Severe pain + 2mg of Morphine = severe pain.

- Rogue Medic

Benzodiazepines are often misused – Part I

The most commonly used benzodiazepines in EMS/EM (Emergency Medical Services/Emergency Medicine) are diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and midazolam (Versed). It should be relatively easy to look at the best research and determine –

1. Should benzodiazepines be the first parenteral medication given for seizures?

2. Should benzodiazepines be the first parenteral medication given for agitated delirium/excited delirium (it is a real condition that results in death in custody much more often than intentional police misbehavior)?

3. Should benzodiazepines be the first parenteral medication given for sedation?

In EMS/EM, some of the important things to consider are the time it takes for the drug to take effect, the likelihood that the drug will produce the desired effect, the seriousness of adverse effects and rate at which the most serious adverse effects occur.


Is there any evidence that anything works quicker than IM (IntraMuscular) midazolam, when the patient does not already have an IV (IntraVenous line)?

Is there any evidence that an initial dose of 10 mg IM midazolam is too high of an initial dose for an adult (over 40 kg) or that 5 mg is too high of an initial dose for a child (40 kg or less)?

Is there any evidence that this dosing increases the rate of airway compromise above what would occur with lower doses?

The Rampart study[1] strongly suggests that 10 mg of IM midazolam is the best approach for the seizing patient who does not already have an IV, when IM midazolam is available. If midazolam is not available, such as due to poorly written protocols, midazolam is not an option and delaying less effective care to wait for the ideal treatment would be reckless.

There do not appear to be any studies that show any better outcomes with any other benzodiazepoines or with any other doses.

What about when an IV is already in place?

Should IV midazolam be used?

Should IV lorazepam be used?

Should IV diazepam be used?

Should some other drug be used?

The evidence is not clear, but is there any reason to believe that lorazepam, or diazepam, works as quickly as midazolam, when given intravenously?

Is there any reason to believe that lorazepam, or diazepam, produce fewer, or less serious, adverse effects than midazolam, when given IV?

I don’t know of any valid evidence to suggest that midazolam is inferior to either diazepam or lorazepam.

There is also the benefit in EMS of a much shorter time of effect for midazolam.

A drug that wears off quickly is going to be the safer EMS drug – unless there is a good reason to use a drug that lasts longer.

I will explain why wearing off quickly is important in EMS treatment of seizures in Part II (not yet posted).


[1] Intramuscular versus intravenous therapy for prehospital status epilepticus.
Silbergleit R, Durkalski V, Lowenstein D, Conwit R, Pancioli A, Palesch Y, Barsan W; NETT Investigators.
N Engl J Med. 2012 Feb 16;366(7):591-600.
PMID: 22335736 [PubMed – in process]

Free Full Text from N Engl J Med.

I have written about this in Intramuscular Midazolam for Seizures – Part I,
Part II,
Part III,
Part IV,
Part V,
Part VI,
Misrepresenting Current Topics in EMS Research from EMS Expo – RAMPART,
and Images from Gathering of Eagles Presentation on RAMPART.


Will the Upcoming Pennsylvania Paramedic Protocols Eliminate Our Use of Not-So-Therapeutic Hypothermia?

Will Pennsylvania continue its trend of rejecting treatments that do not work and medicine that is not medicine?

One place to get a clear indication is the Post-resuscitation Care protocol, which has encouraged testing the ice waters of therapeutic hypothermia as an optional treatment that requires medical command orders. Backing away from further use of cold IV fluid for no known benefit to patients should be easy to do without political backlash from those more interested in doing something than in protecting patients from treatment for the sake of treatment.

Possible Medical Command Orders:

A. In adult patient, cold (4º C) NSS bolus of 20-30 mL/kg, if available, may be ordered if patient not following commands after ROSC from nontraumatic cardiac arrest.[1]


But wait.

      I know that therapeutic hypothermia works.

