We are there for the good of the patient, not for the good of the protocol, not for the good of the medical director, and not for the good of the company.

- Rogue Medic

Should ACLS Recommend the Unknown Based on Weak Evidence?


 
The AHA (American Heart Association) and ILCOR (International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation) will be meeting tomorrow to finalize the recommendations for the 2015 ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) guidelines. Here is the comment I submitted on the proposed recommendation for epinephrine (Adrenaline in Commonwealth countries) in cardiac arrest.

I have not received any information about where to submit SEERS comments, so I am sending this to you. Please forward it to whomever is supposed to receive comments.

Vasopressors for cardiac arrest (1. Epi v Placebo)
 

Consensus on Science:
For all four long term (critical) and short term (important) outcomes, we found one underpowered trial that provided low quality evidence comparing SDE to placebo (Jacobs, 2001, 1138).
[1]

 

As a trial that is stated to be underpowered (through no fault of Dr. Jacobs),[2] is there any valid reason the Jacobs study should be considered to be superior to observational studies?
 

Among 534 subjects, there was uncertain benefit or harm of SDE over placebo for the critical outcomes of survival to discharge [RR 2.12, 95% CI 0.75-6.02, p=0.16] and good neurological outcome defined as CPC of 1-2 [RR 1.73, 95% CI 0.59-5.11, p=0.32].[1]

 

We do not have good evidence to tell us if this is harmful or beneficial and we do not have any way of determining which patients will be harmed or helped by administration of epinephrine.


 

However, patients who received SDE had higher rates of the two important outcomes of survival to admission [RR 1.95, 95% CI, 1.34-2.84, p=0.0004] and ROSC in the prehospital setting [RR 2.80, 95% CI 1.78-4.41, p<0.00001] compared to those who received placebo.[1]

 

Are these surrogate endpoints important?

How do we know?

If these surrogate endpoints are important, why is there no valid evidence to support this claim?

We have a history of being misled by surrogate endpoints. We used to bleed patients and that produced a number of clear benefits in surrogate endpoints.
 

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.[3]

 

We don’t do that any more, because medicine is not supposed to just create a superficial improvement.

We should not be making any recommendation to treat based on such weak evidence.
 

The evidence for the routine use of adrenaline is perceived to be at equipoise within the international community of resuscitation scientists requiring re-evaluation19 as suggested by this comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. There is a need for well-designed, placebo-controlled, and adequately powered RCTs to evaluate the efficacy of adrenaline and to determine its optimal dosing.11,16,54 The question as to the efficacy of adrenaline for OHCA remains unanswered.[4]

 

Since the question as to the efficacy of adrenaline for OHCA remains unanswered, we should avoid substituting a bad answer for We don’t know.

Maybe we should bring back the indeterminate class for these unanswerable questions.
 

Treatment Recommendation
Given the observed benefit in short term outcomes, we suggest Standard Dose Epinephrine be administered to patients in cardiac arrest.(weak recommendation, low quality)
[1]

 

The benefit is considered important, but that is just an expert opinion, which is the lowest level of evidence.

A weak recommendation to give a treatment of unknown benefit and unknown harm, based on evidence that is admitted to be of low quality, should not set the standard of care. Even if the guidelines are explicitly stated to not be standards of care, they are adopted as standards of care by the emergency medicine community and by the EMS community.

We don’t know enough to make a recommendation about epinephrine, or most other treatments, in cardiac arrest.

We do not need to keep making the same recommendation just because we have made it before. We can leave it up to the treating physician or to the medical director writing the protocols for EMS.
 
 

See also – Proposed 2015 ACLS Epinephrine Recommendation – Vasopressors for cardiac arrest (1. Epi v Placebo)

Footnotes:

[1] Vasopressors for cardiac arrest (1. Epi v Placebo)
ILCOR Scientific Evidence Evaluation and Review System
Questions Open for Public Comment
Closing Date – February 28, 2015
Question page

[2] 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 xa.yming.com

 

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.

 

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

[4] Adrenaline for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest resuscitation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Lin S, Callaway CW, Shah PS, Wagner JD, Beyene J, Ziegler CP, Morrison LJ.
Resuscitation. 2014 Jun;85(6):732-40. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2014.03.008. Epub 2014 Mar 15.
PMID: 24642404 [PubMed – in process]

.

Proposed 2015 ACLS Epinephrine Recommendation – Vasopressors for cardiac arrest (1. Epi v Placebo)


 
What do the AHA (American Heart Association) and ILCOR (International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation) plan to make their recommendation on use of epinephrine (Adrenaline in Commonwealth countries) in cardiac arrest (ACLS – Advanced Cardiac Life Support)?
 

