Severe pain + 2mg of Morphine = severe pain.

- Rogue Medic

If We Pretend that Anecdotes are Not Anecdotes, Do We Change Reality?


The following comment was written by Duke Powell in response to Where is the Evidence for Traction Splints?

I’ve been an urban paramedic for 34 years and, prior to that, a volunteer EMT for 9 years. For those who can’t add, ….that’s a long time.

How many times have I used a traction splint? …… I dunno, let’s guess 10 times.


That works out to an average of over four years between uses of the traction splint. That is plenty of time to have the memory of each use reconstructed many times, so that the memory and the reality may not have much in common. Each time we remember something, we recreate and modify the memory.

Several years ago, after several years of not even thinking about traction splinting, I found myself using it 3 times in 2 weeks.

Did it help? Yep, clinically, in my opinion, it helped.


Maybe it helped the patients. Maybe it harmed the patients. Maybe it helped some patients and harmed other patients. Maybe it helped the pain, but caused longer term harm. We do not know.

Without valid evidence, especially evidence of something more than the superficial appearance of improvement, we have no idea. We can use our imaginations and generate opinions, but we are merely discussing opinions.

Will Rogue Medic call my experience “anecdotal” and not worthy of consideration? Yes, he will.

Don’t care what the Rogue Medic thinks.

I care about what my patients and my Medical Director thinks.


Image credit.

Does calling an anecdote by a different name make it not an anecdote? It does not matter what you call it. A story is an anecdote. More than one story is just more than one anecdote.

What kind of follow up was there on the patients? What kind of comparison of the other variables was there?

Blood-letting looks like an excellent treatment – if we stick to anecdotes about blood-letting.

Physicians observed of old, and continued to observe for many centuries, the following facts concerning blood-letting.

1. It gave relief to pain. . . . .

2. It diminished swelling. . . . .

3. It diminished local redness or congestion. . . . .

4. For a short time after bleeding, either local or general, abnormal heat was sensibly diminished.

5. After bleeding, spasms ceased, . . . .

6. If the blood could be made to run, patients were roused up suddenly from the apparent death of coma. (This was puzzling to those who regarded spasm and paralysis as opposite states; but it showed the catholic applicability of the remedy.)

7. Natural (wrongly termed ” accidental”) hacmorrhages were observed sometimes to end disease. . . . .

8. . . . venesection would cause hamorrhages to cease.[1]


How many patients did we kill with blood-letting? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

The opinions of medical directors have been in favor of many harmful treatments. Do you remember nifedipine?

Anecdotes do not become evidence of good patient care by telling the stories with style. Reality does not work that way, no matter how much we want to change reality. EMS shows us people who are having reality ignore their opinions about how the world should work. If reality is not going to change for a parent who wants their dead child back, how little is reality going to change for a paramedic who wants to put a positive spin on a treatment that he likes?

Reality does not care about our opinions.

Reality does not even care about the opinions of medical directors.

Science is the way we learn the difference between what is real and what is just a pleasing mirage.

What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic? – Dr. Steven Novella.

Anecdotes are not thorough observations. Anecdotes do not use consistent logic. Anecdotes do not have anything to do with systematic evaluation.




[1] Blood-Letting
Br Med J.
1871 March 18; 1(533): 283–291.
PMCID: PMC2260507


Where is the Evidence for Traction Splints?


We eliminated tourniquets from ambulances because of anecdotes and some strong opinions, but not because of valid research. Valid research shows that tourniquets work. Tourniquets are back.

We added traction splints because of anecdotes and some strong opinions, but not because of any valid research. Will research result in the same reversal of opinion-based practice.

With so little evidence, devices that are frequently misused, and no apparent need for these Rube Goldberg devices, should we continue to use traction splints?

Image credit.

Does a traction splint work?

That depends on what we mean by the word work. If work means that it pulls on the leg, then it does work, but if work means that it improves outcomes, then the traction splint is about as effective as eye of newt. Maybe the eye of newt is more effective.

