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Evaluation of Physiologic Alterations during Prehospital Paramedic-Performed Rapid Sequence Intubation

Robert G Walker, Lynn J White, Geneva N Whitmore, Alexander Esibov, Michael K Levy, Gregory C Cover, Joel D Edminster, James M Nania
Prehospital Emergency Care 2018, 22 (3): 300-311

OBJECTIVE: Physiologic alterations during rapid sequence intubation (RSI) have been studied in several emergency airway management settings, but few data exist to describe physiologic alterations during prehospital RSI performed by ground-based paramedics. To address this evidence gap and provide guidance for future quality improvement initiatives in our EMS system, we collected electronic monitoring data to evaluate peri-intubation vital signs changes occurring during prehospital RSI.

METHODS: Electronic patient monitor data files from cases in which paramedic RSI was attempted were prospectively collected over a 15-month study period to supplement the standard EMS patient care documentation. Cases were analyzed to identify peri-intubation changes in oxygen saturation, heart rate, and blood pressure.

RESULTS: Data from 134 RSI cases were available for analysis. Paramedic-assigned prehospital diagnostic impression categories included neurologic (42%), respiratory (26%), toxicologic (22%), trauma (9%), and cardiac (1%). The overall intubation success rate (95%) and first-attempt success rate (82%) did not differ across diagnostic impression categories. Peri-intubation desaturation (SpO2 decrease to below 90%) occurred in 43% of cases, and 70% of desaturation episodes occurred on first-attempt success. The incidence of desaturation varied among patient categories, with a respiratory diagnostic impression associated with more frequent, more severe, and more prolonged desaturations, as well as a higher incidence of accompanying cardiovascular instability. Bradycardia (HR decrease to below 60 bpm) occurred in 13% of cases, and 60% of bradycardia episodes occurred on first-attempt success. Hypotension (systolic blood pressure decrease to below 90 mmHg) occurred in 7% of cases, and 63% of hypotension episodes occurred on first-attempt success. Peri-intubation cardiac arrest occurred in 2 cases, one of which was on first-attempt success. Only 11% of desaturations and no instances of bradycardia were reflected in the standard EMS patient care documentation.

CONCLUSIONS: In this study, the majority of peri-intubation physiologic alterations occurred on first-attempt success, highlighting that first-attempt success is an incomplete and potentially deceptive measure of intubation quality. Supplementing the standard patient care documentation with electronic monitoring data can identify unrecognized physiologic instability during prehospital RSI and provide valuable guidance for quality improvement interventions.


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