Full Question:
Among adults who are in cardiac arrest in any setting (P), does does use of epinephrine (I), compared with placebo or not using epinephrine (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 (O)?

The information provided is currently in DRAFT format and is NOT a FINAL version[1]

 

Unless you are familiar with the way AHA/ILCOR ask questions, this may not seem to be a helpful way of addressing the question. Here is the format being used –

PICO:

Population/Patient/Problem

Intervention

Comparison/Control

Outcome
 

The Patients are adults who are in cardiac arrest in any setting.

The Intervention is use of epinephrine.

The Comparison is placebo or not using epinephrine.

The Outcome is a bit complicated – 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. ROSC is Return Of Spontaneous Circulation.

Everything is reasonable – until they get to the outcome. Does anyone still think that it is really an improvement to get pulses back, be transported to the hospital, never wake up, and die in the ED (Emergency Department) or ICU (Intensive Care Unit)? What if the coma lasts for 30 days, 60 days, 180 days AND/OR 1 year. If you think that is an improvement, you may not have considered the cost. How much is it worth to give a family false hope? $10,000? Who pays for this deception?

Should we also try putting the patient in a helicopter to see if the magic rotor blades make the family feel that everything possible was done to deceive them?

These are considered to be important, because we do not seem to know what is important.

Why are ROSC and survival to admission considered important?

Where is the evidence that these measurements lead to better outcomes?
 

 

Studies that look at these outcomes show that real world patients treated with epinephrine are more likely to die in the hospital – and those who do not die in the hospital are more likely to have severe neurological impairment.
 

Click on image to make it larger.[2] The studies are in the footnotes.[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10]
 

Is Adrenaline beneficial in cardiac arrest?

Probably, but only for some patients and we do not know which patients benefit.

Is Adrenaline harmful in cardiac arrest?

Probably, but only for some patients and we do not know which patients are harmed.

The evidence evaluation focused on the Jacobs study,[8] which is randomized and placebo controlled, but only reaches the level of fair according to the analysis of all of the evidence. The reason is that politicians and the media combined to sabotage the study. Most of the ambulance services dropped out of the Jacobs study because of this interference. This is not the fault of Dr. Ian G. Jacobs, who deserves credit for setting up the first randomized placebo controlled study of this important topic.
 

For all four long term (critical) and short term (important) outcomes, we found one underpowered trial that provided low quality evidence comparing SDE to placebo (Jacobs, 2001, 1138).[1]

 

We need to bring back the Indeterminate class of recommendation for ACLS, because that is the best that we can come up with for epinephrine, unless we ignore the evidence or we just don’t understand the evidence.
 

Table 3.
Applying Classification of Recommendations and Level of Evidence

. . .

Class Indeterminate.
• Research just getting started
• Continuing area of research
• No recommendations until further research (eg, cannot recommend for or against)[11]

 

Does the proposed ACLS recommendation on epinephrine makes sense?

Consider that we do not know which patients benefit from epinephrine. The treatment for every cause of cardiac arrest includes epinephrine as the first drug, even if the cause of cardiac arrest is known to be an overdose of epinephrine.

Is epinephrine better than nothing for some patients in cardiac arrest? Yes.

Is epinephrine worse than nothing for some patients in cardiac arrest? Yes.

We do not know which patients we are harming with epinephrine and we don’t seem to want to stop harming those patients.

Footnotes:

[1] Vasopressors for cardiac arrest (1. Epi v Placebo)
ILCOR Scientific Evidence Evaluation and Review System
Questions Open for Public Comment
Closing Date – February 28, 2015
Question page

[2] Vasopressors in cardiac arrest: a systematic review.
Larabee TM, Liu KY, Campbell JA, Little CM.
Resuscitation. 2012 Aug;83(8):932-9. Epub 2012 Mar 15.
PMID: 22425731 [PubMed – in process]
 

CONCLUSION: There are few studies that compare vasopressors to placebo in resuscitation from cardiac arrest. Epinephrine is associated with improvement in short term survival outcomes as compared to placebo, but no long-term survival benefit has been demonstrated. Vasopressin is equivalent for use as an initial vasopressor when compared to epinephrine during resuscitation from cardiac arrest. There is a short-term, but no long-term, survival benefit when using high dose vs. standard dose epinephrine during resuscitation from cardiac arrest. There are no alternative vasopressors that provide a long-term survival benefit when compared to epinephrine. There is limited data on the use of vasopressors in the pediatric population.