If your have a lot of patients who have no other major injuries, then you may be able to set up a study of traction splints. A ski resort might be a good place for a study. On the other hand, if you are not an isolated femur fracture magnet, then your patients would probably be much better off if you focused on pain management, rather than pulling on their broken bones.

The fact is, there were no definitive studies demonstrating efficacy or decreased morbidity or mortality from prehospital use of traction splints 10 years ago, nor are there any now.3 So our use of traction splints is purely anecdotal.[1]


What is an anecdote?

An anecdote is misinformation from a know-it-all who doesn’t know what matters.

Anecdotes are just rumors. We believe some things because we want to believe, not because they are true. If we want to know the truth, we look for unbiased information. Unbiased information is the opposite of anecdotes and rumors.

There I was, standing on the corner, minding my own business, when all of a sudden . . .

He was dying and we gave the special sauce and he got better and ran a marathon last year.

These are examples of anecdotes. Anecdotes are what sells alternative medicine.




[1] Sacred Cow Slaughterhouse: The Traction Splint
By William E. “Gene” Gandy, JD, LP and Steven “Kelly” Grayson, NREMT-P, CCEMT-P
Jul 31, 2014
EMS World


Does a Placebo vs. Adrenaline Study Deprive Patients of Necessary Care According to the Resuscitation Guidelines?

 Some in the media have been critical of the upcoming British study of adrenaline (epinephrine) vs. placebo for cardiac arrest.[1] They assume that the guidelines require that we give adrenaline, but that is not true.

The guidelines only state that adrenaline may be considered.

If you are a dog, pig, or rat in a laboratory and you have had an artificially induced cardiac arrest, then adrenaline will help resuscitate you. If you are a human who has a cardiac arrest for any one of a variety of reasons, then there is not a good reason to give this rat resuscitation drug, which has not been adequately studied in humans.

There probably are some human patients who do benefit from adrenaline in cardiac arrest, but we have no idea which patients those are and there probably are humans who are harmed by adrenaline. The most common cause of cardiac arrest is heart attack, but you were having a heart attack while still alive, is there a worse drug we could give you than adrenaline? Does adrenaline suddenly become sugar and spice and everything nice, just because we cannot feel a pulse? Maybe, but should we assume that?

What if you have lost so much blood that your heart is not able to produce a pulse, even though your heart is beating as hard as it can? Adrenaline is indicated according to the same guidelines. Why? Unreasonable optimism.

Which patients benefit from adrenaline? We don’t know.

Which patients are harmed by adrenaline? We don’t know.

How do we find out? Research, such as the upcoming study of adrenaline (epinephrine).

What do the guidelines say about conducting this research?

Given the observed benefit in short-term outcomes, the use of epinephrine or vasopressin may be considered in adult cardiac arrest.

Knowledge Gaps

Placebo-controlled trials to evaluate the use of any vasopressor in adult and pediatric cardiac arrest are needed.[2]


Vasopressors are adrenaline, vasopressin, norepinephrine, and phenylephrine. We need evidence to find out if any of them work.

When the 2010 guidelines were written there was an inescapable need for placebo studies.

Has anything changed?


There was a placebo study in 2012 that was aborted by pressure from media and politicians before any useful results could be obtained.[3]

There is evidence that adrenaline improves the return of a pulse, but that appears to just produce comatose patients who die in the hospital without waking up, so the initial improvement appears to be very misleading.

We could try real medicine, where we find out what the right treatment is and give the right treatment to the right patient, but that seems to be asking too much for some people.




[1] The Controversy of Admitting ‘We Do Not Know What Works’
Wed, 13 Aug 2014
Rogue Medic


[2] Part 8: Advanced life support: 2010 International Consensus on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care Science With Treatment Recommendations.
Morrison LJ, Deakin CD, Morley PT, Callaway CW, Kerber RE, Kronick SL, Lavonas EJ, Link MS, Neumar RW, Otto CW, Parr M, Shuster M, Sunde K, Peberdy MA, Tang W, Hoek TL, Böttiger BW, Drajer S, Lim SH, Nolan JP; Advanced Life Support Chapter Collaborators.
Circulation. 2010 Oct 19;122(16 Suppl 2):S345-421. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.971051. No abstract available.
PMID: 20956256 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from Circulation.


