Heterogeneous emergency department management of published recommendation defined hypotension in patients with acute traumatic spinal cord injury: A multi-centre overview.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Emerg Med Australas, 2019, 31, (6), pp. 967-973
Issue Date:
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OBJECTIVE: Evidence-based management for patients with acute traumatic spinal cord injury (TSCI) in the ED has a critical impact on long-term outcomes. Acute hypotension post-injury may compromise spinal cord perfusion and extend neurological damage. Published guidelines recommend mean arterial blood pressure (BP) maintenance between 85 and 90 mmHg for 7 days post-injury; the extent to which this is followed in Australia is unknown. METHODS: Prospective observational study of patients ≥16 years with TSCI, treated at 48 hospitals across two Australian states. Mean arterial BPs were recorded in the Ambulance, and ED arrival and discharge. Patients' medical records documented treatment provided (intravenous fluids, vasopressors or both) for BP augmentation. Hypotension was defined as mean arterial BP <85 mmHg, per the American Association of Neurological Surgeons guidelines. RESULTS: The 208 patients with TSCI in the present study were more likely to receive BP augmentation if they experienced direct transport to a Spinal Cord Service hospital (OR 5.57, 95% CI 2.32-10.11), had a cervical level injury (OR 2.32, 95% CI 1.01-5.5) or were hypotensive on ED arrival (OR 2.42, 95% CI 1.34-4.39). Of the 112 patients who were hypotensive, 71 (63.4%) received treatment for this; however, the majority (76%) remained hypotensive on discharge. CONCLUSION: Hypotensive patients' post-TSCI experienced heterogeneous ED care discordant with published guidelines; varying by hospital type. Specialist care and more severe injury increased likelihood of guideline adherence. Lack of adherence may influence patient outcomes. Level 1 evidence is needed along with consistent guideline implementation and clinician training to likely improve TSCI management and outcomes.
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