[3] High dose and standard dose adrenaline do not alter survival, compared with placebo, in cardiac arrest.
Woodhouse SP, Cox S, Boyd P, Case C, Weber M.
Resuscitation. 1995 Dec;30(3):243-9.
PMID: 8867714 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[4] Adrenaline in out-of-hospital ventricular fibrillation. Does it make any difference?
Herlitz J, Ekström L, Wennerblom B, Axelsson A, Bång A, Holmberg S.
Resuscitation. 1995 Jun;29(3):195-201.
PMID: 7667549 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[5] Survival outcomes with the introduction of intravenous epinephrine in the management of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Ong ME, Tan EH, Ng FS, Panchalingham A, Lim SH, Manning PG, Ong VY, Lim SH, Yap S, Tham LP, Ng KS, Venkataraman A; Cardiac Arrest and Resuscitation Epidemiology Study Group.
Ann Emerg Med. 2007 Dec;50(6):635-42. Epub 2007 May 23.
PMID: 17509730 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text Download in PDF format from prdupl02.ynet.co.il

[6] Intravenous drug administration during out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: a randomized trial.
Olasveengen TM, Sunde K, Brunborg C, Thowsen J, Steen PA, Wik L.
JAMA. 2009 Nov 25;302(20):2222-9.
PMID: 19934423 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from JAMA

[7] Outcome when adrenaline (epinephrine) was actually given vs. not given – post hoc analysis of a randomized clinical trial.
Olasveengen TM, Wik L, Sunde K, Steen PA.
Resuscitation. 2011 Nov 22. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 22115931 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

[8] 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 xa.yming.com

 

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.

 

[9] Prehospital epinephrine use and survival among patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Hagihara A, Hasegawa M, Abe T, Nagata T, Wakata Y, Miyazaki S.
JAMA. 2012 Mar 21;307(11):1161-8. doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.294.
PMID: 22436956 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from JAMA.

[10] Impact of early intravenous epinephrine administration on outcomes following out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Hayashi Y, Iwami T, Kitamura T, Nishiuchi T, Kajino K, Sakai T, Nishiyama C, Nitta M, Hiraide A, Kai T.
Circ J. 2012;76(7):1639-45. Epub 2012 Apr 5.
PMID: 22481099 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from Circulation Japan.

[11] Table 3. Applying Classification of Recommendations and Level of Evidence
2005 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care
Part 1: Introduction
Table 3

I have modified this table solely for the purpose of clarity of presentation, by modifying color and font. None of the words have been changed.

.

Narcan in Cardiac Arrest – Safe as Long as I Don’t Understand Safety


 
How can I justify exposing patients to the risks of a treatment that has no known benefit?

Here is one way –
 

I give Narcan in arrest. You might not. Neither of us are wrong. Yet.
 

Narcan (naloxone) is one of the safer drugs we use. Suppose that I give a drug in a way that has not been found to be beneficial because I think it is safe as long as I can’t think of a specific problem I can cause. Does that make the inappropriate drug administration safe? Or is it just an example of my ignorance?

If a lack of knowledge were a good thing, we should not teach anything about pharmacology.

The less I know, the safer it is. Ignorance is safety.

We should not teach about the adverse effects of drugs, because as long as I don’t know about the danger, there is no danger. It is only after the danger is known that the danger is real, so don’t tell me about any dangers.
 

In the ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) guidelines, the American Heart Association tells us that it is wrong to give Narcan during cardiac arrest.
 

Naloxone is a potent antagonist of the binding of opioid medications to their receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Administration of naloxone can reverse central nervous system and respiratory depression caused by opioid overdose. Naloxone has no role in the management of cardiac arrest.[1]

 

Naloxone has no role in the management of cardiac arrest.
 

Why did I give Narcan? Because ACLS told me not to.

Don’t think, just do something. If I do not know of a danger, there is no danger. If I have been told that it is wrong, do it anyway.
 


Image credits – 123
 

Repeat the mindless sequence as often as necessary, until the desire to understand patient care has been destroyed.
 


 

But Narcan reverses respiratory depression and apnea.

Narcan can reverses respiratory depression or apnea in a living patient. A patient in cardiac arrest due to a heroin overdose should be treated for a respiratory cause of cardiac arrest. Children and patients with respiratory causes of cardiac arrest should be ventilated and oxygenated. These patients will also be receiving epinephrine (Adrenaline in Commonwealth countries) in the early part of the standard treatment of cardiac arrest. Narcan does not add anything to these treatments the patient is already receiving.
 

But Narcan is safe – and I can’t make the patient any worse.
 