That is misleading. There is plenty of evidence that cooling patients in the hospital improves outcomes, but for prehospital patients the use of cold IV fluids has only been shown to improve outcomes for asystole/PEA (Pulseless Electrical Activity) patients and only in one study.[2]

For the patients most likely to survive cardiac arrest, the initial rhythm is V Fib (Ventricular Fibrillation). For these patients we need to stop the ice water infusions. Prehospital cold IV fluids following resuscitation of V Fib patients has been studied to death – more deaths in the treatment groups than in the no treatment groups. There has been no evidence of any benefit from IV ice water.[3],[4],[5]

Image credit.

This method of administration would probably be better for V Fib patients than IV ice water, because the adverse effects of IV ice water appear to be due to fluid overload.

I do not mean that prehospital therapeutic hypothermia is always a bad idea for V Fib patients – only that we need to find a way that is less harmful than dumping ice water into these recently dead patients for no benefit.

Click on image to make it larger.[3]

First, do no harm.

If the treatment is not beneficial, there is no good reason to expose patients to the adverse effects of the treatment for no known benefit.

Will we stop making excuses for endangering our patients with treatments that do not work?

Science teaches us to learn from our mistakes, while human nature encourages us to make excuses and continue to make the mistakes. Will we make the mistake of continuing to dump cold ice water into these recently dead patients for no good reason?


[1] Post-Resuscitation Care
Pennsylvania Statewide ALS Protocols 2013
pp. 34-36 – 3080 – ALS – Adult/Peds
Protocols in PDF Download format.

[2] Induction of prehospital therapeutic hypothermia after resuscitation from nonventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest*.
Bernard SA, Smith K, Cameron P, Masci K, Taylor DM, Cooper DJ, Kelly AM, Silvester W; Rapid Infusion of Cold Hartmanns Investigators.
Crit Care Med. 2012 Mar;40(3):747-53. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e3182377038.
PMID: 22020244 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[3] Induction of therapeutic hypothermia by paramedics after resuscitation from out-of-hospital ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest: a randomized controlled trial.
Bernard SA, Smith K, Cameron P, Masci K, Taylor DM, Cooper DJ, Kelly AM, Silvester W; Rapid Infusion of Cold Hartmanns (RICH) Investigators.
Circulation. 2010 Aug 17;122(7):737-42. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.906859. Epub 2010 Aug 2.
PMID: 20679551 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from Circulation.

[4] Effect of Prehospital Induction of Mild Hypothermia on Survival and Neurological Status Among Adults With Cardiac Arrest: A Randomized Clinical Trial.
Kim F, Nichol G, Maynard C, Hallstrom A, Kudenchuk PJ, Rea T, Copass MK, Carlbom D, Deem S, Longstreth WT Jr, Olsufka M, Cobb LA.
JAMA. 2013 Nov 17. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.282173. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 24240712 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

Free Full Text from JAMA.

[5] Targeted temperature management at 33°C versus 36°C after cardiac arrest.
Nielsen N, Wetterslev J, Cronberg T, Erlinge D, Gasche Y, Hassager C, Horn J, Hovdenes J, Kjaergaard J, Kuiper M, Pellis T, Stammet P, Wanscher M, Wise MP, Åneman A, Al-Subaie N, Boesgaard S, Bro-Jeppesen J, Brunetti I, Bugge JF, Hingston CD, Juffermans NP, Koopmans M, Køber L, Langørgen J, Lilja G, Møller JE, Rundgren M, Rylander C, Smid O, Werer C, Winkel P, Friberg H; TTM Trial Investigators.
N Engl J Med. 2013 Dec 5;369(23):2197-206. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1310519. Epub 2013 Nov 17.
PMID:24237006[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from NEJM.


One Way to Cut Down on Emergency Department Crowding?


Emergency Department overcrowding is a problem that even appears to increase the death rate for patients.


The study does have its limitations, but it is logically consistent with being so busy that we are occasionally distracted from what we are doing and having that result in mistakes. The study does not track mistakes, but does compares outcomes of patients adjusted for the severity of triage category.[1]

Look below at the distribution among the triage categories. The first graph shows that very few patients are triaged as 1 (very critical), while a large number are triaged as 5 (not so critical).


