Developing Quality Indicators for the Appropriateness of Resuscitation in Prehospital Atraumatic Cardiac Arrest

Published in: Prehospital Emergency Care, v. 11, no. 4, Oct.-Dec. 2007, p. 434-442

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2006

by Corita R. Grudzen, Rebecca Liddicoat, Jerome R. Hoffman, William Koenig, Karl Lorenz, Steven M. Asch

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OBJECTIVE: The vast majority of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims do not survive or suffer severe neurological impairment. The authors sought to develop a set of straightforward clinical indicators that paramedics could use to better match resuscitation attempts to those most likely to benefit. METHODS: In partnership with the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services, the authors used the RAND/UCLA appropriateness method of quantifying expert opinion regarding the risks and benefits of medical procedures. They presented available scientific evidence related to potential indicators of the quality of resuscitative care to stakeholder-nominated experts. Forty-one candidate indicators incorporated key variables, including initial rhythm, patient preferences, presence of witnesses, and place of arrest. Nine panelists, including palliative care and emergency medical specialists, rated the appropriateness of paramedic use of each indicator by using a 1-9 scale. An indicator was considered appropriate if the potential benefits outweighed the potential harm to the patient or their family. Indicators were retained if median score was >/=7. RESULTS: The expert panel voted to retain 28 quality indicators. Three addressed signs of irreversible death (e.g., dependent lividity), 8 addressed patient preferences (e.g., inquiring about DNR status), and the remainder addressed combinations of initial rhythm and other prognostic signs (e.g., If initial rhythm is asystole and patient is known by apparent surrogate decision maker to have a terminal illness, then forgo resuscitation.). Our experts recommended a series of much more liberal criteria for forgoing resuscitation than is currently practiced. This includes ascertaining and honoring patient preferences, either through written documents or family members, and combinations of clinical criteria that predict poor neurological outcome, such as asystole, terminal illness, age greater than 70, and response time greater than 15 minutes. CONCLUSIONS: These quality indicators expand on the previously limited circumstances in which paramedics might forgo field resuscitation and implementation could reduce future harm from such procedures among seriously ill patients. Our current efforts focus on using these indicators to aid implementation of a new resuscitation policy for seriously ill patients in our county.

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