Jun. 25—Traumatic head injuries account for 2.5 million EMS calls a year in the U.S., and a recent article in a medical publication is highlighting concerns about the three H's: hypoxia, hypotension and hyperventilation.
Not only are these three factors, highlighted in the publication "EMS1," concerns on their own, but they also can affect one another, Buchanan County EMS Paramedic Andrew King said.
"They all definitely work together very closely, and if you lose one, the other could go down too, or one being bad could affect the others," he said.
Hypoxia is when "oxygen is not available in sufficient amounts at the tissue level to maintain" body functions, while hypotension is low blood pressure that can cause symptoms like dizziness, fainting or blurry vision, according to the National Institute of Health.
Hyperventilation comes into consideration when a patient can't breathe on their own and needs someone to provide assistance, but the first responder can get flustered and start breathing too fast for the patient's body to handle, King said.
"We're all watching each other's backs, so while we each have our individual job, we're making sure we're keeping each other in check, that we're not breathing too fast for them, we're not doing CPR too quickly or something along those lines," he said. "It's definitely something that, you know, the newer you are, the less calls you have under the belt, the higher your adrenaline can be, which can help attribute to that."
The recent article also suggests that changing practices at the scene of a call could be beneficial for treatment.
Excellence in Prehospital Injury Care is a training system that focuses on preventing the three H's and emphasizes the care provided immediately after an injury while still at the scene, according to the article.
Buchanan County EMS uses a different training standard, but the points like prehospital care are similar, King said.
"We don't just, kind of, go out on a limb or go with whatever the latest trend is, we want to follow where the research is," he said. "A lot of times when we're taking care of somebody who has that injury, a potential brain injury while we're still doing the same things, those are just new studies, new acronyms, new ways of doing it."
One key precaution crews often take is using a neck brace, restricting movement of the head and neck to decrease the chance of a secondary head injury, King said.
Alex Simone can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @NPNOWSimone.