Why do infants need out-of-hospital emergency medical services? A retrospective, population-based study
Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
Background The challenges encountered in emergency medical services (EMS) contacts with children are likely most pronounced in infants, but little is known about their out-of-hospital care. Our primary aim was to describe the characteristics of EMS contacts with infants. The secondary aims were to examine the symptom-based dispatch system for nonverbal infants, and to observe the association of unfavorable patient outcomes with patient and EMS mission characteristics. Methods In a
... In a population-based 5-year retrospective cohort of all 1712 EMS responses for infants (age < 1 year) in Helsinki, Finland (population 643,000, < 1-year old population 6548), we studied 1) the characteristics of EMS missions with infants; 2) mortality within 12 months; 3) pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admissions; 4) medical state of the infant upon presentation to the emergency department (ED); 5) any medication or respiratory support given at the ED; 6) hospitalization; and 7) surgical procedures during the same hospital visit. Results 1712 infants with a median age of 6.7 months were encountered, comprising 0.4% of all EMS missions. The most common complaints were dyspnea, low-energy falls, and choking. Two infants died on-scene. The EMS transported 683 (39.9%) infants. One (0.1%) infant died during the 12-month follow-up period. Ninety-one infants had abnormal clinical examination upon arrival at the ED. PICU admissions (n = 28) were associated with young age (P < 0.01), a history of prematurity or problems in the neonatal period (P = 0.01), and previous EMS contacts within 72 h (P = 0.04). The adult-derived dispatch codes did not associate with the final diagnoses of the infants. Conclusions Infants form a small but distinct group in pediatric EMS care, with specific characteristics differing from the overall pediatric population. Many EMS contacts with infants were nonurgent or medically unjustified, possibly reflecting an unmet need for other family services. The use of adult-derived symptom codes for dispatching is not optimal for infants. Unfavorable patient outcomes were rare. Risk factors for such outcomes include quickly renewed contacts, young age and health problems in the neonatal period.