Tag Archives: PEMT

Triage & Initial Treatment at the Active Shooter incident: Do you SALT your MCI?

DWK Fraser, CD, BA, PCP @DWKF
Views are my own, and do not represent my employers in any way.

Triage of any MCI is one of those infrequently practiced skills that have massive implications for patient outcomes, and when it’s done “wrong” it leads to wasted resources and potentially deaths.  It also has virtually no science to back it up. It wasn’t until recently that we even recognized the gap between what we knew and what we assumed about MCI Triage.  

In fact, current ALTS-based physician-directed triage training doesn’t seem to make a difference in triage outcomes!

In 2008 this gap was acknowledged, and a “new” method of triage was developed based on the limited information available and compliant with the American College of Surgeons best-practices guidelines.   This new method, using the mnemonic SALT, takes into account (in fact, relies on) developments in tactical medical care such as the modern tourniquet, almost universal NPA use, specific antidotes for chemical agent exposure.  It also allows for genuine clinical acumen and incorporates resource availability into final decision making.

More importantly, SALT is far more compatible with Hartford Consensus III which sums up the recommended response to the active shooter with the acronym THREAT:

Threat suppression
Hemorrhage Control
Rapid Evacuation from the hot zone
Assessment by medical providers
Transport to care

In an active shooter situation the first people through the door are there for job 1, threat suppression and mitigation, and this frequently (28.1%) results in an exchange of fire between the perpetrator and the responding members. Where officers engaged the perpetrator, in 46% of the events an officer was injured or killed.

But once the threat has been suppressed it’s time for the rest of the THREAT mnemonic to kick in, and that’s where SALT can play a role.

SALT stands for Sort, Assess, Life Saving Treatment, Transport.

Sorting is conducted as a “Walk, wave, still” where the the walking are directed to a safe area (to be cleared by LEO in an active shooter) unmoving are assessed first, and the waving are checked after the unmoving.

Tac Responder KitThe SALT Assessment is conducted concurrently with limited treatment, and is even simpler than START. Obvious life-threatening injuries get treated! Tourniqueting major bleeds, opening airways with positioning, NPA or ESA, decompress tension pneumothorax (and seal obvious open pneumothorax) and administer 2PAM or other antidote as required are all reasonable and appropriate, depending on resources available.

In the Tactical Medical world, this limited treatment is what’s run out of the medic’s leg bag. The jump kit doesn’t get opened outside the casualty collection point (CCP) until the treatment areas are being established.

Simple SALT Algorithm

 

The critical difference between the Active Shooter MCI and the other MCI is the speed with which providers must act.  An Active Shooter is frequently an ongoing, open incident that will continue until the shooter is contained, killed, or surrenders.  The initial RTF medics must continue to push forward with the security element, providing appropriate hemcon and other interventions with the equipment on hand and leaving follow on personnel the job of further treatment and evacuation to the cold zone.

Consider adding some SALT to your MCI!  Simple, limited life-saving interventions performed at point of injury are the norm in tactical medicine, reducing the cognitive load is essential in performing at our finest. Add these life-saving steps to your Active Shooter and MCI training!

 

Check out the full SALT Online Training package courtesy of the National Disaster Life Support Foundation

More (well, some!) evidence to back up hemostatic dressings.

Unlike tourniquets and TXA, both of which have  a robust and growing body of literature to support their use, hemostatic dressings such as Quickclot, Combat Gauze, WoundStat etc have had limited published field experience to support their use.
EMS1 on Hemostatics

Blowout Kit

Blowout Kit

 

In US DoD studies, Combat Gauze was chosen as the agent of choice, but that decision was largely based on animal models, which are great, but provide limited value and don’t always translate well to clinical practice. Some suggest they are about 30% more effective than good wound packing with regular materials.

But here’s a study from Israel that supports their effectiveness in the field about 90% of the time!  Keep in mind that this is a small study, but it’s pretty reflective of this authors experience with hemostatics in the military setting, includes extremity and junctional injuries, and acknowledges where there are gaps in the data.

Hemostatic agents in their current form seem to be a potent addition to the hemorrhage control arsenal, and have lots of cheerleaders in the military health care community, but are not a silver bullet that will stop every source of bleeding.  Here’s hoping one of the many gels, foams, CO2 delivered TXA interventions is THE answer to the bleeding patient!

Rescue Task Force Skill. Tourniquets: Where the science stands

DWK Fraser, CD, BA, PCP @DWKF
Views are my own, and do not represent my employers in any way.

If you asked any researcher to name some prehospital interventions that truly proved their worth during the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan they would, almost universally, include  tourniquets and TXA on their list.  Yet there is still, despite a huge volume of well documented research, widespread resistance and misinformation  about these two interventions.

