Tuesday, January 30, 2024

EMS Pharmacology - FDA Pregnancy Category

The FDA Pregnancy Category system classifies drugs according to their safety for use during pregnancy.

It is a system used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to categorize the risk of fetal harm associated with the use of medications during pregnancy.

The categories are as follows:

Category A: Adequate and well-controlled studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in the first trimester of pregnancy (and there is no evidence of risk in later trimesters).

Category B: Animal reproduction studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus, but there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women.

Category C: Animal reproduction studies have shown adverse effects on the fetus, and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.

Category D: There is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.

Category X: Studies in animals or humans have demonstrated fetal abnormalities, and/or there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience, and the risks involved in use of the drug in pregnant women clearly outweigh potential benefits.

It's worth noting that the FDA has moved away from this system in recent years, and labeling now includes more detailed information about the risks associated with drug use during pregnancy rather than simply assigning a category.

Further Reading:

Bledsoe, B. E. & Clayden, D. (2018) Prehospital Emergency Pharmacology (8th Ed). Pearson.

Guy, J. S. (2019) Pharmacology for the Prehospital Professional (2nd Ed) Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

EMS Essentials - Communication Skills

In the patient centered world of prehospital care, effective communication can make all the difference. As EMS Providers, the ability to connect with patients, understand their needs, and convey crucial information is paramount.

This guide aims to equip you with the essential communication skills necessary to excel in the dynamic and often intense prehospital environment. 

From active listening to cultural sensitivity, each skill plays a vital role in ensuring optimal patient care. 

Let's delve into the key components that make up effective communication for EMS Providers.

1. Active Listening: EMS Providers should practice active listening by fully concentrating on the patient, understanding their message, responding appropriately, and remembering key details. It's important to emphasize to students the need to avoid multitasking while listening, as this allows them to focus solely on the patient's communication.

2. Non-Verbal Communication: Approximately 70% of communication is non-verbal. EMS Providers should be mindful of their body language and be able to read the patient's non-verbal cues. 

This includes techniques such as sitting next to patients, crouching, and ensuring they are at the same level as the patient to establish rapport and understanding.

3. Clear and Concise Messaging: In emergency situations, clear and concise communication is crucial. EMS Providers should avoid using medical jargon when speaking with patients and should explain procedures in a straightforward and easily understandable manner. 

Providing real-life examples and allowing students to observe and debrief after communication interactions can be an effective teaching method.

4. Cultural Sensitivity: Promoting an understanding of different cultural backgrounds and norms can greatly enhance communication and patient comfort. 

While it's impossible to know everything about every culture, fostering an environment of kindness and prioritizing the patient's best interests can help mitigate potential cultural communication barriers.

5. Therapeutic Communication: This type of communication involves using active listening, empathy, and understanding to create a supportive and trusting environment for the patient. 

EMS Providers should be trained to demonstrate empathy, validate the patient's feelings, and communicate in a way that promotes trust and comfort, especially in high-stress or emotionally charged situations. This can have a significant impact on a patient's overall well-being and recovery.

These communication skills are essential for building rapport, ensuring patient understanding, and providing effective care in the prehospital setting.

Friday, January 26, 2024

EMS Cardiology - The Hs & Ts

EMS Providers should be familiar with the Hs and Ts of Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).

The H’s and T’s of ACLS is a mnemonic used to help recall the major contributing factors to Pulseless Arrest including PEA, Asystole, VF, and VT.

These are categories of reversible causes that can contribute to cardiac arrest. Here's a brief overview:

1. The Hs:

- Hypovolemia: Assess and address any significant loss of fluid or blood.

- Hypoxia: Ensure adequate oxygenation and ventilation.

- Hydrogen Ions (acidosis): Correct any acid-base imbalances.

- Hyper/Hypokalemia: Assess and treat abnormal potassium levels.

- Hypoglycemia: Check blood glucose levels and provide glucose if necessary.

- Hypothermia: Prevent or treat hypothermia as appropriate.

2. The Ts:

- Toxins: Identify and manage any toxic exposures or drug overdoses.

Tamponade: Consider cardiac tamponade and perform pericardiocentesis.

- Tension Pneumothorax: Recognize and treat tension pneumothorax by decompression.

- Thrombosis (Coronary or Pulmonary): Administer appropriate medications and interventions for thrombotic events.

- Trauma: Address any traumatic injuries that may have caused or contributed to the arrest.

Understanding and addressing these potential causes during ACLS can improve the chances of successful resuscitation.