The next graph shows that most deaths are in triage category 3. Green is the NOC (Not OverCrowded) group and blue/gray is the OC (OverCrowded) group.


The last graph shows that even though there were only a tiny number of patients in triage category 1, they are much more likely to die than everyone else. This is not quite a Pareto distribution (rather than the allegedly normal distribution of a Gaussian bell curve), where 20% of people are responsible for 80% of what is being measured (20% of employees produce 80% of problems or 20% of employees produce 80% of revenue).[2], [3]



So what can we do to reduce overcrowding and possibly improve our ability to save lives?

I walked in to the emergency department (ED) about 10 minutes early for my 3 pm shift and as I signed into my computer I stared disbelieving at the screen. “Only 10 people in the waiting room?” I said to the charge nurse, who was casually flipping through some paperwork, and the off-going attending, who had assumed a relaxed pose in his chair, knowing his day was over. “It’s the Ebola,” they replied in unison.

The night before, our hospital had admitted a patient suspected of having Ebola directly to the critical care unit, and the news of this event had spread rapidly over the local news by early morning.[1]


We should take advantage of the Ebola outbreak, while it lasts.

EMS can proudly announce that we are transporting these Ebola patients.

An added benefit will be that employees might actually pay attention to isolation precautions.

It could work.

“Sixty-year-old female with right-sided facial droop, right-arm and right-leg weakness, started 4 hours ago,” stated the lead female paramedic to me as I watched my senior resident and the neurology resident start their evaluation. Then she leaned over and whispered in my ear, “She says she didn’t call for help right away because she didn’t want to be brought to the Ebola hospital.”


OK. It is not a perfect plan, but it might be worth announcing today.


[1] Increase in patient mortality at 10 days associated with emergency department overcrowding.
Richardson DB.
Med J Aust. 2006 Mar 6;184(5):213-6.
PMID: 16515430

Free Full Text from Med J Aust.

Subgroup analysis shows that mortality was higher even after accounting for triage differences, and suggests that there may even have been an element of “under-triage” on OC shifts, as the mortality rate was 70% higher in Triage Category 4, but the analysis method lacked sufficient power to properly distinguish the relative effects of presenting condition and ED treatment. Controlling for triage will be challenging in future studies if under-triage is an issue at times of overcrowding.


[2] Power laws, Pareto distributions and Zipf’s law
M. E. J. Newman
Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
MI 48109. U.S.A.
Free Full Text in PDF Download format.

[3] Normal (Gaussian) distribution

[3] It’s the Ebola.
Sharp WW.
Ann Emerg Med. 2015 Apr;65(4):457. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2014.11.009. No abstract available.
PMID: 25805029

Free Full Text from Annals of Emergency Medicine.


Comments on Pennsylvania Eliminating Backboards for Potential Spinal Injuries

There were several comments to Pennsylvania Eliminating Backboards for Potential Spinal Injuries that indicate that I was probably not clear enough in my explanation of the protocol change in Pennsylvania. Backboards are not being completely eliminated, but the requirements to extricate/transport patients on backboards has been eliminated.

The use of backboards as extrication devices should be rare if we do what is best for the patients. The use of the backboard during transport should be the kind of thing that causes hospital staff to come look at the ancient artifact, like DeLee suction, rotating tourniquets, or knives for blood letting.

DeLee Suction.

Blood letting.

Would there ever be a situation where DeLee suction rotating tourniquets blood letting backboarding is best for the patient?

The backboard requires more manipulation than other extrication methods, since it requires manipulation to get the patient onto the backboard at the scene and again requires manipulation to get the patient off of the backboard onto either the EMS stretcher or the hospital stretcher. Hospitals are not leaving patients with unstable spinal injuries on backboards. So the backboard is probably going to be the least commonly used extrication device.

There is no evidence that use of a backboard is safe.

