New initiative for treating traumatic brain injuries could potentially save thousands of lives each year, University of Arizona says
Individuals with severe brain injuries could be saved at double or triple the rate of prior patients if medical responders understand a new method developed by University of Arizona researchers, say health workers and paramedics.
Results of the UA-led Excellence in Prehospital Injury Care project, or EPIC, were announced Wednesday and included 21,000 patients with various sorts of brain trauma. Those with acute brain injuries who were treated using the new protocol until they reached the hospital lived at double the rate of those who did not get this new therapy.
Patients who were intubated lived at triple the rate of former patients, based on information supplied by the UA. Intubation involves placing a flexible plastic tube in the windpipe to keep airways open.
The findings could save thousands of lives annually, said Dr. Dan Spaite, a UA professor and the Virginia Piper Distinguished Chair of Emergency Medicine at the university. Spaite was the lead author of the study.
Over 11,000 Arizona paramedics and emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, have been trained to use the procedure since 2012.
One of them was a Peoria mother who saved her 8-month-old son about six years ago.
By using her EPIC training, Alex Matthews focused on averting what the researchers call the”Three H-bombs” — hyperventilation, hypoxia, and hypotension, or, in everyday language, rapid breathing, oxygen deprivation, and reduced blood pressure.
Matthews’ son was injured when their car was struck by a truck and then struck two more times after turning into oncoming traffic. Her baby wasn’t breathing when he was pulled in the car and had no heartbeat, but also wasn’t bleeding, according to the UA.
It was only when she opened his eyes and watched his students were different, changing sizes — and noticed blood coming out of his nose that she understood he had a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
She acted quickly and guided other paramedics, which saved her son’s life.
Before EPIC, paramedics were taught to create people who have a traumatic brain injury hyperventilate, the UA reports. They would do so by squeezing air to the lungs quickly and deeply to; they have been taught, reduce potentially fatal pressure in the brain. However, the new research indicates that while hyperventilation lowers that stress, it also deprives the brain of oxygen and blood.
First recommends using EPIC now also get a high flow of oxygen patients whenever possible to reduce oxygen deprivation and, lastly, use an IV drip to prevent low blood pressure.
UA medical researchers partnered with the state’s Department of Health Services and over 130 Arizona fire departments and emergency medical service agencies on this project.
“Partnerships such as this one are such a significant way for the UA to serve Arizona and progress medicine worldwide,” said the university’s president, Robert C. Robbins, in a news release. Funding for the study was provided by a $3.6 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
“A (traumatic brain injury) initiative of this scale hasn’t been tried by prehospital providers,” said Dr. Ben Bobrow, a UA professor of emergency medicine and co-author on the analysis, which was published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery: The Journal of the American Medical Association.
It is not the first time the UA has initiated this sort of medical innovation. It has been about 15 years since the college pushed for the execution of compression-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a much easier way of helping a patient who’s not breathing survive until help arrives.
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