However, it's important to note that decisions and interventions should be guided by local protocols, guidelines, and medical direction.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

EMS Peculiar Patient Presentation - Acromegaly

EMS Providers should be aware of the condition know as acromegaly and the potential issues it may cause in the prehospital setting.

Acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder characterized by the excessive production of growth hormone (GH), usually caused by a noncancerous tumor of the pituitary gland.

Here are some key points for EMS providers to consider:

Recognizing Symptoms:

Acromegaly is often associated with gradual changes in physical appearance, including enlargement of the hands, feet, and facial features.

Other symptoms may include joint pain, fatigue, headaches, and changes in vision.

Airway Management: Enlargement of facial features may pose challenges for airway management. EMS providers should be prepared to address potential difficulties in intubation.

Cardiovascular Considerations: Acromegaly can lead to cardiovascular complications such as hypertension and cardiomyopathy. Monitor blood pressure and be alert to signs of heart failure.

Medication History: Patients with acromegaly may be on medications to control GH levels. It's important to inquire about any prescribed medications and their potential interactions.

Communication Challenges: Enlargement of the tongue and other facial structures may affect communication. EMS providers should use clear and concise communication and consider alternative methods if necessary.

Temperature Regulation: Acromegalic patients may have difficulty regulating body temperature. Monitor for signs of hyperthermia or hypothermia.

Pain Management: Joint pain is a common symptom in acromegaly. Assess and manage pain appropriately, considering the patient's condition.

Transport Considerations: Patients with acromegaly may require special considerations during transport, such as ensuring adequate space and comfort due to their altered physical appearance.

Collaboration with Healthcare Providers: Communicate with receiving healthcare providers about the patient's acromegaly and any specific concerns or considerations that may impact ongoing care.

It's essential for EMS Providers to stay informed about rare medical conditions like acromegaly and be prepared to adapt their approach based on the unique challenges these patients may present. 

Further Reading:

Maione, L. & Chanson, P. (2022) Acromegaly. In: Tamagno, G., & Gahete, M.D. (Eds) Pituitary Adenomas. Springer Cham.


Monday, January 22, 2024

EMS Cardiology - EKG Rhythms

EMS providers play a crucial role in identifying and managing various cardiac rhythms in the prehospital setting.

An EKG (electrocardiogram) rhythm refers to the pattern of electrical activity in the heart as recorded by an electrocardiogram.

An electrocardiogram is a medical test that measures the electrical impulses generated by the heart during each heartbeat.

It is commonly used to diagnose and monitor various heart conditions. Understanding the components of an EKG rhythm is essential for accurate interpretation.

The EKG rhythm is graphically represented on paper or a monitor, illustrating the different phases of the cardiac cycle.

The typical EKG waveform includes P waves, QRS complexes, and T waves, which correspond to specific electrical events in the heart.

Here are the key components and some common abnormal rhythms:

Key Components of EKG Rhythm:

P Waves:

Normal: Represents atrial depolarization (contraction).

Shape: Typically upright and rounded.

Duration: Normally 0.06 to 0.12 seconds.

Abnormalities: Absent P waves, inverted P waves, or abnormal shapes may indicate atrial issues.

QRS Complex:

Normal: Indicates ventricular depolarization (contraction).

Shape: Typically narrow (0.06 to 0.10 seconds).

Duration: Abnormally wide QRS complexes may indicate ventricular conduction abnormalities.

Abnormalities: Wide QRS (e.g., bundle branch blocks) or absence of QRS (asystole) are concerning findings.

T Waves:

Normal: Represents ventricular repolarization (relaxation).

Shape: Usually upright and rounded.

Abnormalities: Inverted T waves or changes in T-wave morphology may indicate ischemia, electrolyte imbalances, or other cardiac issues.

PR Interval:

Normal: Represents the time from atrial depolarization to ventricular depolarization.

Duration: Normal PR interval is 0.12 to 0.20 seconds.

Abnormalities: Prolonged PR interval may indicate heart block.

QT Interval:

Normal: Represents the total time for ventricular depolarization and repolarization.

Duration: Corrected QT interval (QTc) is influenced by heart rate.

Abnormalities: Prolonged QT interval may predispose to ventricular arrhythmias.

Heart Rate:

Normal: Adult resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.

Abnormalities: Tachycardia (heart rate >100 bpm) or bradycardia (heart rate <60 bpm) may indicate various cardiac conditions.

The pattern and timing of these waves help healthcare professionals assess the heart's electrical activity and identify any abnormalities in the rhythm.

Normal EKG rhythms provide information about the regular and coordinated functioning of the heart, while abnormal rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, or bradycardia, can indicate various heart conditions.

