Pa. changes some EMS protocols

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania is changing its protocols for how EMS crews get patients to a hospital.

One significant change beginning this month is the reduced use of backboards for patients with spine injuries.

“A lot of research on whether or not putting someone on a full spine board is beneficial – it came out that it really increases anxiety, makes people have an adverse reaction and more motion when they try to be put onto the board,” Nathan Harig of Cumberland Goodwill EMS said.

Another difference is deciding the destination. Patients can pick from hospitals in the EMS provider’s coverage area unless their condition warrants a specific hospital or the EMS system is under a “Code Red,” or extreme strain.

“Meaning that there’s such a high volume going on, such extraordinary circumstances, that we have to go to the closest facility,” Harig said.

EMT’s are now allowed to give aspirin to heart attack patients.

“That’s been shown to be a vital treatment before advanced level care can get there,” Harig said.

Pulse oximetry, once an option, is now mandatory.

“It is used to help us target how much oxygen to administer, so the patient gets the right amount for their emergency – not too much or too little – both of which can have negative impacts,” Harig said. “Most of us were already doing it, but now it is going to be required.”

Paramedics will also use tourniquets a lot more for patients with extremity trauma.

“Tourniquets are based on a lot of the research coming from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Harig said. “Before, the thinking in EMS was that a tourniquet was a last-ditch option to stop bleeding, but the new research from these wars showed that we can really boost survival by putting them on earlier and the risk of a limb being lost, as was traditionally the thought with tourniquets, is greatly overstated.”

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