Objective: To describe pediatric advanced life support (PALS) in a single urban environment and clarify educational priorities for ALS pre-hospital providers and pediatric medical control physicians.
Methods: Retrospective observational review of all pediatric pre-hospital PALS transport and medical control records of the two-tiered, unified, municipal emergency medical service of the City of Boston (catchment area 590,000) over a 1-year period.
Results: Of the 555 pediatric patients receiving ALS transport, 38% were for respiratory emergencies, 24% for nonrespiratory medical emergencies, 19% for traffic-related blunt trauma, and 10% for penetrating trauma. Two percent involved cardiac arrests. The most frequent procedures performed were intravenous (IV) cannulation (n = 184, 33%), bag-mask ventilation (n = 28, 5%) and intubation (n = 15, 3%). Intraosseous access was only performed in three patients (0.5%). Fifty ALS providers in the EMS system averaged pediatric IV cannulation 3.7 times, intubation 0.3 times, and intraosseous access 0.06 times per provider per year. On-line medical control was requested in 28 % of PALS transports. The chief complaints managed by medical control closely mirrored the distribution of all ALS transports. The most frequent medication ordered by on-line medical control was additional nebulized albuterol after standing orders (off-line medical control) had been exhausted.
Conclusions: A limited number of chief complaints make up the majority of PALS transports. Initial and continuing education for ALS providers needs to reflect the importance of these critical entities. Education for urban pre-hospital providers should reflect that certain procedures will be only executed every few years (eg, pediatric intubation) or once in the career of an ALS pre-hospital provider (eg, intraosseous access). With a limited amount of pediatric teaching time, paramedic education will have to strike a careful balance between teaching about the chief complaints most frequently encountered and teaching rare, high-risk procedures that could provide maximal support for the uncommon critically ill child. On-line medical control physicians need to be prepared to direct and support the management by ALS pre-hospital providers for the chief complaints most frequently seen in pediatric patients.