Common Abnormal Rhythms:

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib):

Irregularly irregular rhythm.

Absence of distinct P waves.

Chaotic, fibrillatory baseline.

Atrial Flutter:

Regular or irregular rhythm with sawtooth-shaped P waves.

Atrial rate is often faster than the ventricular rate.

Ventricular Tachycardia (VTach):

Regular, wide QRS complexes (>0.12 seconds).

Often associated with hemodynamic instability.

Ventricular Fibrillation (VFib):

Chaotic, irregular waveform with no organized QRS complexes.

Emergency situation requiring immediate defibrillation.

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT):

Narrow QRS complexes with a rapid heart rate.

Regular or slightly irregular rhythm.


Absence of any discernible electrical activity.

Considered a medical emergency requiring CPR and advanced life support interventions.


Heart rate <60 bpm

May be associated with heart blocks or intrinsic conduction system issues.

Clinical Considerations:

Ischemia: ST-segment elevation or depression may indicate myocardial ischemia.

Conduction Blocks: Bundle branch blocks or heart blocks may affect the QRS complex and PR interval.

Medication Effects: Some medications can affect the EKG, leading to QT prolongation or other abnormalities.

EMS providers should receive regular training in EKG interpretation to enhance their ability to recognize and respond to abnormal rhythms promptly.

Additionally, collaboration with medical control and receiving hospitals is essential for optimal patient care in the prehospital setting.

Further Reading:

Garcia, T. (2013) 12-Lead ECG: The Art of Interpretation (2nd Ed.) Jones & Bartlett Learning

Walraven, G. (2016) Basic Arrhythmias (8th Ed.). Pearson 

ECG Educational Standards for Prehospital Providers

https://www.jems.com/patient-care/cardiac-resuscitation/ecg-educational-standards-for-prehospital-providers/ Accessed January 22, 2024

Saturday, January 20, 2024

EMS Cardiology - Einthoven's Triangle

Einthoven's Triangle is a concept in electrocardiography that refers to the arrangement of three limb leads used to record the electrical activity of the heart.

It was developed in 1912 by Willem Einthoven, a Dutch physiologist, and forms the basis for the standard 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG / EKG) used in clinical and prehospital settings today.

Understanding Einthoven's Triangle is relevant to EMS providers as it aids in the proper placement of leads and the interpretation of EKGs.

Einthoven's Triangle Basics: Components & Formation

Einthoven's Triangle consists of three limb leads, labeled I, II, and III, forming an inverted equilateral triangle with the heart at the center.

The triangle represents the spatial orientation of the heart's electrical axis, and is the basis for correct lead placement on a patient.

The axis is crucial in diagnosing heart conditions and understanding the overall electrical orientation of the heart.

Each lead measures the heart’s electrical field during the depolarization and repolarization of myocytes (muscle cells).

This electric field is represented as a vector that continuously changes and can be measured by recording the voltage, or potential, difference between electrodes.

Lead I:
Measures the potential difference between the right and left arms, where the right electrode is negative, and the left is positive.

Lead II: Measures the potential difference between the right arm and left leg, where the right electrode is negative, and the left leg is positive.

Lead III: Measures the potential difference between the left arm and left leg, with the left arm electrode negative and the left leg positive.

The potential difference reflects the electrical contrast between distinct points. Within the context of Einthoven's Triangle, this concept relates to capturing the heart's electrical activity from varied spatial perspectives. It is integral to the creation of an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and facilitates the interpretation of cardiac rhythms.12-Lead EKG:

Recognition of Abnormalities:

Understanding the spatial relationship of leads can assist EMS providers in recognizing abnormalities such as axis deviations and changes in amplitude and direction of the EKG waveforms.

Clinical implications & Decision-Making:

Proper EKG interpretation based on Einthoven's Triangle can help EMS providers in making timely clinical decisions, especially in the identification of acute myocardial infarctions and arrhythmias.

Myocardial Infarction: Changes in specific leads (such as ST-segment elevation or depression) can indicate myocardial infarction and guide the urgency of interventions.

Arrhythmias: The configuration of waveforms in Einthoven's Triangle aids in the identification of various arrhythmias, influencing treatment decisions.


Einthoven's Triangle is a fundamental concept in electrocardiography that EMS providers need to understand for accurate EKG interpretation.

It offers a spatial orientation of leads, assisting in lead placement, axis determination, and the identification of cardiac abnormalities.

Although Einthoven's Triangle involves just three leads, it serves as the basis for the 12-lead EKG, which offers a more comprehensive view of the heart's electrical activity. This expanded perspective aids in diagnosing various cardiac conditions.