[3] Effect of adrenaline on survival in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial
Jacobs IG, Finn JC, Jelinek GA, Oxer HF, Thompson PL.
Resuscitation. 2011 Sep;82(9):1138-43. Epub 2011 Jul 2.
PMID: 21745533 [PubMed - in process]

Free Full Text PDF Download of In Press Uncorrected Proof from

This study was designed as a multicentre trial involving five ambulance services in Australia and New Zealand and was accordingly powered to detect clinically important treatment effects. Despite having obtained approvals for the study from Institutional Ethics Committees, Crown Law and Guardianship Boards, the concerns of being involved in a trial in which the unproven “standard of care” was being withheld prevented four of the five ambulance services from participating.


In addition adverse press reports questioning the ethics of conducting this trial, which subsequently led to the involvement of politicians, further heightened these concerns. Despite the clearly demonstrated existence of clinical equipoise for adrenaline in cardiac arrest it remained impossible to change the decision not to participate.



Imagine if Ebola Spread in America

What if there were an Ebola epidemic in America?

In the aftermath of the spread of Ebola in America, would we have Congressional hearings like this?



Dr. Oz – My show is about hope.[1]


Translation – Hope sells.

You can rape people who are desperate, but as long as you give them hope, it is OK.[2]

A traditional healer, practicing naturopathy in Sierra Leone, appears to be the main reason for the spread of Ebola from Guinea into Sierra Leone.

“She was claiming to have powers to heal Ebola. Cases from Guinea were crossing into Sierra Leone for treatment,” Mohamed Vandi, the top medical official in the hard-hit district of Kenema, told AFP.[3]


It is a mistake to state that Ebola never would have spread, but this was just another alternative medicine practitioner selling hope, fortunately with a much smaller audience than Dr. Oz.

“It is a disease that spreads very fast, without regard for academic or economic status, political affiliation, age, ethnic grouping, gender or religion.”[3]


Ebola also doesn’t care about hope. Hope helped to spread Ebola.

The other end of the alternative medicine market is fear. People preach that there are government conspiracies so evil that the conspirators kill anyone who might expose the conspiracy, but can’t manage to keep Mike Adams[4] from spreading paranoia.

Blame the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for everything.

Alternative medicine and conspiracy theories are all fun and games, until someone spreads a deadly epidemic.

They assume that we are supposed to be healthy, and sell empowerment to be healthy, but blame the victim when the quackery does not work.

Based on what is known to date, I do not worry overmuch about the spread of Ebola in the US. Direct contact is not a very efficient way to transmit infections, especially infections that are rapidly fatal.[5]


Ebola requires more than good health to prevent transmission, but the people promising hope and trying to scare us away from real doctors do not seem to understand that.

Is it easy to become infected with Ebola?

Only if we do not know what we are doing and do not have appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Quacks believe in magic, because they do not understand science.

Thirty year of following infection control procedures and I have yet to catch an infection from a patient. I remember at the start of the AIDS epidemic there were those who refused to care for AIDS patients due to worries of catching the disease. It never worried me since I knew the modes of transmission and I did not partake of those behaviors.[5]


We should ignore the quacks and listen to people who understand what they are doing, but it is difficult to resist the temptation to believe in magic – Naturopathy, herbalism, homeopathy, Reiki, acupuncture, . . . .

It is also difficult to resist the temptation of an easy explanation. Conspiracy theories provide simple explanations for complex problems. As with the belief in magic, this is not a new problem.

Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong. H.L. Mencken.

We continue to enrich those who promote hope. We continue to enrich those who spread fear. We continue to ignore those who try to understand, because understanding requires work, and that is asking too much. We need to ask for evidence, examine the evidence critically, and not fall for things because they appeal to our biases.

