South African Medical Journal

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Paramedic rapid sequence induction (RSI) in a South African emergency medical service: A retrospective observational study

M Gunnin, Z Perkins, J Crilly, R von Rahden


Background. Early access to critical care interventions may improve  outcomes for severely ill and injured patients. South Africa (SA) faces the unique challenges of prolonged pre-hospital times and limited access to physicians. In 2008, the Health Professions Council of SA introduced paramedic rapid sequence induction (RSI), the gold standard critical care intervention for emergency airway management; however, the risk to benefit ratio in this context is unclear.
Objective. We conducted a pilot study to identify if paramedic RSI in the SA pre-hospital care setting is effective and safe.
Methods. We undertook a retrospective observational study of paramedic RSI performed by an emergency medical service, between 12 December 2009 and 12 December 2011.
Results. Eighty-six RSIs were performed during the study period. No failed intubations were reported. Heart rate was significantly reduced from a median baseline value of 112 to 90 bpm, and oxygen saturations  improved from 92% to 99% at handover following RSI. Nineteen patients (22%), however, had an adverse event (AE). Female patients (odds ratio (OR) 18.3; 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.46 - 99.38; p=0.001) and patients subsequently transported by helicopter (OR 7.24; 95% CI 1.44 - 36.32; p=0.016) remained independently associated with AEs after adjusting for confounders.
Conclusions. RSI performed by specially trained paramedics is effective in terms of self-reported success. However, the 1 in 5 AE rate highlights safety concerns. The importance of a robust clinical governance  programme to identify problems, refine practice and improve the quality of care is underscored.
AJOL African Journals Online