Naloxone is one of the safer drugs we can give to a patient when there is an indication to give naloxone. Even when given inappropriately, naloxone is not very likely to cause harm.

There are several problems.

If I am pushing drugs because I don’t know what to do, I should be trying to figure out what treatments I can give that might actually help the patient. There is no reason to believe that naloxone might actually help the patient. If I am giving drugs that provide no benefit, I am distracting myself from assessment, which might provide information that can help me resuscitate the patient.
 

As long as I don’t know what I’m doing, I am not wrong.
 

No.

As long as I don’t know what I’m doing, I am both wrong and dangerous.
 
 

See also –
 

Dissecting the ACLS Guidelines on Cardiac Arrest from Toxic Ingestions – Tue, 01 Nov 2011

Naloxone in cardiac arrest with suspected opioid overdoses – Thu, 05 Apr 2012

The Myth that Narcan Reverses Cardiac Arrest – Wed, 12 Dec 2012

Resuscitation characteristics and outcomes in suspected drug overdose-related out-of-hospital cardiac arrest – Sun, 03 Aug 2014

Footnotes:

[1] Opioid Toxicity
2010 ACLS
2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care
Part 12.7: Cardiac Arrest Associated With Toxic Ingestions
Free Full Text from Circulation

.

Anecdotes and the Appearance of Improvement

ResearchBlogging.org
 
We like to give treatments that produce results that we can see and logically attribute to the treatments we gave.

We like to give IV (IntaVenous) furosemide (Lasix – frusemide in Commonwealth countries) for CHF (Congestive Heart Failure).
 

1. The patient had CHF.

2. I gave IV furosemide.

3. The patient produced urine.

4. The patient improved.
 

Anecdotes like this can lead us to the conclusion that the furosemide produced the improvement, even if we have been giving many other treatments along with the Lasix.

We can use logic to back up that conclusion.
 

1. CHF is fluid in the lungs.

2. CHF is too much fluid.

3. Getting rid of the fluid gets rid of the problem.

4. The patient improved, so the logic must be sound.
 

But is the logic sound? Is the conclusion justified or are we seeing what we want to see?

The way we find out is by studying patients with similar enough presentations that they are treated the same way, except that not all patients are given Lasix.

When we study the results of furosemide on CHF, we see that the things we have been told about IV Lasix are not true.
 

Hypothesis #1. Acute CHF patients are overloaded with fluid. We have to remove the fluid to save them.

CHF = Pee or die!
 


Image credit.
 

This hypothesis was tested – all the way back in 1978, but the myth continues.
 


 

The concept that acute heeart failure with pulmonary edema is associated with an increase in intravascular volume is therefore not supported. To the contrary, there is a reduction of blood volume during acute pulmonary edema.[1]

 

The normal patients had 22% more total plasma volume.

The normal patients had 21% more total blood volume.

The need to remove fluids is based on what?

It is interesting that this study was of patients treated with oxygen, morphine, and furosemide. Only oxygen is still important in the acute treatment of CHF/ADHF.
 

Hypothesis #2. IV Lasix almost immediately causes vasodilation.

No.

IV Lasix almost immediately causes vasoconstriction.

This hypothesis was tested – in 1985, but this myth also continues.
 


 

The use of intravenous furosemide in patients with chronic congestive heart failure, although well established, can promote further clinical hemodynamic deterioration during the first 20 minutes.[2]

 

Lasix raises blood pressure in emergency treatment of CHF.
 

Hypothesis #3. IV Lasix improves outcomes for acute CHF patients.

No.

IV Lasix does not improve outcomes for acute CHF patients.

This hypothesis was also tested a long time ago (in 1987), and at other times, but the myth persists longer than the patients treated with Lasix.[3]
 


 

If we can eliminate a treatment and the outcomes of patients do not get worse, where is the benefit from the treatment?

Why expose the patient to the side effects of a treatment, if the patient is not expected to benefit from the treatment?

Footnotes:

[1] Blood volume prior to and following treatment of acute cardiogenic pulmonary edema.
Figueras J, Weil MH.
Circulation. 1978 Feb;57(2):349-55.
PMID: 618625 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text Download from Circulation in PDF format.

[2] Acute vasoconstrictor response to intravenous furosemide in patients with chronic congestive heart failure. Activation of the neurohumoral axis.
Francis GS, Siegel RM, Goldsmith SR, Olivari MT, Levine TB, Cohn JN.
Ann Intern Med. 1985 Jul;103(1):1-6.
PMID: 2860833 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[3] Comparison of nitroglycerin, morphine and furosemide in treatment of presumed pre-hospital pulmonary edema.
Hoffman JR, Reynolds S.
Chest. 1987 Oct;92(4):586-93.
PMID: 3115687 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from Chest.

