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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 16, Issue 3, 2015

Critical Care

Is Serum Lactate Necessary in Patients with Normal Anion Gap and Serum Bicarbonate?

Introduction: There has been an increase in patients having serum lactate drawn in emergency situations. The objective of this study was to determine whether or not it was necessary to obtain a lactate level in patients with a normal serum bicarbonate level and anion gap.

Methods: This is a retrospective chart review evaluation of 304 patients who had serum lactate and electrolytes measured in an emergency setting in one academic medical center.

Results: In 66 patients who had elevated serum lactate (>2.2mmol/L), 45 (68%) patients had normal serum bicarbonate (SB) (greater than 21 mmol/L). Normal anion gap (AG) (normal range <16 mEq/l) was found in 51 of the 66 patients (77%).

Conclusion: We found that among patients with elevated serum lactate, 77% had a normal anion gap and 68% had normal serum bicarbonate. We conclude serum lactate should be drawn based on clinical suspicion of anaerobic tissue metabolism independent of serum bicarbonate or anion gap values. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):364–366.]

Treatment Protocol Assessment

Case Series of Patients with Ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Introduction: Traditionally, patients with suspected ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (rAAA) are taken immediately for operative repair. Computed tomography (CT) has been considered contraindicated. However, with the emergence of endovascular repair, this approach to suspected rAAA could be changing.

Methods: We present retrospective data in a case series of 110 patients with rAAA. Patients were managed at a single tertiary medical center over a five-year period. At this site, there was an established multidisciplinary protocol in which patients with suspected rAAA undergo CT with consideration for endovascular aortic repair (EVAR).

Results: Our results demonstrated a mortality of 30% with our institutional protocol for CT in suspected rAAA. Comparing patients who ultimately had EVAR with open repair, those able to have endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR) had lower mortality, shorter hospital stays for survivors, and a greater likelihood of being discharged to home than those with open repair. While survivors were more likely to have had EVAR, surviving patients were younger, had a significantly lower creatinine at presentation, and required fewer blood transfusions than those who died.

Conclusion: Based on this case series, an institutional approach endorsing CT for presumed rAAA appears to be reasonable. Our results suggest that EVAR may be beneficial in appropriately-selected patients and that CT may potentially facilitate superior management options for patient care. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):367–371.]

Behavioral Health

Racial Differences in Opiate Administration for Pain Relief at an Academic Emergency Department

Introduction: The decision to treat pain in the emergency department (ED) is a complex, idiosyncratic process. Prior studies have shown that EDs undertreat pain. Several studies demonstrate an association between analgesia administration and race. This is the first Midwest single institution study to address the question of race and analgesia, in addition to examining the effects of both patient and physician characteristics on race-based disparities in analgesia administration.

Methods: This was a retrospective chart review of patients presenting to an urban academic ED with an isolated diagnosis of back pain, migraine, or long bone fracture (LBF) from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2011. Demographic and medication administration information was collected from patient charts by trained data collectors blinded to the hypothesis of the study. The primary outcome was the proportion of African-Americans who received analgesia and opiates, as compared to Caucasians, using Pearson’s chi-squared test. We developed a multiple logistic regression model to identify which physician and patient characteristics correlated with increased opiate administration.

Results: Of the 2,461 patients meeting inclusion criteria, 57% were African-American and 30% Caucasian (n=2136). There was no statistically significant racial difference in the administration of any analgesia (back pain: 86% vs. 86%, p=0.81; migraine: 83% vs. 73%, p=0.09; LBF: 94% vs. 90%, p=0.17), or in opiate administration for migraine or LBF. African-Americans who presented with back pain were less likely to receive an opiate than Caucasians (50% vs. 72%, p<0.001). Secondary outcomes showed that higher acuity, older age, physician training in emergency medicine, and male physicians were positively associated with opiate administration. Neither race nor gender patient-physician congruency correlated with opiate administration.

Conclusion: No race-based disparity in overall analgesia administration was noted for all three conditions: LBF, migraine, and back pain at this institution. A race-based disparity in the likelihood of receiving opiate analgesia for back pain was observed in this ED. The etiology of this is likely multifactorial, but understanding physician and patient characteristics of institutions may help to decrease the disparity by raising awareness of practice patterns and can provide the basis for quality improvement projects. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):372–380.]