During an EMA Licensing Exam I recently watched someone take a tourniquet off a complete amputation.   He looked at his watch, said “Ten minutes, time to loosen the tourniquet”, and proceeded to remove it from his patient.  Looking at me he asked “Is it bleeding again?” “Of course it’s bleeding again!” was my reply.

I looked at his instructor, and I was floored.  This is what the first aid groups are teaching people about tourniquets? Something very important has been lost in the knowledge translation.

Here are several published studies which look at tourniquet use in the modern context.

The first one we’ll look at was conducted at a US Army Combat Support Hospital (CSH) outside Baghdad over a 7 month period in 2006.  232 patients had 428 tourniquets applied on 309 injured limbs.  194 patients had tourniquets applied in the prehospital setting.  The remainder had them applied in the CSH.  “The 5 casualties indicated for tourniquets but had none used had a survival rate of 0% versus 87% for those casualties with tourniquets used.” The most common complication (less than 2% of patient) suffered a transient nerve palsy. Let me say that again.  Less than 2% of patients had complications, and the most common one was that their limb hurt or felt funny from the tourniquet compressing a nerve. And it went away.  There were no amputations associated with tourniquet use in this study.  

While this study isn’t without some problems, most glaringly the use of the quality & presence or absence of a radial pulse as the determinant of shock, it is very noteworthy that early tourniquet placement was associated with a better outcome and such a low complication rate makes it THE prehospital intervention for hemorrhage that can be tourniqueted.

LEO Applied TK

Law Enforcement Applied Tk to upper extremity due to arterial bleeding post stabbing. This required an additional full rotation of torsion bar to achieve hemorrhage control by EMS

The second is a follow up to the first, and when we add another 267 patients we get virtually identical data: an overall 87% survival rate, higher in those who received tourniquets early and lower in those who didn’t receive one at all or until the CSH, with a <2% complication rate and no amputations.

This is not to say that any intervention is without risk.  The use of improvised tourniquets and prolonged application times are associated with worse outcomes, and there are some documented cases, with improvised tourniquets, that DID result in amputations after long (17 hour) application.

It is critical that medical providers train with their tourniquet of choice under all potential conditions.  Application effectiveness does not improve under real world conditions! Lower extremity application continues to have the highest failure rate, likely due to the higher occlusion pressures needed (300mmHg!).

The inherent efficacy of tourniquet products contributes to high failure rates under combat conditions, pointing to the need for superior tourniquets and for rigorous deployment preparation training

What is the objective to loosening a tourniquet? To prevent loss of limb? To decrease complications like transient nerve palsies?  If those are your objectives, relax, the tourniquets have this one. Put it on, and don’t take it off.  We’ve got the EMS evidence to back this up.

Far from the front: the role of trauma systems in IED/Active Shooter Events

HMMVW Amb on the flight line, KAFWith the recent release of the US DHS Guidance for IED and Active Shooter document, we’re taking a look at some of the key concepts within that document.  This week we’re looking at the Trauma Systems roles in preparing for and responding to these events.

To some extent we are lucky.  We’re lucky because there are probably few tertiary care trauma centers that don’t have a veteran of Afghanistan or Iraq on their surgical, ICU or resuscitation service.  Experience counts, and team leadership is essential in MCI, no matter where they happen. Many hospitals have regular MCI drills, and at the facility level it really doesn’t matter what the incident is.  Plane crash? Bus Crash? IED? Unless you move the MCI to the hospital during transport, or the incident targets a health care facility, MCI in hospitals (should be) are very different from the chaos of responding to the incident scene.

“EMS must rapidly and accurately triage casualties at the incident site and expeditiously transport those identified for “immediate care” into an appropriate hospital setting.”

All facilities, not just those designated trauma receiving facilities, need to be ready for an influx of patients.  Experience shows that in major events many casualties self-report to the nearest treatment facility if they are capable of doing so.  These facilities need to have triage systems in place and EMS needs to stage transport units at these facilities to effect secondary transport.  In a major event, secondary transport may include out of region and even out of province transfers.  We need to keep in mind that our health care system is currently operating with a very limited surge capacity.

Damage control resuscitation and surgery (DCR/DCS) is the name of the game.  Prevent hypothermia, treat with blood products not salt water, and stop ongoing hemorrhage.

DCR is based on the balanced administration of thawed plasma, pRBCs, and platelets in severely injured patients instead of solutions such as normal saline and lactated ringers.9 10 11 12 DCR also includes avoidance of hypothermia and pursuit of other measures to maximize oxygenation and reduce injurious factors in the blast-injured patient.