Figueras J, & Weil MH (1978). Blood volume prior to and following treatment of acute cardiogenic pulmonary edema. Circulation, 57 (2), 349-55 PMID: 618625

Francis GS, Siegel RM, Goldsmith SR, Olivari MT, Levine TB, & Cohn JN (1985). Acute vasoconstrictor response to intravenous furosemide in patients with chronic congestive heart failure. Activation of the neurohumoral axis. Annals of internal medicine, 103 (1), 1-6 PMID: 2860833

Hoffman JR, & Reynolds S (1987). Comparison of nitroglycerin, morphine and furosemide in treatment of presumed pre-hospital pulmonary edema. Chest, 92 (4), 586-93 PMID: 3115687

.

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

ResearchBlogging.org
 

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.

Footnotes:

[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

.

Safety of Intranasal Fentanyl in the Out-of-Hospital Setting – A Prospective Observational Study

ResearchBlogging.org
 
I have been very critical of plans to have first responders treat people they suspect of having a heroin (or other) opioid overdose with naloxone.

Would first responders be safer with fentanyl?

It is not really the same question, but it does highlight the differences and why I think fentanyl is safer. The patient will be seen by someone more likely to recognize when the treatment is inappropriate. This study looked at IN (IntraNasal) fentanyl given by basic EMTs prior to transport to the ED (Emergency Department).
 


Image credit.
 

Previous studies demonstrate adverse effects in 3.3% to 39% of patients treated with intranasal fentanyl,3, 4 and 5 providing an ambiguous safety profile.[1]

 

The concentration of fentanyl (Instanyl in this study) is different from what I have available. They use 500 µg/ml, while I only have fentanyl in a concentration of 50 µg/ml. Ten times the volume does make measurement easier, but ten times the volume may impair absorption.
 

The atomizer contains a single dose with a prefixed quantity of either 50 μg (500 μg/mL) or 100 μg (1,000 μg/mL) fentanyl and has a dose volume of 0.1 mL (lower than the 0.15 mL limit necessary to avoid pharyngeal runoff7). The Instanyl preparation contains fentanyl in no other recipients than purified water and a phosphate buffer to match the physiologic environment of the nasal cavity and to increase bioavailability.9 [1]

 

Patients were not limited to healthy trauma patients, so these results can be generalized to a variety of patients.
 

We administered 50 μg to patients younger than 18 years, older than 65 years, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or who were considered generally weakened or malnourished by the attending paramedic/EMT. All others received 100 μg. In patients reporting insufficient analgesia, the initial dose could be repeated once or twice after 10 and 25 minutes, respectively.[1]

 


 

The smaller decrease in level of pain suggests that they were more cautious in administering fentanyl to the comorbid patients.

The time between doses did lead to some extended scene times (first dose at 0 minutes, second dose at least 10 minutes later, and the third dose at least 35 minutes after the first dose), but that is usually preferable to causing extreme pain by moving the patient with inadequate pain management, regardless of the proximity of the hospital.
 


 

What many people fail to realize, doctors included, is that the hospital may only be five minutes away after we are in the ambulance, but we need to manage the pain before we move toward the ambulance. When I call for orders to give more pain medicine than I can give on standing orders, medical command doctors sometimes ask how far away from the hospital we are. I respond that it depends on when the pain is managed. Unless there is some medical condition that requires us to move the patient more quickly, we should move the patient only when the patient feels the pain is managed.
 

How effective was the intranasal fentanyl at managing pain?
 

I would prefer to lower the level of pain by more than they did, but I am accustomed to giving IV (IntraVenous) fentanyl, so I am able to titrate it more accurately.
 


 

Patients received 1 (n=526), 2 (n=333), or 3 (n=44) doses of fentanyl, with a mean cumulative dose of 114 μg.[1]

 

Fewer than 5% of patients required more than two doses.

They did give a variety of total doses of fentanyl. The result seemed to be similar regardless of the total dose. This could indicate that fentanyl is just a placebo (unlikely) or that the EMTs did a good job of titrating the medicine to the response.
 


 
 

This was a safety study, so how safe was intranasal fentanyl?
 

The criterion for hypotension is a bit different from what I am accustomed to. Even using MAP (Mean Arterial Pressure), I have not considered patients to be hypotensive above a MAP of 60.
 