There is no reason to believe that placing a patient on an extrication device that is so uncomfortable that it encourages movement, such as the backboard, is safe.

There is no evidence that manipulation of a patient with an unstable spinal injury onto a backboard is safe.

The scoop is only going to require some manipulation to get the patient onto the scoop, but the scoop could be separated and then slid together under the patient, separated to remove from under the patient on the stretcher, so that will probably result in the least manipulation of the spine and be the most commonly used extrication device

A sheet may not provide adequate support for the head of an unconscious patient, but a backboard only provides support after we manipulate the patient’s head onto the board.

There is no evidence that scoops, or sheets, or vacuum mattresses, improve outcomes, but they should result in less manipulation of any spinal injury. The whole hypothesis of backboarding is to limit/prevent movement of the spine, but backboards do not do appear to limit or prevent movement of the spine.

We keep making excuses for harming our patients.

Where is the evidence that backboards are effective?

Where is the evidence that backboards are safe?

In the absence of valid evidence of safety and efficacy, we have little justification for applying backboards to patients.


Pennsylvania Eliminating Backboards for Potential Spinal Injuries

Medical directors should already have every EMS provider in Pennsylvania following the new Statewide BLS Protocols, but the procrastinators have until July 1, 2015 to get everyone to aggressively avoid using backboards.

We should not be manipulating the potentially injured spines of patients to get them onto backboards for no known benefit, while possibly causing permanent disabilities or other significant harms.

Excessive motion of the spine may worsen spine fractures or spinal cord injuries (especially in patients with altered consciousness who can’t restrict their own spinal motion), but immobilization on a long spine board may also cause pain, agitation, respiratory compromise, and pressure ulcers. Patients with the following symptoms or mechanisms of injury should be assessed to determine whether restriction of spinal motion is required:[1]



What are the full steps to be performed for someone suspected of having an unstable spinal injury?

Restrict Spinal Motion

Apply Rigid Cervical Collar[1]


We are beginning to realize that collars are probably also not be such a great idea,[2] but this is only one step to decrease the harm we cause for no apparent benefit.

If ambulatory,

Allow patient to move to stretcher mattress with minimal spinal motion3 [1]


This is just recognizing that people have been walking to stretchers without sudden onset of paralysis, so manipulating the patient’s spine onto a flat board for no known benefit was never a good idea. It was just dogma, that went unquestioned for too long.

If nonambulatory,

Use backboard, scoop/orthopedic stretcher, vacuum mattress, or other device to move patient to stretcher with minimal spinal motion4,5 [1]


We could use a sheet, since manipulating the patient onto a backboard, or other device, may result in much more movement of the spine than sliding a sheet under the patient and using the sheet to lift the patient.

Use CID may be used to further restrict spinal motion[1]


The typo is not important, but we can consider putting some sort of blocks next to the patient’s head to keep the head of an unconscious patient from flopping around.

Transport on stretcher mattress without backboard if patient ambulatory or if scoop/orthopedic stretcher can be removed with minimal patient motion.[1]


Again, the use of a sheet to move the patient may be the preferred method, since the use of the sheet may produce the least manipulation of the spine. We are trying to minimize the manipulation of the spine, not trying to defend some dogma that there is only one right way of doing things, regardless of outcomes. The patients’ outcomes are what matter, not adherence to the protocol at the expense of the patients.

The protocol clearly does not limit us to using backboards, scoops, orthopedic stretchers, or vacuum mattresses.

Using a sheet to move the patient, so that it does not produce more manipulation that would be produced by using these other devices appears to be encouraged, if not required. We are supposed to use the method that is least likely to harm the patient, which probably makes a backboard the least acceptable method.

This protocol also applies to assessment of patients before inter-facility transfer for injuries from a traumatic mechanism unless a medical command physician agrees that the patient may be transported without restriction of spinal motion.[1]


Any suggestion that a patient is going to be manipulated back onto a backboard should result in a firm, No, thank you.