This knowledge is indispensable for EMS providers in the prehospital setting, enabling them to make informed decisions and deliver timely care to patients with cardiac issues.

Further Reading:

Garcia, T. (2013) 12-Lead ECG: The Art of Interpretation (2nd Ed.) Jones & Bartlett Learning

Walraven, G. (2016) Basic Arrhythmias (8th Ed.). Pearson

ECG Educational Standards for Prehospital Providers

Medical Device History: Einthoven’s Triangle and the Electrocardiogram

Thursday, January 18, 2024

EMS Cardiology - Electrocardiograms (EKGs)

EMS Providers play a crucial role in assessing and managing patients in prehospital settings.

Understanding electrocardiograms (EKGs) is vital for EMS providers as it allows them to quickly assess and identify cardiac issues in patients.

Here's a breakdown of what EMS providers should know about EKGs, including their history, development, and use in the prehospital setting:


An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a graphic representation of the electrical activity of the heart over time.

It is commonly used to diagnose various heart conditions and monitor the effectiveness of treatments.

History of Development:

The development of the EKG can be attributed to several key figures, including Willem Einthoven, who invented the first practical EKG in the early 20th century.

Einthoven's string galvanometer allowed for the recording of electrical potentials produced by the heart.

Components of an EKG:

P Waves: Represent atrial depolarization.

QRS Complex: Indicates ventricular depolarization.

T Waves: Represent ventricular repolarization.

Use in Prehospital Setting:

Early Identification of Cardiac Issues:

EKGs help identify cardiac abnormalities, such as myocardial infarction (heart attack), arrhythmias, and conduction disturbances.

Early identification allows for timely intervention and improves patient outcomes.

Integration with Cardiac Monitoring:

Portable EKG monitors are part of EMS equipment, allowing continuous cardiac monitoring during patient transport.

Monitoring changes in the EKG pattern helps in assessing the patient's response to treatment and detecting new issues.

Communication with Receiving Hospitals:

Transmitting EKG data to receiving hospitals allows for early notification and preparation for cardiac patients.

This is particularly important for patients requiring immediate interventions, such as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

Training and Proficiency:

EMS providers should receive training in EKG interpretation to accurately identify abnormalities.

Proficiency in recognizing ST-segment elevation, T-wave changes, and arrhythmias is crucial for making rapid clinical decisions.

Clinical Decision Support:

EKG findings guide clinical decision-making, such as the administration of thrombolytics or antiplatelet agents for acute coronary syndromes.

Recording and Documentation:

Accurate documentation of EKG findings is essential for the continuity of care.

Clear communication of findings to hospital staff helps streamline the transition of care.

Continuous Quality Improvement:

EMS agencies should establish protocols for the ongoing review and quality improvement of EKG interpretations.

Regular training sessions and case reviews contribute to improved proficiency among EMS providers.

In summary, EMS providers should have a solid understanding of EKG basics, historical development, and the practical application of EKGs in the prehospital setting.

This knowledge enhances their ability to rapidly assess and manage patients with cardiac conditions, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

Ongoing education and proficiency maintenance are crucial in this dynamic field.

Further Reading:

Garcia, T. (2013) 12-Lead ECG: The Art of Interpretation (2nd Ed.) Jones & Bartlett Learning

Walraven, G. (2016) Basic Arrhythmias (8th Ed.). Pearson

ECG Educational Standards for Prehospital Providers

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

EMS Particular Patient Presentations - Technology Dependent Patients

EMS Providers play a critical role in the care and transportation of technology-dependent patients, such as those on ventilators. Such patients may also be require additional interventions such as tracheostomies, gastrostomy tubes, or total parenteral nutrition

It's essential for EMS providers to be well-prepared and knowledgeable about the specific needs and challenges associated with these patients.

Here are some key considerations for those patients who are reliant on a ventilator:

Patient Assessment:

Ventilator Settings: Understand the patient's ventilator settings, including the mode of ventilation, respiratory rate, tidal volume, and oxygen concentration. This information is crucial for maintaining proper ventilation during transport.

Backup Ventilation: Be aware of the availability of backup ventilation equipment in case of ventilator failure or other technical issues.

Battery Life: Check the battery life of the ventilator and have a plan for power sources during transport.

Equipment Familiarity:

Ventilator Model: Different ventilator models have varying features and requirements. Familiarize yourself with the specific ventilator model the patient is using.

Alarms and Troubleshooting: Understand how to troubleshoot common issues and respond to alarms on the ventilator.


Communication with the Patient: Determine the patient's ability to communicate and understand their needs and concerns. Some technology-dependent patients may have communication devices integrated into their systems.