Opioid Education and Nasal Naloxone Rescue Kits in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Emergency departments (EDs) may be high-yield venues to address opioid deaths with education on both overdose prevention and appropriate actions in a witnessed overdose. In addition, the ED has the potential to equip patients with nasal naloxone kits as part of this effort. We evaluated the feasibility of an ED-based overdose prevention program and described the overdose risk knowledge, opioid use, overdoses, and overdose responses among participants who received overdose education and naloxone rescue kits (OEN) and participants who received overdose education only (OE).

Methods: Program participants were surveyed by telephone after their ED visit about their substance use, overdose risk knowledge, history of witnessed and personal overdoses, and actions in a witnessed overdose including use of naloxone.

Results: A total of 415 ED patients received OE or OEN between January 1, 2011 and February 28, 2012. Among those, 51 (12%) completed the survey; 37 (73%) of those received a naloxone kit, and 14 (27%) received OE only. Past 30-day opioid use was reported by 35% OEN and 36% OE, and an overdose was reported by 19% OEN and 29% OE. Among 53% (27/51) of participants who witnessed another individual experiencing an overdose, 95% OEN and 88% OE stayed with victim, 74% OEN and 38% OE called 911, 26% OEN and 25% OE performed rescue breathing, and 32% OEN (n=6) used a naloxone kit to reverse the overdose. We did not detect statistically significant differences between OEN and OE-only groups in opioid use, overdose or response to a witnessed overdose.

Conclusion: This is the first study to demonstrate the feasibility of ED-based opioid overdose prevention education and naloxone distribution to trained laypersons, patients and their social network. The program reached a high-risk population that commonly witnessed overdoses and that called for help and used naloxone, when available, to rescue people. While the study was retrospective with a low response rate, it provides preliminary data for larger, prospective studies of ED-based overdose prevention programs. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):381–384.]


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Health Outcomes

Reassessing After-Hour Arrival Patterns and Outcomes in ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction

Introduction: Differences in after-hours capability or performance of ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) centers has the potential to impact outcomes of patients presenting outside of regular hours.

Methods: Using a prospective observational study, we analyzed all 1,247 non-transfer STEMI patients treated in 15 percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) facilities in Dallas, Texas, during a 24-month period (2010-2012). Controlling for confounding factors through a variety of statistical techniques, we explored differences in door-to-balloon (D2B) and in-hospital mortality for those presenting on weekends vs. weekdays and business vs. after hours.

Results: Patients who arrived at the hospital on weekends had larger D2B times compared to weekdays (75 vs. 65 minutes; KW=48.9; p<0.001). Patients who arrived after-hours had median D2B times >16 minutes longer than those who arrived during business hours and a higher likelihood of mortality (OR 2.23, CI [1.15-4.32], p<0.05).

Conclusion: Weekends and after-hour PCI coverage is still associated with adverse D2B outcomes and in-hospital mortality, even in major urban settings. Disparities remain in after-hour STEMI treatment. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):388–394.]

Variability in the Initial Costs of Care and One-Year Outcomes of Observation Services

Introduction: The use of observation units (OUs) following emergency departments (ED) visits as a model of care has increased exponentially in the last decade. About one-third of U.S. hospitals now have OUs within their facilities. While their use is associated with lower costs and comparable level of care compared to inpatient units, there is a wide variation in OUs characteristics and operational procedures. The objective of this research was to explore the variability in the initial costs of care of placing patients with non-specific chest pain in observation units (OUs) and the one-year outcomes.

Methods: The author retrospectively investigated medical insurance claims of 22,962 privately insured patients (2009-2011) admitted to 41 OUs. Outcomes included the one-year chest pain/cardiovascular related costs and primary and secondary outcomes. Primary outcomes included myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, stroke or cardiac arrest, while secondary outcomes included revascularization procedures, ED revisits for angina pectoris or chest pain and hospitalization due to cardiovascular diseases. The author aggregated the adjusted costs and prevalence rates of outcomes for patients over OUs, and computed the weighted coefficients of variation (WCV)  to compare variations across OUs.