I am not a lawyer, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see law suits against EMS agencies/providers who continue to cause harm with backboards, when there are less harmful alternatives available and no protocol/standard of care to defend this abuse of patients by placing them on backboards.


Pennsylvania is the largest state (not all states have statewide protocols, so this is often only at the agency level) to do this and joins a growing list of EMS agencies that are putting patients ahead of superstition –

Agencies/EMS Systems Minimizing Backboard use –

Let me know if I should add your agency to this list.

Alameda County

Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Medical Control Board

Bend Fire and Rescue
Bend, OR

Bernalillo County Fire Department

CentraCare Health
Monticello, MN

Chaffee County EMS

Connecticut, State of

Durham County EMS

Eagle County Ambulance District

HealthEast Medical Transportation
St. Paul, MN

Johnson County EMS

Kenosha Fire Department
Kenosha, WI

Macomb County EMS Med Control Authority
Macomb County, MI

Maryland, State of

MedicWest Ambulance

Milwaukee EMS

North Memorial Ambulance & Aircare
Minneapolis, MN

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue

Pennsylvania, Commonwealth of

Pewaukee Fire Dept
Pewaukee, WI

Rio Rancho Fire Department

SERTAC (Southeast Regional Trauma Advisory Council)

Wichita-Sedgwick County EMS System

Xenia Fire Department
Xenia, OH

Outside of the US –

NHS (National Health Service)
England (UK?)

St. John Ambulance
New Zealand


Queensland, Australia


[1] Spinal Care
2015 Pennsylvania Statewide BLS Protocols
261 – BLS – Adult/Peds
pp 59 – 61
Protocols in PDF Download Format.

[2] Why EMS Should Limit the Use of Rigid Cervical Collars
Bryan Bledsoe, DO, FACEP, FAAEM, EMT-P and Dale Carrison, DO, FACEP
Monday, January 26, 2015


Dextrose in Cardiac Arrest – More Kitchen Sink Medicine

Should we treat hypoglycemia in a dead person?

How do we determine hypoglycemia in a dead person?

Is there any evidence that giving dextrose, in any concentration, will help to resuscitate a dead person?

Should we treat patients based on the philosophy of Who knows? Maybe it could work? Bleach enemas are currently in fashion among the alternative to medicine crowd,[1] so we could use the same reasoning to give bleach enemas in cardiac arrest. Who knows? Maybe it could work.

Is Kitchen Sink Medicine significantly different from any other alternative to medicine?

The dead person is not breathing, so we have to provide ventilations.[2], [3], [4]

The dead person is dead, so we have to do something.

We do compressions and (when indicated) defibrillation, because those are the only treatments that have been demonstrated to work.



The foundation of successful ACLS is high-quality CPR, and, for VF/pulseless VT, attempted defibrillation within minutes of collapse. For victims of witnessed VF arrest, early CPR and rapid defibrillation can significantly increase the chance for survival to hospital discharge.128–133 In comparison, other ACLS therapies such as some medications and advanced airways, although associated with an increased rate of ROSC, have not been shown to increase the rate of survival to hospital discharge.31,33,134–138 [5]


Ventilations are only a part of high-quality CPR for children and people who have a respiratory cause of cardiac arrest.

But what about dextrose for hypoglycemic cardiac arrest?

We may already be raising the blood sugar with epinephrine.

Epinephrine causes a prompt increase in blood glucose concentration in the postabsorptive state. This effect is mediated by a transient increase in hepatic glucose production and an inhibition of glucose disposal by insulin-dependent tissues.[6]


We seem to have trouble understanding that dead people do not respond to treatments the same way that living people do.

Pharmacologic insults are just so massive and normal metabolism and physiology so deranged that no mere mortal can make a meaningful intervention. The seriously poisoned who maintain vital signs in the ED have the best, albeit never guaranteed, chance of rescue from a modicum of antidotes and intensive supportive care.[7]


Maybe we should find out what we are doing and not blindly throw kitchen sinks at dead people based on hunches.

Dr. Brooks Walsh gave a good review of the evidence in his article written three years ago.[8]

What about my original questions?

