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Super Medics

One thing I’ve learned through working with experienced paramedics, is that some are very knowledgable beyond their training. Another thing is that unfortunately some believe certain things based on anecdotal evidence, and have a problem with confusing correlation and causation.

I had recent conversation with a fellow medic student about a cardiac arrest he was on. They did about 20 minutes of CPR, three rounds of ACLS drugs for an asystolic arrest, then got orders for bicarb and pushed D50 (supposed to be pushed early for an asystolic arrest) plus 2 amps of bicarb, and apparently got pulses back 30 seconds after the bicarb was in. He said the medics claimed the bicarb is what achieved ROSC, and they also told him next time to push D50 after the bicarb because “bicarb is more important”.

There are a couple problems with this. Number one, according to protocol, D50 is pushed immediately after vasopressin, essentially to rule out a hypoglycemic arrest. But, beyond the protocol, if we have a hypoglycemic arrest then correcting the underlying cause is the most important thing (as with any arrest), and so it is entirely illogical to say D50 should be pushed after bicarb, which is nearly always pushed towards the end of an arrest as a “last ditch” med. If it makes sense to push D50 at all, then it should be done first thing, why try to correct an underlying problem after 20 mins when you could do it immediately? In addition, there is very little evidence for giving D50 at all, and more evidence that it can cause neurological damage for an arrest that survives. It probably should only be pushed for arrests with a strong suspicion for hypoglycemia.

Moving on to bicarb, the statement by the medics that pulses returned due to the bicarb, nearly instantly after giving the dose is ridiculous to me. It’s not an instant fix to their acid-base disorder. More importantly, many studies have shown that bicarb is essentially useless in arrests, and some even demonstrate an increased mortality rate after ROSC for arrests where bicarb was given, often with patients that are now alkalotic from the bicarb. It seems the only time bicarb might be a good thing is in cases of known pre-existing metabolic acidosis that went into arrest. And, in that situation it should be given early to (again) correct the underlying disorder. Why it’s in our protocols as a telemetry option at all is confusing to me considering the evidence against it.

Anyway, an argument ensued because he felt like I was attacking the knowledge level of medics in general and he accused me of being close-minded because I don’t have the experience as a paramedic to know what is good medicine. He asked why don’t I ask “a medic I trust what they think about bicarb?” I explained that this is information I’ve previously researched, and I don’t see the point of his exercise. The medic may have had ROSC after bicarb on a few arrests, and so anecdotally believes this to be evidence that bicarb is what brought them back. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it true. And, despite not graduating medic school yet, that doesn’t mean I don’t have the prior education (more than most medics) and the critical thinking skills to be able to read well-researched journal articles and understand them. But, I guess because I don’t have 10 years experience, I couldn’t possibly understand be right when the “senior medic” says something contradictory.

He then went on to attempt to convince me that most senior medics would be able to walk into an ER, put on a white coat, and do a better job than the “stupid ER doctors”. Right. Just like most doctors without EMS experience could go out on a bus, walk into the projects, and treat the shooting victim with his “holmies” standing around him, PD and a conditions boss over your shoulder, etc., just as well as a good medic. Right. We all have our roles.

Categories: EMT, Medic School
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