Prehospital treatment with continuous positive airway pressure in patients with acute respiratory failure: a regional observational study

Vibe Maria Laden Nielsen, Jacob Madsen, Anette Aasen, Anne Pernille Toft-Petersen, Kenneth Lübcke, Bodil Steen Rasmussen, Erika Frischknecht Christensen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

12 Citationer (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Patients with acute respiratory failure are at risk of deterioration during prehospital transport. Ventilatory support with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can be initiated in the prehospital setting. The objective of the study is to evaluate adherence to treatment and effectiveness of CPAP as an addition to standard care.

METHODS: In North Denmark Region, patients with acute respiratory failure, whom paramedics assessed as suffering from acute cardiopulmonary oedema, acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma were treated with CPAP using 100 % O2 from 1 March 2014 to 3 May 2015. Adherence to treatment was evaluated by number of adverse events and discontinuation of treatment. Intensive care admissions and mortality were reported in this cohort. Effectiveness was evaluated by changes in peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2) and respiratory rate during transport and compared to a historical control (non-CPAP) group treated with standard care only. Values were compared by hypothesis testing and linear modelling of SpO2 on arrival at scene and ΔSpO2 stratified according to treatment group.

RESULTS: In fourteen months, 171 patients were treated with CPAP (mean treatment time 35 ± 18 min). Adverse events were reported in 15 patients (9 %), hereof six discontinued CPAP due to hypotension, nausea or worsening dyspnoea. One serious adverse event was reported, a suspected pneumothorax treated adequately by an anaesthesiologist called from a mobile emergency care unit. Among CPAP patients, 45 (27 %) were admitted to an intensive care unit and 24 (14 %) died before hospital discharge. The non-CPAP group consisted of 739 patients. From arrival at scene to arrival at hospital, CPAP patients had a larger increase in SpO2 than non-CPAP patients (87 to 96 % versus 92 to 96 %, p < 0.01) and a larger decrease in respiratory rate (32 to 25 versus 28 to 24 breaths/min, p < 0.01). In a linear model, CPAP was superior to non-CPAP in patients with initial SpO2 ≤90 % (p < 0.05). One CPAP patient (0.6 %) and eight non-CPAP patients (1.1 %) were intubated in the prehospital setting.

DISCUSSION: The study design reflects the daily prehospital working environment including long transport timesand paramedics educated in treating symptoms of acute respiratory failure, rather than treating one specific diagnosis. The study population was included consecutively and few patients were lost to follow-up. However, the study was too small to allow assessment of any effect of prehospital CPAP on mortality, nor could the effectiveness in specific disease conditions be examined.

CONCLUSIONS: In an emergency medical service including physician backup, adherence to CPAP treatment administered by paramedics was high and treatment was effective in patients with acute respiratory failure.

TidsskriftScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 2016


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