates. Resuscitation.

13.  Grunau, B., Reynolds, J., Scheuermeyer, F., Stenstom, R., Stub, D., Pennington, S., ... & Christenson, J. (2016). Relationship between time-to-ROSC and survival in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest ECPR candidates: When is the best time to consider transport to hospital?. Prehospital Emergency Care20(5), 615-622.