Prehospital Release of Patients After Treatment in an Anesthesiologist-Staffed Mobile Emergency Care Unit


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IMPORTANCE Prehospital treatment and release of patients may reduce unnecessary transports to the hospital and may improve patient satisfaction. However, the safety of patients should be paramount. OBJECTIVE To determine the extent of unplanned emergency department (ED) contacts, short-term mortality, and diagnostic patterns in patients treated and released by a prehospital anesthesiologist supervising a mobile emergency care unit (MECU). DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This retrospective cohort study used a manual review of prehospital and in-hospital medical records to investigate all living patients who were treated and released by an MECU in Odense, Denmark, between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2020. Patients were followed up for 30 days after initial contact with the prehospital service. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Primary outcome measures included unplanned contacts with the emergency department less than 48 hours after prehospital treatment and prehospital assigned diagnosis. Secondary outcomes consisted of mortality at 48 hours and 7 and 30 days. RESULTS A total of 3141 patients were identified; 384 were excluded and 2757 were included in the analysis. The median patient age was 40 (IQR, 14-66) years; 1296 (47.0%) were female and 1461 (53.0%) were male. Two hundred thirty-nine patients (8.7% [95% CI, 7.6%-9.8%]) had unplanned contact with the ED within 48 hours; this rate was doubled for patients with respiratory diseases (37 of 248 [14.9% (95% CI, 10.7%-20.0%)]). Fifty-nine of 60 patients who died within 48 hours of release had terminal illness. Excluding these patients, the mortality rates were 0.04% at 48 hours, 0.8% at 7 days, and 2.4% at 30 days. Two thousand sixty-one patients (74.8%) had primarily nondefinitive observational diagnoses. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE The findings of this cohort study suggest that prehospital treatment and subsequent release at the scene is safe. One patient in 12 attended the ED within the ensuing 48 hours. However, for patients with respiratory diseases, this rate was doubled. Hospital admission could be avoided for some patients in the end stage of a terminal illness.
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