Communication with Caregivers: If a caregiver or family member is present, communicate with them to gather additional information about the patient's medical history and any recent changes in their condition.

Transport Considerations:

Stabilization: Ensure proper stabilization of the ventilator and other medical equipment during transport to prevent disconnections or damage.

Power Sources: Have a plan for maintaining power to the ventilator during transport, including the use of portable power sources or adapters for ambulance power outlets.

Monitoring: Continuously monitor the patient's vital signs and the ventilator's performance during transport.

Training and Protocols:

Specialized Training: EMS providers should receive specialized training in the care of technology-dependent patients, including ventilator management and troubleshooting.

Protocols: Follow established protocols and guidelines for the care and transport of ventilator-dependent patients.


Detailed Records: Document all relevant information, including ventilator settings, alarms, and any interventions performed during transport. This information is essential for continuity of care upon arrival at the receiving medical facility.

Collaboration with Receiving Facility:

Communication with Hospital Staff: Provide a thorough report to the receiving facility, including changes in the patient's condition during transport. Ensure a smooth transition of care between EMS and hospital staff.

By being well-prepared and knowledgeable about the unique needs of technology-dependent patients, EMS providers can contribute to the safe and effective care of these individuals during prehospital transport. Regular training and updates on emerging technologies are essential to maintaining proficiency in this aspect of prehospital care.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

EMS Mnemonics - LEMONS

The LEMONS mnemonic is a helpful tool for EMS providers to assess the viability of airway intubation.

Here's what you need to know about it:

- L: Look Externally: Assess the patient's anatomy, facial trauma, and potential airway obstructions.

- E: Evaluate the 3-3-2 Rule: Ensure that the patient has at least three fingers' width of space between the incisors, three fingers' width from the angle of the jaw to the hyoid bone, and two fingers' width from the thyroid cartilage to the floor of the mouth.

- M: Mallampati Score: Determine the Mallampati score, which classifies the visibility of the oropharyngeal structures. This helps predict the ease of intubation.

- O: Obstruction / Obesity: Identify any airway obstructions or obesity-related challenges that may affect the intubation process.

- N: Neck Mobility: Assess the patient's ability to extend their neck and achieve optimal alignment for intubation.

- S: Stiffness: Evaluate the stiffness or rigidity of the patient's chest wall, as this may complicate bag-mask ventilation and intubation.

By considering these factors, EMS providers can better prepare for airway intubation and make informed decisions to ensure patient safety and successful intubation.

Friday, January 12, 2024

EMS Particular Patient Populations - Special Considerations

In the prehospital setting, EMS providers encounter a diverse range of special populations, each with unique needs and considerations.

Special populations refer to groups of individuals who may require specific attention or modifications in their care due to factors such as age, medical conditions, cultural differences, or social circumstances.

Here are some key considerations for several special populations, along with examples:

1. Pediatric Patients:


Children have unique anatomy, physiology, and psychological needs.

Communication should be age-appropriate.

Equipment and drug dosages may need adjustments.


Pediatric respiratory distress or failure.

Pediatric trauma.

Febrile seizures.

2. Geriatric Patients:


Aging-related physiological changes.

Increased susceptibility to certain medical conditions.

Polypharmacy and medication interactions.


Falls with fractures.

Altered mental status.

Cardiovascular events.

3. Pregnant Patients:


Pregnancy-induced physiological changes.

Special attention to maternal and fetal well-being.

Potential complications such as pre-eclampsia or premature labor.


Pregnancy-related bleeding.

Maternal trauma.

Severe morning sickness.

4. Patients with Disabilities:


Mobility, sensory, or cognitive impairments.

Adaptations needed for communication and transportation.

Addressing unique health needs.


Spinal cord injuries.

Developmental disabilities.

Neurological disorders.

5. Patients with Mental Health Conditions:


Unique behavioral and communication challenges.

Potential for self-harm or harm to others.

Medication management and interactions.


Psychiatric emergencies.

Suicidal ideation.

Aggressive behavior.

6. Cultural and Linguistic Minorities:


Respect for diverse cultural practices and beliefs.

Language barriers and the need for interpreter services.

Awareness of cultural factors influencing health behaviors.


Language barriers in obtaining medical history.

Cultural preferences in end-of-life care.

Religious considerations affecting care decisions.

7. Homeless or Vulnerable Populations:


Limited access to healthcare resources.

Increased risk of communicable diseases.

Addressing social determinants of health.


Exposure-related illnesses.

Substance abuse-related emergencies.

Malnutrition and dehydration.

