Traumatic cardiac arrest outcomes are not great, but they’re not so bad that resuscitation is futile – a subject I’ve ranted about before.
The largest study on blunt traumatic arrest in children to date has been published, showing that 340 / 7766 kids without signs of life in the field survived to hospital discharge. Neurological status at discharge was not documented. However, this represents 4.4%, or in other words for every 22 blunt traumatically arrested children who underwent prehospital resuscitation, one survived to discharge. The authors describe this survival as ‘dismal’. It’s not great, but my take on it is that survival is possible and in most cases resuscitation should be attempted.
The authors state:
“Based on these data, EMS providers should not be discouraged from resuscitating blunt pediatric trauma patients found in the field with no signs of life”
While the major focus should be on injury prevention, it is worthwhile considering whether more advanced resuscitation in the field could be provided to further increase the number of neurologically intact survivors.
Survival of pediatric blunt trauma patients presenting with no signs of life in the field
J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2014 Sep;77(3):422-6
BACKGROUND: Prehospital traumatic cardiopulmonary arrest is associated with dismal prognosis, and patients rarely survive to hospital discharge. Recently established guidelines do not apply to the pediatric population because of paucity of data. The study objective was to determine the survival of pediatric patients presenting in the field with no signs of life after blunt trauma.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective analysis of the National Trauma Data Bank research data set (2002-2010). All patients 18 years and younger with blunt traumatic injuries were identified (DRG International Classification of Diseases-9th Rev. codes 800-869). No signs of life (SOL) was defined on physical examination findings and included the following: pulse, 0; respiratory rate, 0; systolic blood pressure, 0; and no evidence of neurologic activity. These same criteria were reassessed on arrival at the emergency department (ED). Furthermore, we examined patients presenting to the ED who underwent resuscitative thoracotomy (Current Procedural Terminology code 34.02). Our primary outcome was survival to discharge from the hospital.
RESULTS: There were a total of 3,115,597 pediatric patients who were found in the field after experiencing blunt trauma. Of those, 7,766 (0.25%) had no SOL. Seventy percent of the patients with no SOL in the field were male. Survival to hospital discharge of all patients presenting with no SOL was 4.4% (n = 340). Twenty-five percent of the patients in the field with no SOL were successfully resuscitated in the field and regained SOL by the time they arrived to the ED (n = 1,913). Of those patients who regained SOL, 13.8% (n = 265) survived to hospital discharge. For patients in the field with no SOL, survival to discharge was significantly higher in patients who did not receive a resuscitative thoracotomy than in those who did.
CONCLUSION: Survival of pediatric blunt trauma patients in the field without SOL is dismal. Resuscitative thoracotomy poses a heightened risk of blood-borne pathogen exposure to involved health care workers and is associated with a significantly lower survival rate.