Results: There was minimal variability in the initial costs of care (WCV=2.2%), while the author noticed greater variability in the outcomes. Greater variability were associated with the adjusted cardiovascular-related costs of medical services (WCV=17.6%) followed by the adjusted prevalence odds ratio of patients experiencing primary outcomes (WCV=16.3%) and secondary outcomes (WCV=10%).

Conclusion: Higher variability in the outcomes suggests the need for more standardization of the observation services for chest pain patients. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):395–400.]

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Physician Documentation of Sepsis Syndrome Is Associated with More Aggressive Treatment

Introduction: Timely recognition and treatment of sepsis improves survival. The objective is to examine the association between recognition of sepsis and timeliness of treatments.

Methods: We identified a retrospective cohort of emergency department (ED) patients with positive blood cultures from May 2007 to January 2009, and reviewed vital signs, imaging, laboratory data, and physician/nursing charts. Patients who met systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria and had evidence of infection available to the treating clinician at the time of the encounter were classified as having sepsis. Patients were dichotomized as RECOGNIZED if sepsis was explicitly articulated in the patient record or if a sepsis order set was launched, or as UNRECOGNIZED if neither of these two criteria were met. We used median regression to compare time to antibiotic administration and total volume of fluid resuscitation between groups, controlling for age, sex, and sepsis severity.

Results: SIRS criteria were present in 228/315 (72.4%) cases. Our record review identified sepsis syndromes in 214 (67.9%) cases of which 118 (55.1%) had sepsis, 64 (29.9%) had severe sepsis, and 32 (15.0%) had septic shock. The treating team contemplated sepsis (RECOGNIZED) in 123 (57.6%) patients. Compared to the UNRECOGNIZED group, the RECOGNIZED group had a higher use of antibiotics in the ED (91.9 vs.75.8%, p=0.002), more patients aged 60 years or older (56.9 vs. 33.0%, p=0.001), and more severe cases (septic shock: 18.7 vs. 9.9%, severe sepsis: 39.0 vs.17.6%, sepsis: 42.3 vs.72.5%; p<0.001). The median time to antibiotic (minutes) was lower in the RECOGNIZED (142) versus UNRECOGNIZED (229) group, with an adjusted median difference of -74 minutes (95% CI [-128 to -19]). The median total volume of fluid resuscitation (mL) was higher in the RECOGNIZED (1,600 mL) compared to the UNRECOGNIZED (1,000 mL) group. However, the adjusted median difference was not statistically significant: 262 mL (95% CI [ -171 to 694 mL]).

Conclusion: Patients whose emergency physicians articulated sepsis syndrome in their documentation or who launched the sepsis order set received antibiotics sooner and received more total volume of fluid. Age <60 and absence of fever are factors associated with lack of recognition of sepsis cases. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):401–407.]

Association of Insurance Status with Health Outcomes Following Traumatic Injury: Statewide Multicenter Analysis

Introduction: Recognizing disparities in definitive care for traumatic injuries created by insurance status may help reduce the higher risk of trauma-related mortality in this population. Our objective was to understand the relationship between patients’ insurance status and trauma outcomes.

Methods: We collected data on all patients involved in traumatic injury from eight Level I and 15 Level IV trauma centers, and four non-designated hospitals through Arizona State Trauma Registry between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011. Of 109,497 records queried, we excluded 29,062 (26.5%) due to missing data on primary payer, sex, race, zip code of residence, injury severity score (ISS), and alcohol or drug use. Of the 80,435 cases analyzed, 13.3% were self-pay, 38.8% were Medicaid, 13% were Medicare, and 35% were private insurance. We evaluated the association between survival and insurance status (private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and self-pay) using multiple logistic regression analyses after adjusting for race/ethnicity (White, Black/African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native), age, gender, income, ISS and injury type (penetrating or blunt).

