Evaluation of the performance of general emergency physicians in pediatric emergencies: Obstructive airway diseases, seizures, and trauma


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Abstract

BackgroundIn the Lübeck region, as is usual in Germany, hospital-based emergency physicians are called for outside emergencies. They evaluate and stabilize patients and transfer them to hospital facilities of their choice (no emergency department system). These physicians are mainly anesthesiologists, surgeons, and internists—not pediatricians. Numerous quality management studies have shown an overall excellent performance of this system, but it has not been evaluated for pediatric emergencies.Patients and MethodsIn a prospective, observational study conducted over a 1-year period, all pediatric emergencies (patient age < 15 y) treated by the emergency physician service were studied. A syllabus with standards of care for children with trauma, obstructive airway disease, and seizures was distributed. In accordance with this syllabus, the actions taken were documented by the emergency physicians, and the cases were documented as life threatening or not and were classified as “trauma,” “obstructive airway disease,” “seizures,” or “other” by the admitting pediatric intensivists and surgeons. The admitting attending physician compared these data and evaluated whether the standard management required by the syllabus was followed.ResultsA total of 422 pediatric cases out of 11,605 emergencies (3.5%) were recorded (147 [34.8%] trauma patients, 41 [9.7%] patients with obstructive airway disease, and 108 [25.6%] patients with seizures). Of the pediatric patients, 20.5% had life-threatening conditions; three children died before arrival, and the others required treatment in the intensive care unit. In 25% of trauma patients, deficiencies in primary treatment were observed: no documentation of neurologic status in 10.6%, no cervical immobilization in 15% of head trauma patients, and no adequate analgesia in 7%. In 25% of seizure patients, neurologic status was not documented, although treatment was in accordance with the standard of care. The worst results were observed in infants with obstructive airway disease: no documentation of oxygen saturation in 71.4%, no oxygen therapy despite hypoxemia in seven of 12 patients, and overall therapy not in accordance with the standard of care in 50%.ConclusionsThe high quality of the emergency physician service documented for adults is not reproduced in the pediatric population. Trauma and seizures with similarities to adult cases are handled in a fair manner. However, the most important pediatric diagnostic entity of obstructive airway disease is often not treated adequately. Intensified educational programs for emergency physicians are warranted.

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