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

- Rogue Medic

What Treatments May Be De-Emphasized by EM/EMS in 2019? Part I


EM (Emergency Medicine) and EMS (Emergency Medical Services) have already started to eliminate/decrease use of a lot of our failed treatments, because people started to see through our excuses. Atropine for asystole stuck around for a long time, then just vanished.[1]. Calcium for cardiac arrest is also something that used to be standard of care, then we raised our standards.

We need to keep raising our standards, because our patients’ outcomes – their lives, their brains, their everything – depend on raising our standards.

We used to give antiarrhythmics to almost anyone with a cardiac complaint. Then there was CAST (The Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial[2]). While CAST did not study lidocaine, it did study longer term use of antiarrhythmics. Lidocaine is too dangerous for long term use, so the results of CAST may be much worse for lidocaine. We thought that the increased deaths among patients with frequent PVCs (Premature Ventricular Contractions) after having a heart attack was due to a problem with the conduction system. PVCs indicate a problem with conduction and antiarrhythmics cause the PVCs to go away.

Before receiving the antiarrhythmic (PVCs are circled in red).


After receiving the antiarrhythmic.


Problem solved.

Now the problem is, How do we get paid more? These drugs were the biggest selling drugs at the time. They making the drug companies a fortune. Whichever company made the drug that saved the most lives would make a lot more money then the others. Provide evidence that ______ saves more lives than all of the others.

The problem of the PVCs was solved, but the solution was killing many more patients than not giving drugs.

The result was not celebrated by the drug companies. The patients taking antiarrhythmics were dying at three times the rate of the patients taking placebos. A plausible physiological mechanism suggested the drugs would save lives, but that was based on an assumption that was not justified. This is the kind of reasoning that appeals to those who reject EBM (Evidence-Based Medicine). The evidence should convince these EBM opponents of the folly of relying on physiology and on a plausible explanation to justify not looking for the evidence that might expose their unreasonable assumptions. These otherwise reasonable people start making excuses for unreasonable assumptions, because they believe. They seem to need to convince others to join in and multiply their mistakes.[3]

The PVCs appear to have been just an indicator of an unhealthy heart.

Getting rid of the PVCs may have made the conduction in the heart less healthy.

Giving the drugs may have killed tens of thousands of patients.

Antiarrhythmic use decreased dramatically after the harm demonstrated in CAST, but some drug pushers are trying to get one of the worst antiarrhythmics (amiodarone, now in a new formula) to make a comeback, by creatively spinning research to claim results the research was never designed to evaluate.

Not having learned from the evidence, even though he has been the lead author on some of it, Dr. Peter Kudenchuk has been claiming that in EMS witnessed arrests, there was a significant improvement, even though his own published results contradict this claim. Here is what the results actually state:

Though prespecified, this subgroup analysis was performed in the context of an insignificant difference for the overall analysis, and the P value for heterogeneity in this subgroup analysis was not adjusted for the number of subgroup comparisons. Nonetheless, the suggestion that survival was improved by drug treatment in patients with witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, without evidence of harm in those with unwitnessed arrest, merits thoughtful consideration.[4]


Amiodarone has also been shown to be horrible for patients with ventricular tachycardia with a pulse. Amiodarone is so ineffective, that the rate of severe side effects is greater than the rate of improved outcomes. Amiodarone is more likely to make your patient’s medical condition much worse, but it is still considered to be the standard of care and amiodarone is still in EMS protocols.[5]

Maybe amiodarone can produce better results if it is used for execution by lethal injection.

I am expecting that there will be more failed treatments removed from our standards of care.

We need to raise our standards to improve outcomes, not lower our standards to make us look better than we are.

Continued in Part II. I will add Part III and others at some point and provide the links here.


[1] Why Did We Remove Atropine From ACLS?
Rogue Medic

Part I
Sun, 13 Oct 2013

Part II
Wed, 16 Oct 2013

[2] Mortality and morbidity in patients receiving encainide, flecainide, or placebo. The Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial.
Echt DS, Liebson PR, Mitchell LB, Peters RW, Obias-Manno D, Barker AH, Arensberg D, Baker A, Friedman L, Greene HL, et al.
N Engl J Med. 1991 Mar 21;324(12):781-8.
PMID: 1900101 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from NEJM.

CONCLUSIONS. There was an excess of deaths due to arrhythmia and deaths due to shock after acute recurrent myocardial infarction in patients treated with encainide or flecainide. Nonlethal events, however, were equally distributed between the active-drug and placebo groups. The mechanisms underlying the excess mortality during treatment with encainide or flecainide remain unknown.

