Background: The paucity of information on the outcome of patients experiencing prehospital pulseless electrical activity (PEA) after blunt injury led to the present study.
Methods: A retrospective review was performed of all blunt trauma victims with prehospital PEA from 1997 to 2001 in an urban county trauma system.
Results: One hundred ten patients, 78 men and 32 women, met study criteria. Seventy-nine patients had PEA at the scene, and 31 experienced PEA en route to a trauma center. All patients were transported in advanced life support ambulances. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was initiated when PEA was detected. Vital signs were regained en route or at the trauma center by 25 patients (23%). The incidence of pupillary reactivity at the scene was higher in patients who regained vital signs (48% vs. 16%). Only one patient, who has significant residual neurologic impairment, survived. The mean Injury Severity Score of this population was 45.1.
Conclusion: If these grim results are corroborated by other investigators, consideration should be given to allowing paramedics to declare blunt trauma victims with PEA dead at the scene.