Arizona Research will Change EMS Brain Injury Care

Traumatic brain injury is involved in about 1/3 of all injury-related deaths... it’s clearly a public health issue.  That’s why back in 2013 Arizona created the Excellence in Pre-hospital Injury Care (EPIC) project- which has been aimed at improving brain injury outcomes in AZ. 

Back in 2013 the National Institutes of Health chose AZ as the only state to evaluate the national standards for pre-hospital emergency care of brain injury (under a grant application led by AZPHA member Ben Bobrow, MD). 

EPIC has been a unique partnership between state government, the U of A and more than 130 fire departments and ground/air ambulance companies.  Together they implemented a series of pre-hospital traumatic brain injury treatment interventions and measured the effectiveness of the results.

The interventions included: 1) prevention of hypoxia by early oxygen administration; 2) airway interventions to optimize oxygenation; 3) prevention of hyperventilation; and 4) quickly treating low blood pressure by infusing fluids.

Participating EMS agencies sent treatment information to the ADHS and the UA College of Medicine for tracking and evaluation. An early donation from the Ramsey Justice Foundation made it possible for the agencies to receive special breathing devices to implement the new protocol and assist in the treatment patients at no cost.

More than 5 years of work by literally hundreds of Arizonans resulted in the publication of the results this week in JAMA Surgery entitled Association of Statewide Implementation of the Prehospital Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment Guidelines with Patient Survival Following Traumatic Brain Injury.

Remarkably, the team found that implementation of the protocol doubled the chances of survival among persons with a critical traumatic brain injury and improved neurological outcomes. Doubling the chances of survival is no small thing for a public health intervention, so this is really a landmark study.

This Arizona study will change the way EMS providers treat traumatic brain injury in the field around the globe. That shows the importance of publishing. When hard work like this with dramatic results is published in reputable journals- people take note. It won’t be long before the Arizona protocol becomes a global EMS standard for traumatic brain injury care. For more info go to www.epic.arizona.edu.

A huge public health thank you to the entire research team including Dan Spaite, MD; Ben Bobrow, MD; Sam Keim, MD, MS; Bruce Barnhart, RN, CEP; Vatsal Chikani, MPH; Joshua Gaither, MD; Duane Sherrill, PhD; Kurt Denninghoff, MD; Terry Mullins, MPH, MBA; P. David Adelson, MD; Amber Rice, MD, MS; Chad Viscusi, MD; and Chengcheng Hu, PhD.