We calculated the mean arterial pressure (MAP) and defined hypotension as a MAP reduction greater than or equal to 10 mm Hg and an end MAP less than or equal to 70 mm Hg.14 [1]

 

How much respiratory depression and hypotension did they have?
 

We did not observe respiratory depression (respiratory rate less than 11 breaths/min), GCS score reduction to 14 in 5 patients was transient, and there was no use of naloxone or mask ventilation. Ten patients (1%) had measurable hypotension; however, none experienced syncope and only 1 experienced dizziness, suggesting that these events were of low clinical importance. Indeed, pain relief may be partially responsible for the decrease in MAP.[1]

 

Studies repeatedly show that fentanyl can be given safely to hypotensive patients and half of the hypotensive patients were no longer hypotensive after fentanyl was given in one prehospital trauma study.[2] This suggests that a fluid bolus may be less effective than fentanyl at getting rid of hypotension.
 

As pointed out by O’Donnell et al,20 out-of-hospital undertreatment of pain in pediatric patients may be due to safety concerns. Our study supports the safety of intranasal fentanyl in children.[1]

 

Fentanyl is even safe in children and safe in adults with comorbidities even when given by basic EMTs.

It seems that fentanyl is safe and much more effective than not treating the pain. Is IN fentanyl more effective than other pain medicines? We still do not know.

Footnotes:

[1] Safety of intranasal fentanyl in the out-of-hospital setting: a prospective observational study.
Karlsen AP, Pedersen DM, Trautner S, Dahl JB, Hansen MS.
Ann Emerg Med. 2014 Jun;63(6):699-703. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2013.10.025. Epub 2013 Nov 22.
PMID: 24268523 [PubMed – in process]

[2] Fentanyl in the out-of-hospital setting: variables associated with hypotension and hypoxemia.
Krauss WC, Shah S, Shah S, Thomas SH.
J Emerg Med. 2011 Feb;40(2):182-7. Epub 2009 Mar 27.
PMID: 19327928 [PubMed – in process]

Full Text PDF Download at medicalscg.

My review of this paper –

Fentanyl in the out-of-hospital setting: variables associated with hypotension and hypoxemia
Fri, 27 May 2011
Rogue Medic
Article

Krauss, W., Shah, S., Shah, S., & Thomas, S. (2011). Fentanyl in the Out-of-Hospital Setting: Variables Associated with Hypotension and Hypoxemia The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 40 (2), 182-187 DOI: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2009.02.009

Karlsen AP, Pedersen DM, Trautner S, Dahl JB, & Hansen MS (2014). Safety of intranasal fentanyl in the out-of-hospital setting: a prospective observational study. Annals of emergency medicine, 63 (6), 699-703 PMID: 24268523

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Is First Responder Narcan the Same as First Responder AED?


Image credit.
 

Are these the same?

If one works, does the other work?
 


Image credit.
 

The idea that first responders can safely give naloxone (Narcan) is popular, but only based on things that we want to be true. Dr. Oz would love it.

It has been suggested that giving first responders naloxone is the same as giving them AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators).[1] AEDs are defibrillators that can deliver the same shock as a manual defibrillator, but AEDs do not require all of the education needed to become a paramedic, nurse, PA, NP, or doctor.

Unlike naloxone, AEDs are designed to do almost all of the assessment for the first responder. The AED is only supposed to be attached to a pulseless patient, so assessment for responsiveness and the presence of a pulse is expected by the first responder. Is naloxone assessment that simple?

When a patient actually has an opioid overdose, it can be that simple, but –

Not all patients who respond after naloxone, respond because of naloxone.

This is the concept that is difficult to explain to the advocates of first responder naloxone programs.

1. Some advocates deny that this happens, even though it is documented.

2. Some advocates claim that we already know all that we need to know about naloxone.

3. Some advocates also claim that we should not study this because we already know all that we need to know.

Since there is overlap among the groups, the failure to understand the problem of improper assessment, especially among paramedics, nurses, and doctors is a huge problem. If we do not understand naloxone, with all of our education in pharmacology, how can we expect first responders to understand naloxone without any education in pharmacology?

What kind of education can prevent mistakes? How do we know?

If we listen to those who don’t know, but claim that they know all that they need to know, we will be ignoring the possibility of unintended consequences and assuming that we are too smart to make mistakes. Is that reasonable?

Do AEDs save lives?
 

CONCLUSION:

Addition of AEDs to this EMS system did not improve survival from sudden cardiac death. The data do not support routinely equipping initial responders with AEDs as an isolated enhancement, and raise further doubt about such expenditures in similar EMS systems without first optimizing bystander CPR and EMS dispatching.[2]

 

The problem is not that AEDs do not work.