Results: The self-pay group was more likely to suffer from penetrating trauma (18.2%) than the privately insured group (6.0%), p<0.0001. There were more non-White (53%) self-pay patients compared to the private insurance group (28.3%), p<0.0001. Additionally, the self-pay group had significantly higher mortality (4.3%) as compared to private insurance (1.9%), p<0.0001.A simple logistic regression revealed higher mortality for self-pay patients (crude OR= 2.32, 95% CI [2.07-2.67]) as well as Medicare patients (crude OR= 2.35, 95% CI [2.54-3.24]) as compared to private insurance. After adjusting for confounding, a multiple logistic regression revealed that mortality was highest for self-pay patients as compared to private insurance (adjusted OR= 2.76, 95% CI [2.30-3.32]).

Conclusion: These results demonstrate that after controlling for confounding variables, self-pay patients had a significantly higher risk of mortality following a traumatic injury as compared to any other insurance-type groups. Further research is warranted to understand this finding and possibly decrease the mortality rate in this population. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):408-413.]

Diagnostic Acumen

Psychiatric and Medical Management of Marijuana Intoxication in the Emergency Department

We use a case report to describe the acute psychiatric and medical management of marijuana intoxication in the emergency setting. A 34-year-old woman presented with erratic, disruptive behavior and psychotic symptoms after recreational ingestion of edible cannabis. She was also found to have mild hypokalemia and QT interval prolongation. Psychiatric management of cannabis psychosis involves symptomatic treatment and maintenance of safety during detoxification. Acute medical complications of marijuana use are primarily cardiovascular and respiratory in nature; electrolyte and electrocardiogram monitoring is indicated. This patient’s psychosis, hypokalemia and prolonged QTc interval resolved over two days with supportive treatment and minimal intervention in the emergency department. Patients with cannabis psychosis are at risk for further psychotic sequelae. Emergency providers may reduce this risk through appropriate diagnosis, acute treatment, and referral for outpatient care. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):414–417.]

Horner’s Syndrome after Superficial Cervical Plexus Block

Ultrasound-guided nerve blocks are becoming more essential for the management of acute pain in the emergency department (ED). With increased block frequency comes unexpected complications that require prompt recognition and treatment. The superficial cervical plexus block (SCPB) has been recently described as a method for ED management of clavicle fracture pain. Horner’s syndrome (HS) is a rare and self-limiting complication of regional anesthesia in neck region such as brachial and cervical plexus blocks. Herein we describe the first reported case of a HS after an ultrasound-guided SCPB performed in the ED and discuss the complex anatomy of the neck that contributes to the occurrence of this complication. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):428–431.]

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Emergent Presentation of Decompensated Mitral Valve Prolapse and Atrial Septal Defect

Mitral valve prolapse is not commonly on the list of differential diagnosis when a patient presents in the emergency department (ED) in severe distress, presenting with non-specific features such as abdominal pain, tachycardia and dyspnea. A healthy 55-year-old man without significant past medical history arrived in the ED with a unique presentation of a primary mitral valve prolapse with an atrial septal defect uncommon in cardiology literature. Early recognition of mitral valve prolapse in high-risk patients for severe mitral regurgitation or patients with underlying cardiovascular abnormalities such as an atrial septal defect is crucial to prevent morbid outcomes such as sudden cardiac death. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):432–434.]

Anaphylaxis Due to Head Injury

Both anaphylaxis and head injury are often seen in the emergency department, but they are rarely seen in combination. We present a case of a 30-year-old woman who presented with anaphylaxis with urticaria and angioedema following a minor head injury. The patient responded well to intramuscular epinephrine without further complications or airway compromise. Prior case reports have reported angioedema from hereditary angioedema during dental procedures and maxillofacial surgery, but there have not been any cases of first-time angioedema or anaphylaxis due to head injury. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):435–437.]

Morel-Lavallee Lesion Initially Diagnosed as Quadriceps Contusion: Ultrasound, MRI, and Importance of Early Intervention

Morel-Lavallee lesions (MLL) are rare, closed degloving injuries caused by trauma that delivers a shearing force to the soft tissue most commonly of the hip. If not treated in the acute and subacute setting these lesions are often complicated by re- accumulation of fluid, infection, or chronic pain. We present a unique case of a recurrent, massive medial knee/thigh MLL in which proper treatment was delayed due to initial diagnosis of a quadriceps contusion. We describe the ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging findings of this patient and based on a review of recent literature propose that the initial management should have included early drainage/debridement, which likely could have prevented recurrence and significantly shortened the clinical course. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):438–441.]