However, all the surgeons in all the OR’s aren’t much help if you can’t get the patient to them in the right sequence.  Triage is one of the most critical elements of any MCI response, and MCI triage is not what you’ve experienced in the Emergency Room during a normal visit.  Triage also can’t happen once.  Triage should happen at each stage of evacuation, again on arrival at the hospital, and again among the priority patients for surgical priority.

Behind the scenes of any surgery are the hidden experts, radiology, lab techs, blood bank, and all the others without whom a modern OR can’t function, and they each have a job to do. This job will take a finite amount of time, and have a finite amount of stores on hand.

One area where significant efficiencies can be found is the role of the blood bank in trauma resuscitation, particularly development and implementation of Massive Transfusion (MT) Protocols.  Fascinating research in MT is ongoing, and developments like rotational thromboelastometry (ROTEM) are offering exciting developments

Any patient who may require MT should have already received TXA, preferably during tactical field care or casevac care. Despite best efforts, none of the prehospital blood replacements (or even Normal Saline for that matter!) show much benefit in hemorrhagic shock.  With that in mind, resuscitation with blood products is the gold standard.  Everything infused should be warm, it should be under pressure, and it should either help promote clotting or carry oxygen.

And let’s not forget that when these patients come out of resus and are off to the OR or ICU there is a finite amount of resources available for them even if they’ve made it this far.  We know that care of the traumatized patient is a long-term problem that will persist long after the event.

Trauma bays fullThe provider on scene is only the tip of what must be a vast concerted effort of allied health care providers working together towards a common goal:  Best care for the patients under less than ideal circumstances.

 

 

 

For more on Boston listen to this BBC Broadcast

To see what the New Yorker had to say about the hospital response to the Boston Marathon Bombing 

To learn more about Damage Control Surgery we recommend this #SMACC presentation.

Tac Technique Tuesday!

We’ve recently looked at wound packing as one of the more effective methods to control hemorrhage.  This week let’s look at surgical crichoidthyrotomy as an airway option in tactical environments.

Surgical airways are recommended by both C-TECC and CoTCCC relatively early in the airway management flowchart, below NPA and positioning and above placement of an ET tube.  Unlike the civilian setting where equipment is readily available and one monitor/patient is the norm, the Tactical Field Care (TCCC) and Indirect Threat Care (TECC) phase recommendations recognize that time and equipment constraints may not allow us to use tools like ETCO2 waveform capnography to confirm tube placement, or even Direct Laryngoscopy or Video Laryngoscopy to place a tube.  In those settings, a scalpel-bougie crich may be your best bet for definitive tactical airway management.Crich

Watch this video of Dr Dennis Kim demonstrating a very deliberate surgical method on a cadaver, and think about doing this in a dust-storm in Iraq (or a blizzard in the BC Alpine), or in the pitch black with IR illumination and NVG’s while balancing the equipment on the cleanest surface you can find, your jumpkit or your lap.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kg14kdIycDE

If they are done quickly and smoothly out of prepared stripped-down kits they are significantly easier and safer than ETT placement.  There is no technology to depend upon.  No Laryngoscope, no waveform capnography to confirm placement.

Equipment is simple: A scalpel, a bougie, and a cut down #6 ETT with 10 ml syringe attached.

If necessary, make a vertical incision to mark your midline.  Cut the skin laterally across the neck to expose the crichoid membrane.  Pierce the membrane, extend the incision and do not remove the scalpel.  Insert the bougie over top of the scalpel blade into the tracheal lumen. Remove the scalpel and pass the tube over the bougie.

The technique starts at 2:30 in this video!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT7KsQN6ANc

If you compare the two techniques, you’ll see that the scalpel-bougie Crich is the easier, safer method.  By keeping the surgical tract open continuously, via scalpel, then bougie, then tube, there is a major reduction in the chance of losing the tract.  Losing the tract in the dark, in the dust, in the snow, isn’t an option. This is your last ditch airway procedure.  It must work!

 

AIME part 2

Now that we’ve wrapped up the AIME instructor school, it’s time for the insidious part of the course to kick in.

As I go over the slide set and think about my wording, the best way to simplify a concept for our learners, I start thinking about all the new ways of looking at the related problems of ventilation and oxygenation in sick patients.

AIME uses the new paradigm of the Airway Vortex (more to follow on that, I’m sure) to look at the problems, and is almost infinitely scalable to all levels of providers. One of the great things about AIME is that it has everyone from EMR to Anaesthesia speaking the same language.  When I tell the Emergency Physician In Charge (EPIC) that I’ve got a failed airway, she knows exactly what I mean, because she knows what the definition is (SPO2 <90% despite maximal efforts) and she knows what’s in my tool box (a fair amount, including NODESAT, PEEP, CPAP, and some other acronyms, too).