Should we treat hypoglycemia in a dead person?

There is no evidence that giving dextrose is safe or effective for any cardiac arrest patients.

How do we determine hypoglycemia in a dead person?

We guess or check a capillary blood sugar, which is not reliable.

Is there any evidence that giving dextrose, in any concentration, resuscitates a dead person?


Go read Using Dextrose in Cardiac Arrest at Mill Hill Ave Command.


[1] Bleaching away what ails you
Science-Based Medicine
David Gorski
May 28, 2012

[2] Cardiocerebral Resuscitation: An Approach to Improving Survival of Patients With Primary Cardiac Arrest.
Ewy GA, Bobrow BJ.
J Intensive Care Med. 2014 Jul 30. pii: 0885066614544450. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 25077491 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

[3] Cardiocerebral resuscitation is associated with improved survival and neurologic outcome from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in elders.
Mosier J, Itty A, Sanders A, Mohler J, Wendel C, Poulsen J, Shellenberger J, Clark L, Bobrow B.
Acad Emerg Med. 2010 Mar;17(3):269-75.
PMID: 20370759 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from Academic Emergency Medicine.

[4] Cardiac Arrest Management is an EMT-Basic Skill – The Hands Only Evidence
Fri, 09 Dec 2011
Rogue Medic

[5] Management of Cardiac Arrest
2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care Science
Part 8.2: Management of Cardiac Arrest
Free Full Text from Circulation.

[6] Effect of epinephrine on glucose metabolism in humans: contribution of the liver.
Sherwin RS, Saccà L.
Am J Physiol. 1984 Aug;247(2 Pt 1):E157-65.
PMID: 6380304 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[7] Dissecting the ACLS Guidelines on Cardiac Arrest from Toxic Ingestions
Emergency Medicine News:
October 2011 – Volume 33 – Issue 10 – pp 16-18
doi: 10.1097/
Roberts, James R. MD

[8] Using Dextrose in Cardiac Arrest
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Mill Hill Ave Command
Dr. Brooks Walsh


Proposed 2015 ACLS Chest compression only CPR vs conventional CPR Recommendation

The AHA (American Heart Association) and ILCOR (International Liaison Committee On Resuscitation) 2015 resuscitation guidelines evidence reviews appear to be merely justifications for continuing to use treatments that do not improve survival with good neurological function, which is the only outcome that matters. What do the AHA and ILCOR intend to recommend for ventilation of patients who appear to be adults and pulseless due to non-respiratory conditions?

Full Question:
Among adults who are in cardiac arrest outside of a hospital (P), does provision of chest compressions (without ventilation) by untrained/trained laypersons (I), compared with chest compressions with ventilation (C), change Survival with Favorable neurological/functional outcome at discharge, 30 days, 60 days, 180 days AND/OR 1 year, Survival only at discharge, 30 days, 60 days, 180 days AND/OR 1 year, ROSC, bystander CPR performance, CPR quality (O)?


Do we really want to increase the rate of survival of permanently comatose patients?

Image credit.

That is not a goal. That is only a first step if we can do something to change the outcome for this comatose patient. There is no reason to believe that ventilations during CPR will do anything to improve the neurological outcome of these patients. We want to improve the survival of neurologically intact patients, not fill nursing homes with comatose patients until sepsis finishes them off.

We suggest performing chest compressions alone for trained laypersons if they are incapable of delivering airway and breathing manoeuvres to cardiac arrest victims (weak recommendation, very low quality of evidence).[1]


The AHA and ILCOR want us to provide this intervention that is based on tradition and disproven pathophysiology, rather than based on any valid evidence, except if we are incapable of providing the intervention.

Ventilations do not improve outcomes. However, ventilations may be harmful, so we should avoid using them in all cases where ventilations are not supported by valid evidence. Ventilations are not supported by valid evidence for non-respiratory causes of adult cardiac arrest.