[3] Why US EMS will never get to sit at the adult table – The Appeal to Authority
Sun, 04 May 2014
Rogue Medic

Since Mike cites the original parachute study, as if it is not satire, it is amusing to point out that there is a new Parachute Study! Read Dr. Radecki’s description of this satirical poke at those who do not understand research in the satire issue of the BMJ, which they put out every Christmas as sort of a British IgNobel.

Don’t Bother With the Parachute!
Emergency Medicine Literature of Note
Dr. Ryan Radecki
December 21, 2018

Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial.
Yeh RW, Valsdottir LR, Yeh MW, Shen C, Kramer DB, Strom JB, Secemsky EA, Healy JL, Domeier RM, Kazi DS, Nallamothu BK; PARACHUTE Investigators.
BMJ. 2018 Dec 13;363:k5094. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k5094. Erratum in: BMJ. 2018 Dec 18;363:k5343.
PMID: 30545967

Free Full Text from BMJ.

[4] Amiodarone, Lidocaine, or Placebo in Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest.
Kudenchuk PJ, Brown SP, Daya M, Rea T, Nichol G, Morrison LJ, Leroux B, Vaillancourt C, Wittwer L, Callaway CW, Christenson J, Egan D, Ornato JP, Weisfeldt ML, Stiell IG, Idris AH, Aufderheide TP, Dunford JV, Colella MR, Vilke GM, Brienza AM, Desvigne-Nickens P, Gray PC, Gray R, Seals N, Straight R, Dorian P; Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium Investigators.
N Engl J Med. 2016 May 5;374(18):1711-22. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1514204. Epub 2016 Apr 4.
PMID: 27043165

Free Full Text from NEJM.

CONCLUSIONS Overall, neither amiodarone nor lidocaine resulted in a significantly higher rate of survival or favorable neurologic outcome than the rate with placebo among patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest due to initial shock-refractory ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia.


Dr. Kudenchuk is Misrepresenting ALPS as ‘Significant’
Tue, 12 Apr 2016
Rogue Medic

Amiodarone, Lidocaine, or Placebo in Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest
Mon, 04 Apr 2016
Rogue Medic

[5] The PROCAMIO Trial – IV Procainamide vs IV Amiodarone for the Acute Treatment of Stable Wide Complex Tachycardia
Rogue Medic
Wed, 17 Aug 2016

Randomized comparison of intravenous procainamide vs. intravenous amiodarone for the acute treatment of tolerated wide QRS tachycardia: the PROCAMIO study.
Ortiz M, Martín A, Arribas F, Coll-Vinent B, Del Arco C, Peinado R, Almendral J; PROCAMIO Study Investigators.
Eur Heart J. 2016 Jun 28. pii: ehw230. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 27354046

Free Full Text from European Heart Journal.

Amiodarone or procainamide for the termination of sustained stable ventricular tachycardia: an historical multicenter comparison.
Marill KA, deSouza IS, Nishijima DK, Senecal EL, Setnik GS, Stair TO, Ruskin JN, Ellinor PT.
Acad Emerg Med. 2010 Mar;17(3):297-306.
PMID: 20370763 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from Academic Emergency Medicine.

Amiodarone is poorly effective for the acute termination of ventricular tachycardia.
Marill KA, deSouza IS, Nishijima DK, Stair TO, Setnik GS, Ruskin JN.
Ann Emerg Med. 2006 Mar;47(3):217-24. Epub 2005 Nov 21.
PMID: 16492484 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Intravenous amiodarone for the pharmacological termination of haemodynamically-tolerated sustained ventricular tachycardia: is bolus dose amiodarone an appropriate first-line treatment?
Tomlinson DR, Cherian P, Betts TR, Bashir Y.
Emerg Med J. 2008 Jan;25(1):15-8.
PMID: 18156531 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Effects of intravenous amiodarone on ventricular refractoriness, intraventricular conduction, and ventricular tachycardia induction.
Kułakowski P, Karczmarewicz S, Karpiński G, Soszyńska M, Ceremuzyński L.
Europace. 2000 Jul;2(3):207-15.
PMID: 11227590 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text PDF + HTML from Europace

Adenosine for wide-complex tachycardia – diagnostic?
Thu, 23 Aug 2012
Rogue Medic

Low doses of intravenous epinephrine for refractory sustained monomorphic ventricular tachycardia.
Bonny A, De Sisti A, Márquez MF, Megbemado R, Hidden-Lucet F, Fontaine G.
World J Cardiol. 2012 Oct 26;4(10):296-301. doi: 10.4330/wjc.v4.i10.296.
PMID: 23110246 [PubMed]

Free Full Text from PubMed Central.