For a more information from Science-Based Medicine read – Ebola outbreaks: Science versus fear mongering and quackery




[1] Weight-Loss Product Advertising – Witnesses testified on ways to protect consumers from false and deceptive advertising of weight-loss products.
June 17, 2014
Page with embedded video.


[2] Dr. Oz Shows How He Lies with Bad Research
Tue, 17 Jun 2014
Rogue Medic


[3] Sierra Leone’s 365 Ebola deaths traced back to traditional healer
AFP | 20 August, 2014 08:26
Times LIVE


[4] Mike Adams is a Dangerous Loon
Steven Novella
July 25, 2014


[5] Yet another plague panic
by Mark Crislip
August 8, 2014
Science-Based Medicine


Dextrose 10% in the Treatment of Out-of-Hospital Hypoglycemia

Is 50% dextrose as good as 10% dextrose for treating symptomatic hypoglycemia?

If the patient is disoriented, but becomes oriented before the full dose of dextrose is given, is it appropriate to continue to treat the patient as if the patient were still disoriented? If your protocols require you to keep giving dextrose, do the same protocols require you to keep giving opioids after the pain is relieved? Is there really any difference?

50% dextrose has problems.

Animal models have demonstrated the toxic effect of glucose infusions in the settings of cardiac arrest and stroke.2 Experimental data suggests that hyperglycemia is neurotoxic to patients in the setting of acute illness.1,3 [1]


Furthermore, extravasation can cause necrosis.

Image credit.[2]

I expect juries to look at this kind of image and say, Somebody has to take one for the 50% dextrose team. We can’t expect EMS to change.

Is 10% dextrose practical?

Won’t giving less concentrated dextrose delay treatment?

The median initial field blood glucose was 38 mg/dL (IQR = 28 mg/dL – 47 mg/dL), with subsequent blood glucose median of 98 mg/dL (IQR = 70 mg/dL – 135 mg/dL). Elapsed time after D10 administration before recheck was not uniform, with a median time to recheck of eight minutes (IQR = 5 minutes – 12 minutes).[1]


If that is going to slow your system down, is it because you are transporting patients before they wake up?

Did anyone require more than 10 grams of 10% dextrose, as opposed to 25 grams of 50% dextrose?

Of 164 patients, 29 (18%) received an additional dose of intravenous D10 solution in the field due to persistent or recurrent hypoglycemia, and one patient required a third dose.[1]


18% received a second dose, which is 20 grams of dextrose and still less than the total dose of 25 grams of dextrose given according to EMS protocols that still use 50% dextrose.

Only one patient, out of 164 patients, required a third dose. That is 30 grams of dextrose.

Only one patient, out of 164 patients, received as much as we would give according to the typical EMS protocol, which should be a thing of the past. If we are routinely giving too much to our patients, is that a good thing? Why?

Maybe the blood sugars were not that low to begin with.


The average was 38 mg/dL, which is not high.

Maybe the change in blood sugar was small after just 10 grams of dextrose, rather than 25 grams.


The average (mean) change was 67 mg/dL, which is enough to get a patient with a blood sugar of 3 up to 70.

Maybe the blood sugar was not high enough after just 10 grams of dextrose, rather than 25 grams.


The average (mean) repeat blood sugar was 106 mg/dL, which is more than enough.

Maybe it took a long time to treat patients this way.


The average (mean) time was 9 minutes, which is not a lot of time.

Is this perfect?

Three patients had a drop in blood glucose after D10 administration: one patient had a drop of 1 mg/dL; one patient had a drop of 10 mg/dL; and one patient had a drop of 19 mg/dL.[1]


All patients, even the three with initial drops in blood sugar (one had an insulin pump still pumping while being treated) had normal blood sugars at the end of EMS contact.

10% dextrose is cheaper, just as fast, probably less likely to cause hyperglycemia, probably less likely to cause rebound hypoglycemia, probably less likely to cause problems with extravasation, less of a problem with drug shortages, . . . .

Why are we still resisting switching to 10% dextrose?

Other articles on 10% dextrose.




