Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

That’s not Klingon It’s One Word Dyspnea: EMS Garage Episode 98

We were supposed to be talking about the potential harm from the way we use oxygen in EMS, but we ended up with That’s not Klingon It’s One Word Dyspnea.

First, I mentioned that I am blogging at a new location – here. Also at EMS Blogs will be Black Hearts Incorporated, EMS Bloggers, EMS Office Hours, Medical Author Chat, Ready Fodder, The Social Medic, and Too Old To Work, Too Young To Retire. So far, EMS Office Hours, Too Old To Work, Too Young To Retire, and I are posting while things are being worked out. The blog transfer has not been fun, but it has been educational. I expect to learn a lot more. And I have to thank David Konig, who has been putting his blog, The Social Medic, on hold and guiding us through this. He has also come up with a nice simple design for my blog that I like a lot.

Then the topic turned to the recent medical helicopter crashes and Ambulance Driver’s post Is that helicopter really necessary? in response to the M.D.O.D. post Do You REALLY Need the Helicopter? Before the podcast, I wrote a post mostly about the comments on Ambulance Driver’s post. Fly Everyone, Let the NTSB Accident Investigators Sort ‘Em Out.

It should come as no surprise to people who are familiar with any of the participants, that we were very critical of the abuse of helicopter EMS by medical directors, by ED physicians, and by ground EMS personnel.

Why should we try to justify abuse?

The comments in support of helicopter abuse (on Ambulance Driver’s post) are depressing for those of us trying to improve the quality of EMS. These comments do point out the problems I wrote about in Confirmation Bias and EMS. Many of us do not appear to make any attempt to be objective in evaluating what we do in EMS. We only seem to look at things through the filter of our biases. The people writing these comments seem to have decided that helicopters always save lives and they deny that helicopter crashes are a problem.

The purpose of the helicopter is to make a significant difference in transport time for the patient who really is unstable. These patients are not as common as many suggest. They seem to be most commonly encountered by the least experienced people. In other words, as people become more skilled, they panic less and fly fewer patients. The people denying the problems with helicopters seem to be trying to demonstrate that they cannot assess patients well enough to recognize which patients are unstable, which are stable, and which were never even injured.

The people denying the problems with helicopters also seem to demonstrate that they do not understand that they are not saving significant amounts of time. They often are delaying a patient’s arrival at a trauma center just so they can put the patient in a helicopter.

Finally, we did briefly mention harm from oxygen, but that should be covered in an upcoming podcast. Preferably a show with at least one physician on it. There is a lot to discuss, when considering the over-use of oxygen, and it does appear that we use too much oxygen. We have too many patients receiving oxygen without any evidence of hypoxia.

In the absence of hypoxia, there is not evidence of benefit from oxygen, but there is evidence of harm. This goes back to at least 1950, so the idea that oxygen is harmful is not at all new. This is another example of what I write about in Confirmation Bias and EMS.

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