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Auckland ED Specialist

Auckland ED Fellow

auckland

 

The role of the physician during winch rescues – new data and our simulation experience

In Helicopter Emergency Services (HEMS) around the world, winching to critically ill patients is an important aspect for those in patients otherwise inaccessible by road transport.

Most HEMS services have paramedics as the primary medical responders who are winched to patients, however, in some services physicians who are on-board are also winched resulting in a two clinician operation. For a North American (like myself, Andrew Petrosoniak) this idea of physicians on board the helicopter, nevermind winching to patients is completely foreign! But in HEMS operations around the world, this is a reality.

At ARHT we routinely winch highly trained paramedics to patients but less commonly are physicians required to be winched during a job. However, all our physicians are trained and ready depending on our task assignment. I wrote this post after conducting a recent simulation involving a two-clinician stretcher winch. The simulation was designed after discussion with our paramedics and also review of several recently published articles.

Our two clinicians preparing the patient for a stretcher winch

Our two clinicians preparing the patient for a stretcher winch

The Greater Sydney Area HEMS group, a service with a well-established physician winch program, just published their experience over the past 3 years. They reported 130 missions (8% of total missions) where a physician was winched along with a paramedic. Interestingly, in less than 50% of cases was a physician only intervention performed. Most of these interventions involved the administration of ketamine. If we compare this to our service, our numbers would certainly be different since our paramedics are trained to administer ketamine. Some of the comments & editorials following this publication did focus on this fact. Questions emerged as to the need to winch physicians if most of the requirements involves the administration of ketamine? What could be argued is that frequently involving physicians in winching improves experience levels and potentially reduces risk to the providers – furthermore there could be other important factors for physician presence that I articulate below.

There was a small but important number of other interventions like RSI and orthopedic procedures that required physician expertise. What wasn’t well described was the importance of having two clinicians to treat the patient. In many instances, having two sets of hands and a second set of eyes for patient assessment can be crucial. It’s difficult to formulate any significant conclusions based on this data but it’s important in evaluating the tasking and training necessary to integrate a physician within the winch rescue team.

Stretcher winch simulation in action.

Stretcher winch simulation in action.

This data will be helpful for those services who currently or are planning on integrating physicians within their existing winch system. A second paper, which I won’t review, also reports positive outcomes from their winch rescues involving physicians.  Finally, the Sydney HEMS group must be commended for describing a bag valve mask failure during a job. We should encourage reporting such as this as it contributes to the culture of safety that is vital for helicopter rescue services.

Based on these papers during a winch of an intubated patient, we conducted a simulation of our protocols for winching intubated patients. Several pictures are included below that were taken during the simulation. This exercise was extremely successful as it combined a review of the evidence with a review of our protocols. Implementing in-situ simulation as a training method offers an excellent opportunity to practice high-risk procedures in our own work environment. We were able to evaluate our experience using an evidence-based approach.

A birds eye view of our team preparing our patient for a  stretcher winch

A birds eye view of our team preparing our patient for a stretcher winch

The merits of physician winches during HEMS rescues will be subject to further debate. The data that I outlined above is far from conclusive, however, these publications are important pieces to incorporate into training curricula for other HEMS operations. Our in-situ simulation training is only enhanced by having access to the experiences of others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SonoWars at SMACC – the Auckland HEMS Team perspective

This past week, several of the Auckland HEMS team travelled across the Tasman to attend the first conference on social media & critical care (SMACC)

Our fearless leader Dr. Chris Denny entered us into the ultrasound competition (SonoWars) on day 2 of the conference. Following a qualifying round of 8-10 teams, the two finalists were chosen for a 2 hour ultrasound competition in front of the entire conference. The 2 teams competed in what can only be described as madness/awesome all rolled into one.

We entered the competition not thinking that we would have much chance advancing beyond the first round but thought the process would be fun regardless.  Somehow, despite our efforts, we managed to make our way to the finals of the competition. Our team comprised of our Auckland HEMS personnel included Scott Orman, Chris Denny & me (Andrew Petrosoniak). We also had participation from Rossi Holloway.

The SonoWars competition involved a combination of skills including speed tests performing ultrasound, image review, teaching an ultrasound technique and finally performing procedural skills.

Each team was given an ultrasound topic that we had to teach to the audience. We were graded on teaching styles, content and ability to captivate the audience. Our competitors were assigned to teach ocular ultrasound while our job was to teach transvaginal ultrasound. In our unbiased opinion, we had the harder job! Transvaginal ultrasound is not a skill we use in pre-hospital ultrasound which instead focuses on abdominal, cardiac and lung imaging. Though we were up to the challenge and set forth with our plan!

Pictures can often tell a better story than words so below is a sequence of photos from the event with some commentary.