8. Non-English Speaking Patients:


Language barriers in communication.

Use of interpreter services.

Cultural sensitivity in care delivery.


Difficulty obtaining medical history.

Misunderstandings about medication instructions.

Challenges in explaining the nature of the emergency.

9. Patients with Chronic Medical Conditions:


Medication adherence and management.

Recognition of exacerbations or complications.

Collaboration with primary care providers.


Diabetic emergencies.

Asthma exacerbations.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations.

10. Bariatric Patients:


Unique physiological challenges, such as obesity-related comorbidities.

Specialized equipment and resources for lifting and moving.

Attention to skin integrity and the potential for pressure ulcers.


Difficulty with airway management and ventilation.

Musculoskeletal issues and joint pain.

Metabolic complications, including diabetes.

EMS providers must be adaptable and responsive to the unique needs of special populations.

Training, cultural competence, and a patient-centered approach are crucial in providing effective and compassionate care across diverse groups in the prehospital setting.

Additionally, ongoing education and collaboration with community resources can enhance the ability of EMS providers to meet the specific needs of special populations.

Further Reading:

Alexander, M. & Belle, R. (2017) Advanced EMT: A Clinical Reasoning Approach (2nd Ed). Hoboken, New Jersey: Pearson Education

Bledsoe, B. E., Cherry, R. A. & Porter, R. S (2023) Paramedic Care: Principles and Practice (6th Ed) Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson

Mistovich, J. J. & Karren, K. J. (2014) Prehospital Emergency Care (11th Ed). Hoboken, New Jersey: Pearson Education

Peate, I. & Sawyer, S (2024) Fundamentals of Applied Pathophysiology for Paramedics. Hoboken, New Jersey:  Wiley Blackwell

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

EMS Particular Patient Populations - Geriatric Emergencies

EMS providers play a crucial role in managing geriatric emergencies, as the elderly population often presents with unique medical challenges.

Here are some key considerations, common presentations, and possible treatment plans for geriatric emergencies in the prehospital setting:

Key Considerations:

Physiological Changes: Aging leads to physiological changes, such as decreased organ function, altered drug metabolism, and reduced reserve capacity. Be mindful of these changes when assessing and treating elderly patients.

Atypical Presentations: Geriatric patients may present with atypical symptoms, making diagnosis challenging. For example, myocardial infarction may manifest as confusion or weakness rather than classic chest pain.

Polypharmacy: Elderly individuals often take multiple medications, increasing the risk of drug interactions and adverse effects. Obtain an accurate medication history and be alert to potential complications.

Frailty and Fall Risk: Falls are a common geriatric emergency. Assess for frailty, perform fall risk assessments, and address environmental factors that may contribute to falls.

Cognitive Impairment: Cognitive conditions like dementia can complicate patient assessment and communication. Collaborate with family members or caregivers for additional information.

Common Presentations:

Falls: Assess for injuries, especially head injuries and fractures. Consider the possibility of syncope, medication-related issues, or environmental factors contributing to the fall.

Chest Pain and Cardiac Issues: Look beyond classic symptoms; consider fatigue, shortness of breath, or altered mental status. Monitor for signs of heart failure or arrhythmias.

Respiratory Distress: Evaluate for pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation, or heart failure. Be aware of potential complications related to decreased respiratory reserve.

Altered Mental Status: Determine the cause, considering infectious, metabolic, or neurological etiologies. Hypoglycemia, infections, and medication side effects are common contributors.

Abdominal Pain: Assess for gastrointestinal issues, urinary tract infections, or other abdominal pathologies. Consider the possibility of atypical presentations.

Common Treatment Plans:

Airway Management: Be prepared for airway management challenges, especially if the patient has altered anatomy or decreased respiratory reserve.

Pain Management: Manage pain appropriately, considering the potential for undertreatment due to fears of side effects or drug interactions.

Medication Administration: Administer medications cautiously, considering altered pharmacokinetics and potential drug interactions. Be aware of medications that may cause or exacerbate falls.

Fluid Management: Monitor fluid status carefully, especially in patients with heart failure. Adjust fluid administration based on the patient's hemodynamic status.

Transport to Appropriate Facilities: Consider transporting geriatric patients to facilities with expertise in the care of the elderly, as they may have specialized resources and staff.

Collaboration with Family and Caregivers: Communicate effectively with family members or caregivers to gather crucial information and involve them in the decision-making process.

Prevention Strategies: Provide education on fall prevention, medication management, and strategies to maintain overall health and well-being.


EMS providers should approach geriatric emergencies with a comprehensive understanding of the unique challenges associated with the elderly population.