The problem is not that AEDs are not safe.

The problem is thinking that AEDs are a simple solution to a problem that is not as simple as some would like us to believe.
 

The concept of equipping as many emergency responders as possible with AEDs has been widely adopted,2 and 31 but it should not be blindly adopted without improving the EMS system at all levels. This decision should be individualized to each EMS system based on all of the variables in EMS response. As an isolated enhancement, it is doubtful that addition of AEDs will provide a measurable survival benefit.[2]

 

If first responder naloxone were limited to people found with needles in their arms, less thought would be required. As the presentation of overdose changes to prescription opioids, there is less clear evidence of overdose and more of a need for a good assessment and understanding of pharmacology.

First responder naloxone may save lives, when it is administered appropriately. We should study this before implementation. Discouraging us from studying the safety and efficacy of this type of use of naloxone is bad medicine.
 

Also see –

Is ‘Narcan by Everyone’ a Good Idea?

Should Basic EMTs Give Naloxone (Narcan)?

The Myth that Narcan Reverses Cardiac Arrest

To Narcan or not Narcan

What About Nebulized Naloxone (Narcan) – Part I

Footnotes:

[1] I’ve heard that PA is looking to follow down the “Narcan for everyone” route, in allowing PD and BLS folks to give intranasal naloxone. . . .
Facebook
Narcan post

[2] EMT defibrillation does not increase survival from sudden cardiac death in a two-tiered urban-suburban EMS system.
Sweeney TA, Runge JW, Gibbs MA, Raymond JM, Schafermeyer RW, Norton HJ, Boyle-Whitesel MJ.
Ann Emerg Med. 1998 Feb;31(2):234-40.
PMID: 9472187 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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Is ‘Narcan by Everyone’ a Good Idea?


Image credit.
 

My friend Jonathan Blatman asks the following question about naloxone (Narcan) on Facebook –
 

I’ve heard that PA (Pennsylvania) is looking to follow down the “Narcan for everyone” route, in allowing PD and BLS folks to give intranasal naloxone.[1]

 

The problem is not that basic EMTs, or first responders, or police are stupid people.

The problem is that all people are stupid people.

Doctors, nurses, and paramedics do not understand naloxone, so we need to improve the understanding of pharmacology among doctors, nurses, and paramedics, before we increase the ranks of ignorant people inappropriately administering the drug.

Naloxone itself is very safe.

A quack once challenged me to take 1,000 times the dose of any medicine I chose, while he would do the same with some natural product. I accepted and chose naloxone, with the condition that he first take 1,000 time the daily recommended dose of one of something he considered completely safe and natural – water.

The quack had it pointed out to him that this dose of all natural water would be deadly. The quack backed out. Whether naloxone’s standard dose is 0.4 mg (it should not be more than this) or the dose more popular in areas with frequent fentanyl overdoses (2.0 mg) does not matter. Naloxone has been demonstrated to be relatively safe at massive doses.
 

Adult Patients
In one small study, volunteers who received 24 mg/70 kg did not demonstrate toxicity.
In another study, 36 patients with acute stroke received a loading dose of 4 mg/kg (10 mg/m2/min) of naloxone hydrochloride injection followed immediately by 2 mg/kg/hr for 24 hours. Twenty-three patients experienced adverse events associated with naloxone use, and naloxone was discontinued in seven patients because of adverse effects. The most serious adverse events were: seizures (2 patients), severe hypertension (1), and hypotension and/or bradycardia (3).
[2]

 

400 mg (0.4 mg dose x 1,000) or 2,000 mg (2.0 mg x 1,000) would be higher than the doses tested in these patients, but would still be much safer than 1,000 times the recommended daily dose of water, even though water is safe and essential for life. It does not matter if there is fluoride in the water for it to be lethal, but we should fluoridate water, because only conspiracy theorists think that fluoride is dangerous in drinking water.
 


Download YouTube Video | YouTube to MP3: Vixy | Replay Media Catcher
 

We engage in magical thinking about the drugs we give.

The problem is not with the drug. The problem is with the actions of the people giving the drug – us.

We still have a big push for giving fibrinolytics (tPA – tissue Plasminogen Activator) to patients with acute ischemic stroke, even though most of the improvement may be due to the transience of stroke symptoms in some stroke patients (TIS – Transient Ischemic Attack). Fibrinolytics do not appear to be beneficial for acute ischemic stroke and there is no reason to give them for a TIA.

