New Standards for the Treatment of TBIs Could Save Lives

What is the first step EMS personnel should take when treating a patient with a TBI?

Every year, over 2.5 million people will suffer a traumatic brain injury or TBI, as reported by the Brain Trauma Foundation.  TBIs can be quite severe, resulting in death among 50,000 individuals and permanent disability for 80,000 more. Rapid treatment of TBIs is critical to help save patient lives and preserve brain function.  Up until recently, few states had a consistent method for treating TBIs, which could result in some patients not receiving the ideal treatment. Now, a massive initiative launched by the University of Arizona, Arizona fire departments and EMS agencies, and Health Services have developed one protocol that it deems most effective. Our Rio Rancho, New Mexico brain injury lawyers discuss the Arizona protocol and what it could mean for the rest of the country.

The Excellence in Prehospital Injury Care Project (EPIC)

A $3.6 million grant offered by the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke launched the Excellence in Prehospital Injury Care Project.  The project sought to evaluate the care being offered by emergency responders to ensure patients receive the most effective treatment. Researchers know that the immediate care offered a TBI sufferer can make all the difference in whether the patients survives and fully recovers from the injury.

EMS personnel have just minutes to treat patients before their brain cells start dying, and the EPIC study alarmingly found that the current standards can be harmful.  Traditionally, EMS workers were taught to hyperventilate a patient with a TBI. However, the study found that when a TBI patient is hyperventilated, their blood vessels constrict and lower the intracranial pressure, depriving the brain even further of oxygen and blood.

Instead, research showed that using breathing bags that signal the correct rate to oxygenate a patient offers the most effective treatment.  After a breathing bag, patients are treated with high flow oxygen. This protocol will now be implemented statewide in Arizona. As the approach gains acceptance, it is likely that states like New Mexico and others will similarly adopt the same treatment approach.  The EPIC study could result in thousands of lives saved across the nation. 

Posted in: Brain Injuries