Prehospital fluid therapy in patients with suspected infection: a survey of ambulance personnel’s practice

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Background: Fluid therapy in patients with suspected infection is controversial, and it is not known whether fluid treatment administered in the prehospital setting is beneficial. In the absence of evidence-based guidelines for prehospital fluid therapy for patients with suspected infection, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel are challenged on when and how to initiate such therapy. This study aimed to assess EMS personnel’s decision-making in prehospital fluid therapy, including triggers for initiating fluid and fluid volumes, as well as the need for education and evidence-based guidelines on prehospital fluid therapy in patients with suspected infection. Methods: An online survey concerning fluid administration in prehospital patients with suspected infection was distributed to all EMS personnel in the Central Denmark Region, including ambulance clinicians and prehospital critical care anaesthesiologists (PCCA). The survey consisted of sections concerning academic knowledge, statements about fluid administration, triggers to evaluate patient needs for intravenous fluid, and clinical scenarios. Results: In total, 468/807 (58%) ambulance clinicians and 106/151 (70%) PCCA responded to the survey. Of the respondents, 73% (n = 341) of the ambulance clinicians and 100% (n = 106) of the PCCA felt confident about administering fluids to prehospital patients with infections. However, both groups primarily based their fluid-related decisions on “clinical intuition”. Ambulance clinicians named the most frequently faced challenges in fluid therapy as “Unsure whether the patient needs fluid” and “Unsure about the volume of fluid the patient needs”. The five most frequently used triggers for evaluating fluid needs were blood pressure, history taking, skin turgor, capillary refill time, and shock index, the last of which only applied to ambulance clinicians. In the scenarios, the majority administered 500 ml to a normotensive woman with suspected sepsis and 1000 ml to a woman with suspected sepsis-related hypotension. Moreover, 97% (n = 250) of the ambulance clinicians strongly agreed or agreed that they were interested in more education about fluid therapy in patients with suspected infection. Conclusion: The majority of ambulance clinicians and PCCA based their fluid administration on “clinical intuition”. They faced challenges deciding on fluid volumes and individual fluid needs. Thus, they were eager to learn more and requested research and evidence-based guidelines.




Jensen, M. E., Jensen, A. S., Meilandt, C., Jørgensen, K. W., Væggemose, U., Bach, A., … Jessen, M. K. (2022). Prehospital fluid therapy in patients with suspected infection: a survey of ambulance personnel’s practice. Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine, 30(1).

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