Technology in Emergency Medicine

Rapid Diagnosis of Nonconvulsive Status Epilepticus Using Reduced-Lead Electroencephalography

Introduction: Electroencephalography (EEG) is indicated for diagnosing nonconvulsive status epilepticus (NCSE) in a patient who has altered level of consciousness after a motor seizure. A study in a neonatal population found 94% sensitivity and 78% specificity for detection of seizure using a single-lead device. This study aims to show that a reduced montage EEG would detect 90% of seizures detected on standard EEG.

Methods: A portable Brainmaster EEG device was available in the emergency department (ED) at all times. Patients presenting to the ED with altered mental status and known history of seizure or a witnessed seizure having a standard EEG were eligible for this study. The emergency physician obtained informed consent from the legally authorized representative (LAR), while an ED technician attached the electrodes to the patient, and a research associate attached the electrodes to the wiring routing to the portable EEG module. A board-certified epileptologist interpreted the tracings via the Internet. Simultaneously, the emergency physician ordered a standard 23-lead EEG, which would be interpreted by the neurologist on call to read EEGs. We compared the epileptologist’s interpretation of the reduced montage EEG to the results of the 23-lead EEG, which was considered the gold standard for detecting seizures.

Results: Twelve of 12 patients or 100% had the same findings on reduced-montage EEG as standard EEG. One of 12 patients or 8% had nonconvulsive seizure activity.

Conclusion: The results are consistent with prior studies which have shown that 8-48% of patients who have had a motor seizure continue to have nonconvulsive seizure activity on EEG. This study suggests that a bedside reduced-montage EEG can be used to make the diagnosis of NCSE in the ED. Further study will be conducted to see if this technology can be applied to the inpatient neurological intensive care unit setting. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):442–446.]

Bleb Point: Mimicker of Pneumothorax in Bullous Lung Disease

In patients presenting with severe dyspnea, several diagnostic challenges arise in distinguishingthe diagnosis of pneumothorax versus several other pulmonary etiologies like bullous lung disease,pneumonia, interstitial lung disease, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Distinguishingbetween large pulmonary bullae and pneumothorax is of the utmost importance, as the acutemanagement is very different. While multiple imaging modalities are available, plain radiographsmay be inadequate to make the diagnosis and other advanced imaging may be difficult to obtain.Ultrasound has a very high specificity for pneumothorax. We present a case where a largepulmonary bleb mimics the lung point and therefore inaccurately suggests pneumothorax. [West JEmerg Med. 2015;16(3):447–449.]

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Diagnosis of a Strangulated Laparoscopic Incisional Hernia with Point-of-Care Ultrasonography

The use of point-of-care ultrasound for the diagnosis of bowel obstructions and hernias is becomingincreasingly common in the emergency department (ED). Using a relatively rare case of an incisionalport hernia, we demonstrate the ultrasound findings of a strangulated hernia causing a partialsmall bowel obstruction. A 46-year-old female presented four days following a laparoscopic surgerycomplaining of abdominal pain, nausea and lack of bowel movements. There was a palpable massin the left lower quadrant under the 12mm trocar port incision. ED point-of-care ultrasound revealedherniated akinetic loops of bowel through her laparoscopy incision. This is the first case report todescribe the use of point-of-care ultrasound for the diagnosis of a strangulated incisional port herniaat the bedside. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):450–452.]

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Prehospital Care

Rapid Extrication versus the Kendrick Extrication Device (KED): Comparison of Techniques Used After Motor Vehicle Collisions

Introduction: The goal of this study was to compare application of the Kendrick Extrication Device (KED) versus rapid extrication (RE) by emergency medical service personnel. Our primary endpoints were movement of head, time to extrication and patient comfort by a visual analogue scale.

Methods: We used 23 subjects in two scenarios for this study. The emergency medical services (EMS) providers were composed of one basic emergency medical technician (EMT), one advanced EMT. Each subject underwent two scenarios, one using RE and the other using extrication involving a commercial KED.