There is weak beneficial evidence in only two out of eleven studies (only 18% of studies) – and increases in death in most studies of fibrinolytics for acute ischemic stroke.[3] The problem is not with the drug. The problem is with the actions of the people giving the drug. Most of the evidence shows death increased, but we ignore that.

Naloxone and tPA are both given based on a rush to treatment and a fear of not giving the standard of care – the Yuppie Nuremberg Defense.
 

Everyone’s got a mortgage to pay. [inner monologue] The Yuppie Nuremberg defense.[4]

 

Will this be a matter of providing naloxone, rather than providing ventilations?
 

An epidemic of naloxone-resistant heroin overdoses due to fentanyl adulteration has led to significant morbidity and mortality throughout the central and eastern United States. According to records of the Philadelphia County Medical Examiner’s office, at least 250 overdose deaths have been associated with fentanyl between April 1, 2006, and March 1, 2007.[5]

 

What about people who take more than one drug?

If the opioid is reversed, will there be problems?
 

All were initially lethargic and became agitated and combative after emergency medical service (EMS) personnel treated them with parenteral naloxone, which is routinely used for suspected heroin overdose to reverse the toxic effects of opioids (e.g., coma and respiratory depression). All patients received diazepam or lorazepam for sedation, and signs and symptoms resolved during the next 12-24 hours.[6]

 

Will we identify the patients who have other medical conditions that may respond after naloxone, but not because of naloxone, such as hypoglycemia, stroke, seizures, clonidine overdose, arrhythmia, head trauma, dehydration, syncope, et cetera?
 

Six of the 25 complete responders to naloxone (24%) ultimately were proven to have had false-positive responses, as they were not ultimately given a diagnosis of opiate overdose. In four of these patients, the acute episode of AMS was related to a seizure, whereas in two, it was due to head trauma; in none of these cases did the ultimate diagnosis include opiates or any other class of drug overdose (which might have responded directly to naloxone). Thus, what was apparently misinterpreted as a response to naloxone in these cases appears in retrospect to have been due to the natural lightening that occurs with time during the postictal period or after head trauma.[7]

 

The problem is not with the administration of naloxone, but with the faulty assumption that because a patient wakes up after naloxone, the patient woke up because of naloxone.

Doctors, nurses, and paramedics do not do a good job of identifying the difference currently. We need to educate them, rather than encourage others to replicate their mistakes.

Pharmacology is poorly understood by people with medical education.
 

The documented indication for nebulized naloxone administration was suspected opioid overdose in 70 patients (66.7%), altered mental status in 34 patients (32.3%), and respiratory depression in one patient (0.9%).[8]

 

The indication for naloxone is respiratory depression.

The treatment for respiratory depression is to supplement oxygen and/or ventilations. We have decided to give naloxone in stead.

Naloxone was used appropriately in fewer than 1% of patients.

How good bad will our naloxone by everyone education be?

Don’t wait with bated breath – someone my administer naloxone.
 

Also read –

Should Basic EMTs Give Naloxone (Narcan)?

The Myth that Narcan Reverses Cardiac Arrest

To Narcan or not Narcan

What About Nebulized Naloxone (Narcan) – Part I

Footnotes:

[1] I’ve heard that PA is looking to follow down the “Narcan for everyone” route, in allowing PD and BLS folks to give intranasal naloxone. . . .
Facebook
Narcan post

[2] NALOXONE HYDROCHLORIDE injection, solution
[Hospira, Inc.]

DailyMed
Adverse reactions
Overdosage
FDA Label

[3] The Guideline, The Science, and The Gap
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Dr. David Newman
Smart EM
Article

[4] Thank You for Smoking
Movie, based on the book by Christopher Buckley
Wikiquote
Quote page

[5] Heroin: what’s in the mix?
Muller AA, Osterhoudt KC, Wingert W.
Ann Emerg Med. 2007 Sep;50(3):352-3.
PMID: 17709054 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[6] Scopolamine Poisoning among Heroin Users — New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, 1995 and 1996
MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report).
Vol 45, No 22;457;
Free Full Text from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.

[7] The empiric use of naloxone in patients with altered mental status: a reappraisal.
Hoffman JR, Schriger DL, Luo JS.
Ann Emerg Med. 1991 Mar;20(3):246-52.
PMID: 1996818 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[8] Can nebulized naloxone be used safely and effectively by emergency medical services for suspected opioid overdose?
Weber JM, Tataris KL, Hoffman JD, Aks SE, Mycyk MB.
Prehosp Emerg Care. 2012 Apr-Jun;16(2):289-92. doi: 10.3109/10903127.2011.640763. Epub 2011 Dec 22.
PMID: 22191727 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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