By considering the physiological changes, atypical presentations, and specific needs of geriatric patients, EMS providers can deliver more effective and tailored prehospital care.

Ongoing education and training in geriatric emergency medicine are essential for improving outcomes in this vulnerable population.

Further Reading:

Alexander, M. & Belle, R. (2017) Advanced EMT: A Clinical Reasoning Approach (2nd Ed). Hoboken, New Jersey: Pearson Education

Bledsoe, B. E., Cherry, R. A. & Porter, R. S (2023) Paramedic Care: Principles and Practice (6th Ed) Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson

Mistovich, J. J. & Karren, K. J. (2014) Prehospital Emergency Care (11th Ed). Hoboken, New Jersey: Pearson Education

Peate, I. & Sawyer, S (2024) Fundamentals of Applied Pathophysiology for Paramedics. Hoboken, New Jersey:  Wiley Blackwell

Monday, January 08, 2024

EMS Mnemonics - MARCH

EMS providers should be familiar with the MARCH mnemonic, which is a systematic approach to trauma patient assessment. 

Each letter in MARCH stands for a critical aspect of assessment and treatment:

1. M - Massive Hemorrhage: Assess for life-threatening bleeding and apply direct pressure or tourniquets as necessary. 

For example, if a patient has a severe laceration with uncontrolled bleeding, immediate pressure or a tourniquet should be applied.

2. A - Airway: Ensure the patient's airway is clear and assess for any obstructions or injuries that may compromise breathing. 

For instance, if a patient is unconscious and has a suspected neck injury, manual inline stabilization should be applied while maintaining an open airway.

3. R - Respiration: Evaluate the patient's breathing and address any issues that may impair ventilation. 

For example, if a trauma patient is experiencing shallow or labored breathing, supplemental oxygen or advanced airway management may be required.

4. C - Circulation: Assess the patient's circulation and address any signs of shock or inadequate perfusion. 

If a trauma patient presents with a weak pulse, rapid heart rate, and low blood pressure, intravenous fluids or blood products may be administered to restore circulation.

5. H - Hypothermia/Hyperthermia: Monitor the patient's body temperature and implement measures to prevent or treat hypothermia or hyperthermia. 

For instance, if a trauma patient is found in a cold environment, active rewarming techniques should be initiated to prevent further heat loss.

It's important to note that there are variants of the MARCH mnemonic, such as L-MARCH, which includes the addition of "L" for Laboratory and "Lethal Triad" (coagulopathy, acidosis, and hypothermia). 

These variants emphasize the importance of laboratory testing and addressing the lethal triad in trauma patients.

Remember, the MARCH approach provides a systematic framework for trauma assessment, but its application should be tailored to the specific needs of each patient. 

Saturday, January 06, 2024

EMS Gastrointestinal Emergencies - Knowing Your Shit

EMS Providers play a pivotal role in identifying and managing patients with abnormal stool consistencies during the patient assessment process.

One valuable tool in this regard is the Bristol Stool Scale (BSS), developed in 1997 by Stephen Lewis, MD, and Ken Heaton, MD at the University Department of Medicine, the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the UK.

This widely used scale classifies stools into seven categories based on their consistency and shape. The categories are as follows:

Type 1: Separate, hard lumps, well-formed - Formed and easy to pass, with no signs of mucus or blood.

Type 2: Sausage-shaped, but not separating - Shaped like a sausage and can be separated into smaller pieces, but may still be somewhat lumpy.

Type 3: Flat, disks, or ribbon-like - Flat and ribbon-like in appearance, with no distinct shapes or lumps.

Type 4: Appears as a current of sticky tack - Resembles a current of sticky tack in terms of texture and consistency.

Type 5: Soft and mushy, cannot be separated - Very soft and mushy, without defined shapes or lumps.

Type 6: Shapeless, mushy mass - Completely without form or structure, appearing as a shapeless mushy mass.

Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces present - Extremely watery, without any solid pieces.

These categories offer valuable information about the stool's form, aiding healthcare providers in identifying potential underlying conditions such as gastrointestinal infections, inflammatory bowel disease, or malabsorption syndromes.

While the BSS is widely used in clinical practice, it has limitations. It may not accurately assess very loose or very thick stools and does not consider factors like diet, hydration level, or medications.

However, when combined with other diagnostic tools and a thorough patient history, the BSS becomes a valuable asset in identifying potential underlying conditions.

Cultural sensitivity is crucial when utilizing the BSS, as different cultural practices or beliefs may influence how patients perceive or discuss their stool consistency.

