Use of out-of-hospital interventions for the pediatric patient in an urban emergency medical services system

Philip V. Scribano, M. Douglas Baker, John Holmes, Kathy N. Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine appropriateness of out-of-hospital interventions by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel on children with respiratory illnesses. Methods: A retrospective, cross-sectional study was performed on a random sample of 304 children transported by an urban EMS system during 1994. Data were abstracted from EMScan (a computerized database of all EMS dispatches) and the EMS narrative records. Appropriate utilization of interventions was determined by comparison with the standard EMS protocol for respiratory complaints in this system. An assessment of whether interventions were inappropriately underutilized or inappropriately overutilized was made. Effect of severity of illness, patient age, transport times, and use of medical command on the use of interventions was evaluated. Results: Two hundred three patients (67%) were classified as having respiratory distress. Overall, 56% of the patients received appropriate interventions, 39% received one or two inappropriate interventions, and 5% received three or more inappropriate interventions. Rates of inappropriate utilization with 95% CI for each intervention were: oxygen 16% (95% CI = 12 to 20), assisted ventilation 2% (95% CI = 0.5 to 4), medication use 9% (95% CI = 6 to 13), vascular access 11% (95% CI = 7 to 14), phlebotomy 9% (95% CI = 6 to 13), and cardiac monitoring 18% (95% CI = 14 to 22). Oxygen and medications were underutilized (p < 0.005), whereas vascular access, cardiac monitoring, and phlebotomy were overutilized (p < 0.005). Online medical command (used in 9% of transports) improved appropriate use of vascular access [OR 8.3 (95% CI = 3 to 25) (p < 0.001)] and cardiac monitoring [OR = 3 (95% CI = 1 to 8) (p < 0.05)]. Conclusions: Emergency medical services personnel underutilized oxygen and medications and overutilized vascular access, phlebotomy, and cardiac monitoring in children with respiratory illness in this urban setting. Increasing patient age, transport times, and illness severity tend to increase the use of certain interventions, while contact with online medical direction seems to improve appropriate use of interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-750
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency medical services
  • Interventions
  • Pediatric
  • Respiratory distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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