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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Prehospital Lactate Measurement by Emergency Medical Services in Patients Meeting Sepsis Criteria


Introduction: We aimed to pilot test the delivery of sepsis education to emergency medical services (EMS) providers and the feasibility of equipping them with temporal artery thermometers (TATs) and handheld lactate meters to aid in the prehospital recognition of sepsis.


Methods: This study used a convenience sample of prehospital patients meeting established criteria for sepsis. Paramedics received education on systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria, were trained in the use of TATs and hand-held lactate meters, and enrolled patients who had a recent history of infection, met ≥ 2 SIRS criteria, and were being transported to a participating hospital. Blood lactate was measured by paramedics in the prehospital setting and again in the emergency department (ED) via usual care. Paramedics entered data using an online database accessible at the point of care.


Results: Prehospital lactate values obtained by paramedics ranged from 0.8 to 9.8 mmol/L, and an elevated lactate (i.e. ≥ 4.0) was documented in 13 of 112 enrolled patients (12%). The unadjusted correlation of prehospital and ED lactate values was 0.57 (p< 0.001). The median interval between paramedic assessment of blood lactate and the electronic posting of the ED-measured lactate value in the hospital record was 111 minutes. Overall, 91 patients (81%) were hospitalized after ED evaluation, 27 (24%) were ultimately diagnosed with sepsis, and 3 (3%) died during hospitalization. Subjects with elevated prehospital lactate were somewhat more likely to have been admitted to the intensive care unit (23% vs 15%) and to have been diagnosed with sepsis (38% vs 22%) than those with normal lactate levels, but these differences were not statistically significant.


Conclusion: In this pilot, EMS use of a combination of objective SIRS criteria, subjective assessment of infection, and blood lactate measurements did not achieve a level of diagnostic accuracy for sepsis that would warrant hospital prenotification and committed resources at a receiving hospital based on EMS assessment alone. Nevertheless, this work provides an early model for increasing EMS awareness and the implementation of novel devices that may enhance the prehospital assessment for sepsis. Additional translational research studies with larger numbers of patients and more robust methods are needed. [West J Emerg Med. 2016;17(5)648-655.]


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