[1] Dextrose 10% in the treatment of out-of-hospital hypoglycemia.
Kiefer MV, Gene Hern H, Alter HJ, Barger JB.
Prehosp Disaster Med. 2014 Apr;29(2):190-4. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X14000284. Epub 2014 Apr 15.
PMID: 24735872 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


[2] Images in emergency medicine. Dextrose extravasation causing skin necrosis.
Levy SB, Rosh AJ.
Ann Emerg Med. 2006 Sep;48(3):236, 239. Epub 2006 Feb 17. No abstract available.
PMID: 16934641 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


Kiefer MV, Gene Hern H, Alter HJ, & Barger JB (2014). Dextrose 10% in the treatment of out-of-hospital hypoglycemia. Prehospital and disaster medicine, 29 (2), 190-4 PMID: 24735872


Levy SB, & Rosh AJ (2006). Images in emergency medicine. Dextrose extravasation causing skin necrosis. Annals of emergency medicine, 48 (3) PMID: 16934641


Since the World is Ending Today, What Should We Do?


Oh no! It is the end of the world, again. What should we do?

If the end of the world causes you anxiety, you are probably already prescribed some anti-anxiety medicine. I recommend that you follow the directions on the label and stop annoying less anxious people. Avoid combining your sedatives with other sedatives (alcohol, heroin, propofol, . . . ) and find a way to distract yourself from what you do not understand.

Lunar activity is said to mark the END OF TIME, with some religious groups believing it to be a sign of the JUDGEMENT DAY.[1]


The end of times has probably been predicted since before writing was first used to record anything. There is one consistent thing about these predictions. They have been completely wrong. Eventually, one will be right, but that will probably be something we learn about from scientists, who will be the first to observe evidence of any problems.

What do scientists predict about the super moon? It will appear a little bit bigger and brighter than most normal full moons. That will be the only noticeable difference from a normal full moon.

Lunar activity is said to mark the END OF TIME, with some religious groups believing it to be a sign of the JUDGEMENT DAY.[1]


We are still waiting and none of the predictions have come true. None of the predictions are any more likely than any other predictions.

But what about he tsunami caused by a super moon?

Supermoons have been proven to cause sea levels to rise as the gravitational pull of the Earth’s closest neighbour increases as it gets closer.[1]


That is not true.

The relative amount of influence is proportional to the object’s mass and distance from the earth.[2]


The difference in distance will be tiny.

Here is what the distance will be from our planet to the super moon.

Aug 10 5:46 PM         356,922 km         221,796 mi         Closest for this year [3]


And here is what the distance was for the full moon on January 1, 2014.

Jan 1 9:01 PM         356,945 km         221,811 mi [3]


Only 15 miles different.

There is one important thing to understand about a 15 mile difference in the distance between the moon and us. It is not something that humans can notice without machinery to measure the distance.

Jul 28 3:39 AM         406,547 km 252,634 mi         Farthest away this year [3]


That is a difference of 30,838 miles between the farthest and closest distances. That is a 12% difference. The difference between the 2nd closest full moon and the super moon is 15 miles.


Or 1 our of 14,787. If this is seen by some as prophetic, important, or ominous, it is because those describing the problem lack all sense of perspective.

Some people are claiming that this is important, because they have no idea what they are commenting on, or they are trying to profit from the gullibility of others, or . . . .

But the moon being this close is unprecedented!

Jan 30 8:59 AM         356,606 km         221,600 mi         Closest for this year[4]


That was the closest distance between the moon and the earth in 2010. 221,600 miles. Today’s end of the world distance – because it is so incredibly close – is 221,796 miles or 196 miles farther than it was in 2010. So much for unprecedented. So much for scary.

If you think that the minuscule difference in distance was enough to cause a disaster, you seem to have the same problem with perspective as the prophets of doom.

If this were indeed the case, we would expect to see a correlation between rate at which earthquakes occur and the perturbations to the gravitational field. The dominant perturbation in the earth’s gravitational field generates the semi-diurnal (12 hour) ocean and solid earth tides which are primarily caused by the moon (due to its proximity) and the sun (due to its large mass). No significant correlations have been identified between the rate of earthquake occurrence and the semi-diurnal tides when using large earthquake catalogs.[2]


No valid mechanism, no perspective, and no evidence?