First, both teams received a 30min pre-briefing for the event. Shown here is the coordinator demonstrating ocular ultrasound using oversized teaching tools!

First, both teams received a 30min pre-briefing for the event. Shown here is the coordinator demonstrating ocular ultrasound using oversized teaching tools!

 

Our team was introduced to the teaching props we were required to use. The red figure represents a uterus with yellow ovaries while the ultrasound probe is in the foreground. We were required to incorporate these into our teaching session.

Our team was introduced to the teaching props we were required to use. The red figure represents a uterus with yellow ovaries while the ultrasound probe is in the foreground. We were required to incorporate these into our teaching session.

 

A view from the back of the auditorium as the audience was introduced to Sonowars for the first time!

A view from the back of the auditorium as the audience was introduced to Sonowars for the first time!

The ref with the flag in the air as I completed a lung exam. Once the red flag dropped I could move on to a different view

The ref with the flag in the air as I completed a lung exam. Once the red flag dropped I could move on to a different view

Going into the teaching event we were in the lead.

Our team teaching the skill of transvaginal ultrasound on stage. A challenging topic.

Our team teaching the skill of transvaginal ultrasound on stage. A challenging topic. The screen in the background has ultrasound images which correspond to what we’re teaching on stage

We gave up a few points in the teaching event but still had a 2 point lead in the final event. It was a procedural skills race that required ultrasound use to perform several procedures directly competing against the other team. Unfortunately we were so focused on the event that we didn’t take pictures and sadly we gave up 3 points and lost to our deserving opponents.

Immediately after we came 2nd...my disappointment in the refs was captured! All in good fun.

Immediately after we came 2nd…my disappointment in the refs was captured! All in good fun.

 

A team pic after the event. A great experience!

A team pic after the event. A great experience!

Overall, this was a great event with lots of learning, fun and ingenuity. The organizers should be proud as they set a standard for combining entertainment with education. It was extremely well organized which allowed it to go smoothly. We’ll be looking forward to redeeming ourselves next year at SMACC!

 

 

Case Based Learning in the New Year: pneumothorax & lung ultrasound

Last week we ran another case-based learning session. The session consisted of a short discussion based around a case that we were tasked that involved a patient with a suspected pneumothorax.

We discussed the issues and challenges of managing a patient on the ground and in-flight with a pneumothorax. In addition, we discussed then practiced how we can use ultrasound as an added tool in the diagnosis of a pneumothorax in the prehospital setting.

To briefly summarize, I’ve divided up some discussion points

Medical

  • Both paramedics and doctors discussed the most important aspect in the patient with a pneumothorax in the pre-hospital setting was the clinical status
  • The ultrasound was noted to be extremely helpful for diagnosis however, presence of pneumothorax didn’t necessarily warrant intervention
  • Clinical condition was the overwhelming driver for intervention. The question arose regarding the role of ultrasound – “if the presence of pneumothorax did not necessarily mean intervention required, why use it?” In general, clinicians felt that knowledge about the condition would help make subsequent decisions in the case of deterioration
  • One theoretical approach was proposed – in a patient with pneumothorax that was reasonably stable, consider anesthesitizing & exposing the site for a chest drain then proceed with finger thoracostomy if deterioration. Several clinicians felt that it there was such concern to proceed with local anesthesia then probably a drain should just be placed.
  • In the patient with a left sided pneumothorax, there was strong agreement that loading the patient feet first such that the clinicians would have access to the left side (of our typically starboard loaded patient)
  • The likelihood of needle decompression success is only 50% – brief discussion about an anterior approach vs. a lateral approach

Operational

  • Knowledge regarding pneumothorax is key depending on the location of the patient. In situations on the east coast of the Coromandel then altitude becomes extremely important.
  • The early rule out diagnosis that the ultrasound can provide is very useful for managing flight plans
  • Weather was decided as a key factor that would alter management and it would impact possibly both medical decision making and flight operations
  • Placement of ultrasound in the machine: crewman/paramedic at the head of patient holding the machine with doctor on the patient’s right side
A little in-situ training. Enabled us to figure out optimal ergonomics and positioning for in-flight ultrasound. In case you're wondering, I donated my chest to science for this ultrasound to be done

A little in-situ training. Enabled us to figure out optimal ergonomics and positioning for in-flight ultrasound.
In case you’re wondering, I donated my chest for this ultrasound to be done (free of charge!)

Summary

  • Overall based on our evaluations of the process, it was a successful event with more case-based learning sessions planned
  • Clinicians reluctant to intervene for pre-hospital pneumothorax unless unstable
  • Strong communication among the team about the presence of a pneumothorax is essential and ultrasound greatly aids with this – affects both medical & operational decision making
  • Ergonomics are important but dependent on each setting; however a standard approach in the machine might be appropriate for positioning of the ultrasound