Results: Time was significantly shorter using rapid extraction for all patients. Angles of head turning were all significantly larger when using RE. Weight marginally modified the effect of KED versus RE on the “angle to right after patient moved to backboard (p= 0.029) and on subjective movement on patient questionnaire (p=0.011). No statistical differences were noted on patient discomfort or pain.

Conclusion: This is a small experiment that showed decreased patient neck movement using a KED versus RE but resulted in increased patient movement in obese patients. Further studies are needed to determine if the KED improves any meaningful patient outcomes in the era of increased evidence-based medicine in emergency medical services. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):453–458.]

Self-Reported Provider Safety in an Urban Emergency Medical System

Introduction: Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel often respond to dangerous scenes and encounter hostile individuals without police support. No recent data describes the frequency of physical or verbal assaults or which providers have increased fear for their safety. This information may help to guide interventions to improve safety. Our objective was to describe self-reported abuse and perceptions of safety and to determine if there are differences between gender, shift, and years of experience in a busy two-tiered, third service urban EMS system.

Methods: This was a secondary analysis of an anonymous, cross-sectional work safety survey of EMS providers. This survey included demographics, years of experience, history of verbal and physical assault, safety behavior following an assault and perceptions of safety. Descriptive statistics were generated.

Results: Eighty-nine percent (196/ 221) of EMS providers completed the survey. Most were male (72%) and between the ages of 25 and 50 years (66%). The majority of providers had worked in this service for more than five years (54%), and many for more than ten years (37%). Verbal assaults were reported by 88% (172/196, 95% CI [82.4%-91.6%]). Although 80% (156/196, 95% CI [73.4%-84.6%]) reported physical assaults, only 40% (62/156, 95% CI [32.4%-47.6%]) sought medical care and 49% (76/156, 95% CI [41%-56.6%]) reported the assault to police. The proportion of those who sought medical care and reported the assault to the police was not the same across years of experience (p<0.0001). Fear for personal safety was reported by 68% (134/196, 95% CI [61.6%-74.5%]). There was no statistical difference in assault by gender; however, females feared more for their safety compared to men (38/50, 76% v 96/142, 68%, p=0.02). The proportion of those who have ever been physically assaulted was not the same across shift worked (p=0.01).  

Conclusion: The majority of EMS providers surveyed reported an assault and certain groups had a higher rate of assault. Most assaults were not reported to the police and medical care was infrequently sought following an event. The majority of providers reported feeling fear for their personal safety. Further research into enhancing safety mechanisms is needed. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):459–464.]

Knowledge and Beliefs of EMS Providers toward Lights and Siren Transportation

Introduction: The use of warning lights and siren (WLS) increases the risk of ambulance collisions. Multiple studies have failed to demonstrate a clinical benefit to the patients. We sought to investigate the degree to which providers understand the data and incorporate it into their practice.

Methods: The authors distributed an anonymous survey to prehospital providers under their medical direction at staff and quality assurance meetings. The surveys asked the providers’ degree of agreement with four statements: transport with lights and siren shortens transport times; transport with lights and siren improves patient outcome; transport with lights and siren increases the risk of collision during transport; and transport with lights and siren reduces the utilization of “mutual aid” service. We compared responses between providers who had been in prior ambulance collisions and those who had not.

Results: Few responses reached statistical significance, but respondents tended towards agreement that WLS use shortens transport times, that it does not improve outcomes, and that it increases the risk of collision. Despite the overall agreement with the published literature, respondents report >80% of transports are conducted using WLS.

Conclusion: The data demonstrate the surveyed providers are aware of the risk posed by WLS to themselves, their patients, and the public. Nevertheless, their practice in the absence of rigid protocols suggests they disregard this knowledge. Despite a large number of prior ambulance collisions among the surveyed group, a high number of transports are conducted using WLS. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):465–471.]