By integrating the Bristol Stool Scale with other diagnostic tests and a comprehensive patient history, EMS Providers can effectively identify potential underlying conditions and tailor appropriate treatment options.

Further Reading:

Blake, M. R., Raker, J. M., & Whelan, K. (2016) Validity and Reliability of the Bristol Stool Form Scale in Healthy Adults and Patients With Diarrhoea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 44 (7): 693-703


Thursday, January 04, 2024

EMS Mnemonic - CUPS

EMS providers should be familiar with the CUPS mnemonic when it comes to pediatric patient assessment, as it provides a systematic approach to categorizing and prioritizing patients based on their clinical status.

Here's a summary of what EMS providers need to know about CUPS:

C - Critical:

Definition: Patients in this category have absent airway, breathing, or circulation.

Action: Requires immediate and rapid interventions, as well as urgent transport.

Reassessment: Must be reassessed frequently to monitor and respond to changes in the patient's condition.

U - Unstable:

Definition: Patients with compromised airway, breathing, or circulation along with altered mental status.

Action: Requires rapid interventions and transport.

Reassessment: Similar to critical patients, unstable patients need frequent reassessment to ensure ongoing stability.

P - Potentially Unstable:

Definition: Patients with normal ABCs but present with significant illness or injury.

Action: Requires initial assessments with prompt interventions.

Assessment: A focused physical assessment and history are important during transport.

S - Stable:

Definition: Patients with normal ABCs and without significant illness or injury.

Action: Requires a focused physical assessment and history during routine transport.

EMS providers should use the CUPS mnemonic as a guide to determining the urgency of treatment and transport for pediatric patients.

It helps prioritize interventions based on the severity of the patient's condition.

Regular reassessment is emphasized for critical and unstable patients to adapt to changing conditions and provide appropriate care throughout the transport process.

Familiarity with such mnemonics is essential for effective and efficient pediatric patient management in emergency situations.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

EMS Pediatric Populations - Neonatal Emergencies

EMTs should be well-equipped to manage neonatal emergencies, including using the APGAR assessment and knowing when to initiate resuscitation.

Here's a guide for EMS providers on common neonatal emergencies:

APGAR Assessment:

The APGAR score is a quick assessment tool used to evaluate the newborn's overall condition at one and five minutes after birth.

It assesses the following five parameters, each scored from 0 to 2:

A - Appearance (skin color):

    0: Blue or pale

    1: Body pink, extremities blue

    2: Completely pink

P - Pulse (heart rate):

    0: Absent

    1: Below 100 beats per minute

    2: Above 100 beats per minute

G - Grimace response (reflexes):

    0: No response to stimulation

    1: Grimace or weak response to stimulation

    2: Vigorous response, cough, or sneeze

A - Activity (muscle tone):

    0: Limp or floppy

    1: Some flexion of limbs

    2: Active motion

R - Respiration (breathing rate and effort):

    0: Absent

    1: Slow or irregular breathing

    2: Good, strong cry

A total score of 7-10 is generally considered normal, 4-6 suggests moderate distress, and 0-3 indicates severe distress.

Common Neonatal Emergencies:

Meconium Aspiration:

• Presence of meconium in amniotic fluid.

• Suction the airway, provide respiratory support, and transport promptly.

Neonatal Sepsis:

• Signs may include poor feeding, temperature instability, and respiratory distress.

• Administer antibiotics and provide supportive care. Transport promptly.

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS):

• Common in preterm infants.

• Provide respiratory support and transport to a facility with neonatal intensive care capabilities.

Neonatal Hypoglycemia:

• Low blood glucose levels can lead to seizures.

• Administer glucose gel or IV dextrose and transport for further management.

Neonatal Jaundice:

• Evaluate for jaundice and assess bilirubin levels.

• Phototherapy may be needed. Transport if severe.

When to Initiate Resuscitation:

Initiate neonatal resuscitation if the newborn exhibits severe distress, has a low APGAR score, or encounters the following conditions:

• Absent or Gasping Respirations:

• Provide positive pressure ventilation with a bag-mask device.

• Heart Rate Below 60 bpm:

• Initiate chest compressions if the heart rate remains below 60 bpm after adequate ventilation.

• Meconium Aspiration with Poor Respiratory Effort:

• Suction the airway and provide respiratory support.

• Cyanosis Persisting Despite Oxygen Administration:

• Ensure effective ventilation and consider advanced airway management.

• Profound Bradycardia or Cardiac Arrest:

• Initiate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

EMTs must receive specific training in neonatal resuscitation and stay current with guidelines.

Communication with the receiving facility and early initiation of interventions are critical for improving outcomes in neonatal emergencies.