"Helper:" A critical events prompter for unexpected emergencies

J Clin Monit. 1995 Nov;11(6):358-64. doi: 10.1007/BF01616741.


Objective: The medical practitioner is faced with an increasing list of protocols and algorithms related to patient care. These recommendations are often difficult to recall, particularly in stressful emergency situations. Using advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) protocols, we built a computer-based system to exhibit precompiled response plans for medical emergencies. To validate the usefulness of this prompting device, we tested application of two of the nine ACLS algorithms, pulseless ventricular fibrillation/ventricular tachycardia (Vfib/Vtach) and bradycardia, in a simulated operating room (OR) environment.

Methods: The system utilized the software authoring system IconAuthor (Aimtec Inc., Nashua, NH) and a touch-screen monitor (DiamondScan, Microtouch, Methuen, MA). Prior to testing our system, all 39 subjects were given time to familiarize themselves with its operation. Subsequently, all subjects were videotaped while managing a standard simulated anesthetic. During the anesthetic, the subjects were presented with two emergency scenarios, not viewed during the familiarization period. The electrocardiographic (EKG) signals for normal sinus rhythm, ventricular fibrillation, and second-degree heart block were presented. By random selection, the prompter was available to half of the subjects for help with arrhythmia management (experimental group), while to half it was not (control group).

Results: A total of 39 subjects completed the exercise. Use of the prompter enabled significantly more subjects to administer correct drugs and dosages during ventricular fibrillation. The correct lidocaine dose was chosen more often by the experimental group than by the control (p = 0.015); similarly MgSO4 was appropriately ordered more often in the experimental group (p = 0.003). During second-degree heart block, atropine was correctly followed with a dopamine infusion (p = 0.004), and epinephrine infusion was ordered for refractory bradycardia (p = 0.002) more often in the experimental than the control group.

Conclusions: These data demonstrate the value of a prompting device at the anesthesia workstation. We foresee the use of such prompters in many areas of medicine.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Anesthesia, General
  • Anesthesiology*
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bradycardia / therapy
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dopamine / therapeutic use
  • Electrocardiography
  • Emergencies*
  • Epinephrine / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Heart Block / therapy
  • Humans
  • Lidocaine / administration & dosage
  • Life Support Care
  • Magnesium Sulfate / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Operating Rooms
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Software
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / therapy
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted*
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / therapy
  • Videotape Recording


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Magnesium Sulfate
  • Lidocaine
  • Dopamine
  • Epinephrine