Using EMS Dispatch to Trigger STEMI Alerts Decreases Door-to-Balloon Times

Introduction: We sought to determine the potential reduction in door-to-balloon time (DTB) byallowing paramedics to perform prehospital ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) notificationusing brief communications via emergency medical services (EMS) 9-1-1 dispatchers as soon asthey saw a STEMI on 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG). Our hypothesis was that earlier cardiaccatheterization lab (CCL) activation would improve overall DTB and avoid delays arising from onsceneissues or the time required to deliver a full report.

Methods: The study setting was a single suburban community teaching hospital, which is a regionalpercutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) center with more than 120,000 Emergency Department (ED)visits/year and is serviced by a single tiered-response, advanced life support (ALS) paramedic-levelagency. STEMI notifications from July 2009 to July 2012 occurred by either standard direct EMSto-physician notification or by immediate 9-1-1 dispatch notification. In the 9-1-1 dispatcher-aidednotification method, paramedics were asked to provide a brief one-sentence report using their lapelmicrophones upon immediate realization of a diagnostic EKG (usually within 1-2 minutes of patientcontact). This report to the 9-1-1 dispatcher included the patient’s sex, age, and cardiologist (if known).The dispatcher then called the emergency department attending and informed them that a STEMIwas being transported and that CCL activation was needed. We used retrospective chart review ofa consecutive sample of patients from an existing STEMI registry to determine whether there was astatistically significant difference in DTB between the groups.

Results: Eight hundred fifty-six total STEMI alert patients arrived by EMS during the study. Weexcluded 730 notifications due to events such as cardiac arrest, arrhythmia, death, resolution of EKGchanges and/or symptoms, cardiologist decision not to perform PCI, arrival as a transfer after priorstabilization at a referring facility or arriving by an EMS agency other than New Castle County EMS(NCC*EMS). Sixty-four (64) sequential patients from each group comprised the study sample. Theaverage DTB (SD) for the standard communication method was 57.6 minutes (17.9), while that fordispatcher-aided communication was 46.1 minutes (12.8), (mean difference 57.6-46.1 minutes=11.5minutes with a 95% CI [6.06,16.94]) p=0.0001. In the dispatcher-aided group, 92% of patients(59/64) met standards of ≤60 minute DTB time. Only 64% (41/64) met this goal in the standardcommunication group (p=0.0001).

Conclusion: Brief, early notification of STEMI by paramedics through 9-1-1 dispatchers achievesearlier CCL activation in a hospital system already using EMS-directed CCL activation. This practicesignificantly decreased DTB and yielded a higher percentage of patients meeting the DTB≤60minutes quality metric. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(3):472–480.]

Healthcare Utilization

Understanding Why Patients Return to the Emergency Department after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury within 72 Hours

Introduction: Although there are approximately 1.1 million case presentations of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in the emergency department (ED) each year, little data is available to clinicians to identify patients who are at risk for poor outcomes, including 72-hour ED return after discharge. An understanding of patients at risk for ED return visits during the hyperacute phase following head injury would allow ED providers to develop clinical interventions that reduce its occurrence and improve outcomes.

Methods: This institutional review board-approved consecutive cohort study collected injury and outcome variables on adults with the purpose of identifying positive predictors for 72-hour ED return visits in mTBI patients.

Results: Of 2,787 mTBI patients, 145 (5%) returned unexpectedly to the ED within 72 hours of hospital discharge. Positive predictors for ED return visits included being male (p=0.0298), being black (p=0.0456), having a lower prehospital Glasgow Coma Score (p=0.0335), suffering the injury due to a motor vehicle collision (p=0.0065), or having a bleed on head computed tomography (CT) (p=0.0334). ED return visits were not significantly associated with age, fracture on head CT, or symptomology following head trauma. Patients with return visits most commonly reported post-concussion syndrome (43.1%), pain (18.7%), and recall for further clinical evaluation (14.6%) as the reason for return. Of the 124 patients who returned to the ED within 72 hours, one out of five were admitted to the hospital for further care, with five requiring intensive care unit stays and four undergoing neurosurgery.

Conclusion: Approximately 5% of adult patients who present to the ED for mTBI will return within 72 hours of discharge for further care. Clinicians should identify at-risk individuals during their initial visits and attempt to provide anticipatory guidance when possible. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(2):481–485.]