The only thing useful out of this is as another example of frauds taking advantage of the vulnerable, but we have no shortage of examples of that. We don’t even have a shortage of people defending the frauds.




[1] SUPERMOON LIVE: Beautiful lunar event could trigger ‘END OF DAYS’
By: Nathan Rao
Published: Sun, August 10, 2014
Sunday Express


[2] Can the position of the moon or planets affect seismicity?
Earthquake FAQ
Berkeley Seismological Laboratory Outreach Program


[3] Moon distances for UTC
Information page


[4] Moon distances for UTC
Information page


What is the Best Way to Manage Cardiac Arrest According to the Evidence?
There is an excellent review article by Dr. Bentley Bobrow and Dr. Gordon Ewy on the best management of sudden cardiac arrest from the bystander to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit).

They point out something that we tend to resist learning. Cardiac arrest that is not due to respiratory causes does not need respiratory treatment. A person who is unresponsive and gasping is exhibiting signs of cardiac arrest, not signs of respiratory problems.

Except in newborns, gasping or agonal breathing is a common sign of cardiac arrest, occurring in slightly more than 50% of patients with primary cardiac arrest.22-25 [1]


Gasping does not mean alive and well. Gasping means dead and having a good chance at resuscitation. Unresponsive and gasping means there is a need for compressions.

If adequate chest compressions are promptly initiated, the patient will continue to gasp.23 [1]



Of interest is that only a minority of individuals with noncardiac arrest received CO-CPR.35 In Arizona, the public was generally capable of recognizing respiratory arrest, where chest compressions and assisted ventilations were recommended.[1]



It probably has less to do with taking away the ventilation, than with making the compressions continuous and high quality, but ventilations do decrease blood return to the chest and increase the likelihood of vomiting (regardless of what has been eaten), so there are benefits from removing the ventilations.


Passive oxygen insufflation means just putting a mask over the patient’s mouth and nose and allowing oxygen to be delivered passively. The rise and fall of the chest, due to compressions, and diffusion will allow for all of the oxygenation the patient will need.

Standard CPR (Std CPR) means alternating compressions with two ventilations every 30 compressions. Standard CPR is clearly not what we want to do, unless we want to keep patients from being resuscitated.

The problem is that the vast majority of physicians have no idea what the survival rate of patients with OHCA is in their area. This needs to change if major progress is to be made.[1]


Many of us do not know the results of what we do, so it is not surprising that a lot of EMS treatment is mythological.

Medicine is a field that encourages superstition. Patients provide intermittent reinforcement, which may be the most effect means of creating superstitions. Intermittent reinforcement?[2]

The only way to know the effectiveness of your Emergency Medical System is to know the survival of patients with OHCA and a shockable rhythm. If it is less than 38%,they should be encouraged to institute CCR and reevaluate the results.[1]


Maybe you are already doing better than 38% walking out of the hospital, then you are probably already using continuous compressions and passive oxygen insufflation. If you are not, then you need to improve your patient care.




[1] 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]


[2] Intermittent reinforcements

Pigeons experimented on in a scientific study were more responsive to intermittent reinforcements, than positive reinforcements.[16] In other words, pigeons were more prone to act when they only sometimes could get what they wanted. This effect was such that behavioral responses were maximized when the reward rate was at 50% (in other words, when the uncertainty was maximized), and would gradually decline toward values on either side of 50%.[17] R.B Sparkman, a journalist specialized on what motivates human behavior, claims this is also true for humans, and may in part explain human tendencies such as gambling addiction.[18]



Ewy, G., & Bobrow, B. (2014). Cardiocerebral Resuscitation: An Approach to Improving Survival of Patients With Primary Cardiac Arrest Journal of Intensive Care Medicine DOI: 10.1177/0885066614544450


Resuscitation characteristics and outcomes in suspected drug overdose-related out-of-hospital cardiac arrest

This study is interesting for several reasons.

