Advances in Trauma?

Well I’ve just got back from an EMST Refresher course in Adelaide.  This is the first time I’ve taught on a refresher course and it was nice to meet other experienced faculty as well as (mostly) rural doctors doing this refresher course. The Provider courses that I usually teach on are not usually so filled with rural doctors – more junior RMOs doing EMSt as a requirement for surgical training ANZCA no longer has EMST as a requirement for their trainees).


EMST is very much an entry-level course, but is well suited to the needs of rural doctors who often have to manage trauma as a solo doctor with limited resources. It should be borne in mind that over 40% of major trauma originates in rural Australia, so there is real bang for buck in getting effective trauma care delivered to these patients, whether y rural GPs or aeromedical services.
On this Refresher course, the hands on scenario-based skills stations seemed well received. I also had an hour after the MCQ to talk about ‘Trauma Teams and Advances in Trauma’ – a golden opportunity to chat about things like human factors in trauma team dynamics, as well as to draw on experiences from the group about well-run and not-so-well run traumas.
But what about ‘advances in trauma’ that are not covered in the EMST Provider course? Well, I reckon they can be broken down by category and it was this approach I used to guide discussion in the 30 minutes or so available to me for each group:
AIRWAY
Videolaryngoscopy as an adjunct for difficult intubation
Ketamine for trauma intubation
Andy Heard’s excellent youtube videos on CICV
Cliff Reid’s notorious ‘propofol assassins’ rant
Weingart/Levitan’s paper on preoxygenation
BREATHING
Finger thoracostomy
Ultrasound for evaluation of pneumothorax
CIRCULATION
Minimal volume resuscitation
C-ABC and tourniquets for catastrophic compressible haemorrhage
Tranexamic acid, CRASH II trial & applicability to rural Australia
Managing major traumatic bleeding in rural hospitals (big shout out to Casey Parker’s excellent blog on this at Broome Docs)
We didn’t get as far as DISABILITY but I daresay that discussion of hypertonic saline in head injury would have come up…
The discussion really made me think just how knowledge-hungry the rural doctors I met were, but how hard it was for information to be disseminated to these guys.   It cemented my belief that a  rural masterclass course would have a willing audience. There’s lots of new stuff to discuss in trauma alone, but add in other (non-trauma) areas of interest to the rural proceduralist and you’d have a gutsy, useful, evolving course with enough content for 2-3 days. I could rant about this for ages…
All I could do was relate my own experience in past year or so, and the value of internet-based learning and discussion which has re-vitalised my own enthusiasm for learning. Big shout outs to the rural docs for the education resources below :
Minh le Cong’s retrieval resources for ACRRM members at www.rrmeo.com and his new PreHospital And Rural Medicine (PHARM) blog at www.prehospitalmed.com
Cliff Reid’s excellent blog at www.resus.me
Casey Parker’s excellent Broome Docs, the central repository for all things relevant to the rural proceduralist
Those UCEM rascals over at Life In The Fast Lane
Scott Weingart’s EM-crit blog
Common themes amongst the rural proceduralists I spoke to remained
  • difficulty accessing medical equipment (videolaryngoscopy, infusion pumps and fluid warmers were common ‘wish lists’)
  • difficulty with triage and training for nursing staff in rural hospitals
  • desire for cross-training with RFDS/Retrieval service in terms of infusion regiments, SOPs and equipment
In Country Health SA, there are nominated rural doctors as ‘consultants’ in each of the areas of emergency medicine, anaesthetics, obstetrics & surgery. According to CHSA, their role is to :

  • be responsible for providing clinical system advice and broad support to rural resident medical practitioners in country South Australia, in their identified area of expertise
  • act as a point of contact for clinicians in country regarding system issues, as related to their specialty area, and participate in problem resolution
  • participate in the development of policy and procedures that guide clinical practice in country. In addition, the Chief Consultants will work with the Chief Medical Adviser, Country Health SA and other country health staff related to decision making and policy setting as related to their speciality area 

With the exception of obstetrics, for which there seems to be a proactive rural proceduralist, it is hard to point the finger firmly at any positive attempt to address the above issues by present incumbents. In fact the rural doctors I spoke to (those with EM or anaes skills) were not aware of any initiatives in past year or so by the CHSA EM or Anaes consultants.
Which is a shame, as it seems these rural docs were struggling with similar issues in their own institutions, but lacking a top-down approach to streamline equipment, protocols & training. Rather they were having to push for equipment/training by dealing with local DONs of the hospital, usually being rebuffed as ‘no money’ in CHSA. It seems that my problems on Kangaroo Island with equipment/training are the same as those in Port Lincoln, the Riverland, the South East etc…and we are all trying to fix in our own manner, which mostly comes down to enthusiasm for a particular issue at any one time. No wonder things are fragmented.

Meanwhile not a week goes by without another meaningless diktat arriving in rural doctors email from CHSA detailing the latest policy. Useful stuff…for example I’ve learned that dabigatran can cause bleeding (well, duh!)…and that I probably should not inject chlorhexidine down an epidural catheter. I only wish the same regard for safety was applied to trauma management and crisis management in theatre or the ED of rural hospitals…
Phil Tideman of iCCNet has revolutionised how cardiac patients are cared for in rural South Australia, with an initiative over past decade to place point-of-care troponin, proBNP and iStat machines into all rural EDs, as well as standardised protocols for management of ACS/STEMI & heart failure patients relevant to rural practitioners. Whilst I am not a huge fan of centralisation of services, such standardisation in equipment and protocols has had demonstrable benefits for these patients…similar with obstetrics under Steve Holmes’ wise guidance. Why not extend the same to trauma, emergency and theatre patients by assessing needs of rural doctors and addressing their common issues?


A simple issue, like availability of difficult airway equipment or new advances like tranexamic acid could and should be addressed by these consultants.


Perhaps it’s time for some new blood in CHSA to represent the rural proceduralists in SA?







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