Background: Previous studies have shown that prehospital-insertion of peripheral vascular access is highly variable. The aim of this study is to establish the rate of peripheral vascular access placement and its use with regard to both the severity of cases and the main problem suspected by the paramedics involved. Over-triage was considered to have taken place where peripheral vascular access was placed but unused and these cases were specifically analysed in order to evaluate the possibility of improving current practice.
Methods: This is a one-year retrospective study conducted throughout one state of Switzerland. Data were extracted from the state’s public health service database, collected electronically by paramedics on RescueNet® from Siemens. The following data were collected and analyzed: sex, age, main diagnosis suspected by paramedics and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics score (NACA) to classify the severity of cases.
Results: A total of 33 055 missions were included, 29 307 (88.7%) with a low severity. A peripheral vascular access was placed in 8 603 (26.0%) cases, of which 5 678 (66.0%) were in patients with low severity. In 3 948 (45.9%) cases peripheral vascular access was set but unused with 2 626 (66.5%) of these cases being patients with low severity. Opiates represent 48.3% of all medications given. The most frequent diagnosis among unused peripheral vascular access were: respiratory distress (12.7%), neurological deficit without coma or trauma (9.6%), cardiac condition with thoracic pain and without trauma or loss of consciousness (9.6%) and decreased general condition of the patient (8.5%).
Conclusions: Peripheral vascular access was set in 26% of patients, nearly half of which were unused. To reduce over-triage, special attention should be dedicated to cases defined by EMS on site as low severity, as they do not require placement of a peripheral vascular access as a precautionary measure. Alternative routes, such as the intra-nasal route, should be promoted, particularly for analgesia, whose efficiency is well documented. Emergency medical services medical directors may also consider modifying protocols of acute clinical situations when data show that mandatory peripheral vascular access, in stroke cases for example, is almost never used.