The Importance of Ground Critical Care Transport: A Case Series and Literature Review

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Critical care transport (CCT) teams are specialized transport services, comprised of highly trained paramedics, nurses, and occasionally respiratory therapists, offering an expanded scope of practice beyond advanced life support (ALS) emergency medical service teams. We report 4 cases of patients with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome from influenza in need of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation evaluation at a tertiary care center, transported by ground. Our medical center did not previously have a ground CCT service, and therefore, in these cases, a physician and/or a respiratory therapist was sent with the paramedic team. In all 4 cases, the ground transport team enhanced the intensive care provided to these patients prior to arrival at the tertiary care center. In 2 of the cases, although limited by the profound hypoxemia, the team decreased the pressures and tidal volumes in an effort to approach evidence-based ventilator goals. In 3 cases, they stopped bicarbonate drips being used to treat mixed metabolic and respiratory acidosis, and in 1 case, they administered furosemide. In 1 case, they started cisatracurium, and in 3 others, they initiated inhaled epoprostenol. Existing literature supports the use of CCT teams over ALS teams for transport of the most critically ill patients, and helicopter CCT is not always available or practical. Therefore, offering comparable air and ground options, with similar staffing and resources, is a hallmark of a mature medical system with an integrated approach to CCT.

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