Tag Archives: procedures


Rectal exam has lousy test characteristics

A comprehensive review of the literature, the findings of which showed ‘compelling’ consistency: digital rectal examination (DRE) as a screening test had sensitivities ranging from 0% to 50%, had consistently high false-positive and false-negative rates, and did not improve the predictive value of the other components of a typical trauma examination.

Based on case reports of five patients, the authors suggest DRE may be of value during trauma evaluation in the following settings: (1) patients with evidence of penetrating trauma in the vicinity of the rectum, (2) cases in which the presence of neurologic injury is neither completely supported nor refuted by the clinical findings, and (3) before pharmacologic paralysis. A selective approach is therefore recommended. Some good news for your patients if this will persuade you to discard another piece of longstanding dogma perpetuated in basic trauma teaching.

Should the digital rectal examination be a part of the trauma secondary survey?
Ann Emerg Med. 2009 Feb;53(2):208-12

Chest needle too short

This CT study of 110 trauma patients showed: ‘the standard 4.4-cm angiocatheter is likely to be unsuccessful in 50% (95% confidence interval = 40.7–59.3%) of trauma patients on the basis of body habitus. In light of its low predicted success, the standard method for treatment of tension pneumothorax by prehospital personnel deserves further consideration’. Consistent with several other Ultrasound and CT-based studies published on the same subject then.

Needle thoracostomy for tension pneumothorax: failure predicted by chest computed tomography
Prehosp Emerg Care. 2009 Jan-Mar;13(1):14-7

Airtraq use by paramedics

Paramedics intubated simulated patients positioned supine on the floor by direct laryngoscopy (DL) and by using the Airtraq device. Ventilation was achieved more quickly with the Airtraq in a difficult airway scenario (tongue oedema), and after a short training period the Airtraq was faster at intubating a ‘normal’ airway.

Comparison of use of the Airtraq with direct laryngoscopy by paramedics in the simulated airway.
Prehosp Emerg Care. 2009 Jan-Mar;13(1):75-80

Failed prehospital intubation attempts and pneumonitis

A review of 1954 out-of-hospital tracheal intubation (ETI) attempts by EMS crews revealed 444 (22.7%) patients experienced one or more ETI errors, including tube misplacement or dislodgement in 61 (3%), multiple ETI attempts in 62 (3%) and failed ETI in 359 (15%). Pneumonitis was associated with failed ETI (n=20, 19%; univariable OR 2.54; 95% CI 1.24-5.25). The authors conclude that out-of-hospital ETI errors are not associated with mortality, but failed out-of-hospital ETI increases the odds of pneumonitis.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18952357

Prehospital intubation of children

A prospective observational study of paediatric patients requiring pre-hospital intubation attended by a helicopter medical team (HMT) included 95 children with a GCS of 3-4. Fifty-four received bag-mask support by EMS paramedics until the HMT arrived and intubated them (survival 63%), and 41 were intubated by EMS paramedics. Of these, ‘correction of tube/ventilation’ was required in 37% and the survival was 5%. The authors conclude that bag-mask support should be the technique of choice by EMS paramedics, as the rate of complications of tracheal intubation in this patient group is unacceptably high. Hard to comment as I only have access to the abstract but one wonders if the EMS-intubation group were sicker patients requiring more aggressive early control of airway and breathing.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18684547