We suggest the addition of ventilations for trained laypersons who are capable of giving CPR with ventilations to cardiac arrest victims and willing to do so (weak recommendation, very low quality of evidence).[1]


Each study cited to support ventilations showed no significant difference between compression only and standard CPR according to the AHA/ILCOR evidence review. That is the way to imitate Rube Goldberg. That is not support for any kind of medical intervention.

This recommendation places a relatively high value in [1] harm avoidance (not performing CPR or performing ineffective chest compressions and ventilations) and [2] simplifying resuscitation logistics, than potential benefit of an intervention of routine ventilations and compressions.[1]


That statement misrepresents harm avoidance and simplification of resuscitation logistics, since it encourages the potentially harmful treatment that has no valid evidence that the intervention increases any benefit that matters. How does adding ventilations simplify resuscitation logistics?

There is no evidence that passive ventilation provides inadequate oxygenation during chest compressions.

There is no evidence that passive ventilation provides inadequate removal of carbon dioxide during chest compressions.

Where is the need for any positive pressure ventilation to decrease blood return to the heart and increase the likelihood of vomiting?

Why continue to recommend doing something harmful for no benefit to the patient?


[1] Chest compression only CPR vs conventional CPR
ILCOR Scientific Evidence Evaluation and Review System
Questions Open for Public Comment
Closing Date – February 28, 2015
Question page


Why EMS Should Limit the Use of Rigid Cervical Collars

Well, should EMS limit the use of rigid cervical collars?

As with the rest of anecdote-based medicine, or hunch-based medicine, we have been doing this for decades without any evidence of benefit. Do we know what we are doing?

But you have to prove that this is harmful, otherwise we cannot withhold the standard of ignorance.

Image credit.     Regardless of brand. A perfect fit – every time. Right?

Where does the burden of proof rest? In medicine, it is supposed to be the responsibility of the person treating to convince the patient that the treatment is more likely to be beneficial than harmful. This is informed consent. Informed consent is often overlooked and replaced with a blanket consent for the doctor (or designee, such as nurse, EMT, medic, . . . ) to do whatever the doctor thinks is a good idea.

Is there any valid evidence that a backboard, or KED (Kendrick Extrication Device), or rigid cervical collar will improve any outcome?

Not for the backboard or KED, but we know that the rigid cervical collar is beneficial because it stabilizes the neck and we would not use it if it didn’t work.

That is the same excuse made for using a backboards, or a KED, without evidence. Is there any valid evidence?

Can I get back to you on that?

Even though there should be no need to go further in criticizing rigid cervical collars, in the medical fields, we like to believe that what we have been doing is good and not harmful, because we don’t want to think of ourselves as harming our patients. Ironically, this attitude stops us from eliminating harmful treatments. We harm our patients to protect ourselves from having to admit that we were harming our patients.

For those who insist on evidence of harm, Dr. Bryan Bledsoe and Dr. Dale Carrison have provided us with a thorough evidence-based explanation of the ways that rigid EMS collars can harm our patients.

Interestingly, one of the first protocols that significantly changed spinal immobilization practices came out of several EMS agencies in Northern California. In a rather sweeping protocol change, they elected to forgo rigid C-collars and use soft collars.[1]


Do rigid cervical collars decrease manipulation of the neck/spine? Do rigid cervical collars protect patients from disability?

Read the article for a discussion of the evidence and of what we assume.

The argument in favor of backboards and collars is similar to the argument in favor of mandatory vaccination for school. It is a minor inconvenience for many, that protects against death/disability of some.

There is plenty of evidence for the vaccine argument. Vaccines are safe. Vaccines save lives. Vaccines are worth it. What about rigid EMS collars? Do they protect against death/disability?

Go read the article and find out.

Dr. Bledsoe and Dr. Carrison provide plenty of evidence to support their conclusions. What do the supporters of rigid cervical collars have?


[1] Why EMS Should Limit the Use of Rigid Cervical Collars
Bryan Bledsoe, DO, FACEP, FAAEM, EMT-P and Dale Carrison, DO, FACEP
Monday, January 26, 2015