In a system that claims excellence, the most consistent way to identify the study group is by documentation of a protocol violation – but it is not intended as a study of protocol violations.

This may hint at some benefit from epinephrine (Adrenaline in Commonwealth countries), but that would require some study and we just don’t study epinephrine. We only make excuses for not studying epinephrine.

The atropine results suggest that the epinephrine data may be just due to small numbers, or that we may want to consider atropine for drug overdose cardiac arrest patients, or . . . .

The Sodium Bicarbonate (bicarb – NaHCO3) results suggest a flaw in EMS education (probably testing, too). If the patient is acidotic, this is one type of cardiac arrest where hyperventilation may be beneficial. Bicarb is the part of the drug that doesn’t do much, especially if the patient is dead. The sodium is what works, such as when the patient has taken too much of a sodium channel blocker, such as a tricyclic antidepressant or a class I antiarrhythmic. Acidosis is treated by hyperventilation. Use capnography.

Most important – antidotes probably don’t work as expected during cardiac arrest. Not even naloxone (Narcan).

Despite clear differences in the etiology of suspected OD [OverDose] and non-OD OHCA [Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest], the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation guidelines published in 2010 do not specify different treatments for suspected OD-OHCA patients during resuscitation,and state that there is no evidence promoting the intra-arrest administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone.8 [1]


What did they find in the study?

They may have located the highest concentration of heroin overdose in the country. 93% of OD-OHCA patients were treated with naloxone.

We relied on either naloxone administration or clear description of circumstantial evidence in the PCR [Patient Care Recod] to identify a suspected OD. Clear descriptions are also rare, and most (93%) of the cases were identified by naloxone administration. Naloxone during cardiac arrest is not part of any regional protocol, and all of these administrations are deviations from recommended practice. There may be other cases in which paramedics suspected OD, but did not deviate from protocol to administer naloxone. Therefore, it is impossible to be certain whether the actual number of OD cases is larger or smaller than the reported number. However, the use of naloxone as a proxy indicator of suspected OD has been supported in the literature.11 [1]


The EMS approach to naloxone still appears to be –

Image credits – 123

These results seem to show better response to the prehospital drugs in the OD-OHCA patients, but that ignores the ROSC (Return Of Spontaneous Circulation) rates.

Click on images to make them larger.

Why would OD-OHCA patients do better than non-OD-OHCA patients if they get a pulse back?

The average non-OD-OHCA patient is 20+ years older. These older patients may not be as capable of recovery nor as capable of tolerating the toxicity of the drugs they were treated with.

The change after ROSC is dramatic. Is that the important point of this study?

Are they doing anything special for OD patients in the hospital, or is it just a matter of That which does not kill me by anoxic brain damage, may allow me to recover twice as often as a typical cardiac arrest patient.

Do drugs (antidotes, antiarrhythmics, . . . ) work the same way in dead people as in living people?

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.[2]


We should understand that normal metabolism is irrelevant to cardiac arrest.

We should understand that we do not need to ventilate adult cardiac arrest patients, when the cause is cardiac. An absence of ventilation would not be appropriate in a living adult, but dead metabolism is not normal. If something as basic as oxygen changes, when the patient is dead, how much less do we understand the behavior of other drugs in dead patients?




[1] Resuscitation characteristics and outcomes in suspected drug overdose-related out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Koller AC, Salcido DD, Callaway CW, Menegazzi JJ.
Resuscitation. 2014 Jun 26. pii: S0300-9572(14)00581-4. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2014.05.036. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 24973558 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]


[2] 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


Roberts, J. (2011). InFocus: Dissecting the ACLS Guidelines on Cardiac Arrest from Toxic Ingestions Emergency Medicine News, 33 (10), 16-18 DOI: 10.1097/


Koller, A., Salcido, D., Callaway, C., & Menegazzi, J. (2014). Resuscitation characteristics and outcomes in suspected drug overdose-related out-of-hospital cardiac arrest Resuscitation DOI: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2014.05.036