Advanced Life Support
resuscitation of an adult
who is unconscious and not breathing, are
given by the Resuscitation Council.
hypersensitivity reaction to drugs or allergens, which can lead to asphyxia,
cardiovascular collapse, and cardiac arrest. The reaction is sudden, severe, and involves
the whole body.
The drawing of a substance, such as the
gastric contents, into the respiratory tract, during inhalation
Also, the removal of fluid or gas from a body cavity, using suction equipment.
Absence of electrical
and mechanical activity in the heart - a non-shockable cardiac arrest.
Rapid and asynchronous contractions of the atrium, causing irregular contraction
of the ventricles. The pulse will be irregular in rate and strength, and the
wrist and Apex
pulse rates will
be asymmetrical. More
BarotraumaInjury due to excess pressure in
Basic Life Support
Support Guidelines for
resuscitation of an adult
who is unresponsive and not breathing,
are given by the Resuscitation Council. There is also an algorithm
for newborn infants.
Beta (β) blockers
drugs which block the affect of Adrenaline on the heart and blood vessels, by weakening
effects of the Sympathetic Nervous System on heart conductivity, and reducing blood
pressure and heart rate. More
Slow heart rate/pulse.
Antimuscarinics, such as Glycopyrronium and Atropine, can be used to counter the
bradycardia caused by Neostigmine. Algorithm
Sudden difficulty in
breathing caused by constriction of plain muscle in the walls of the bronchi.
Spontaneously breathing patients may have an audible wheeze.
Can't intubate, can't ventilate
When intubation fails, and the patient suffers hypoxaemia and difficult
ventilation, a rescue algorithm must be followed, as described by the
Difficult Airway Society
The heart stops
pumping blood around the body, resulting in unconsciousness and abnormal breathing,
which requires immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Cardiac (pericardial) tamponade)
A condition in which gas or fluid, such as blood or pus, accumulates in the
faster than the pericardial sac can
stretch. If the fluid/gas significantly elevates the pressure on the heart, it will
prevent the heart's ventricles from filling properly, leading to a low stroke volume,
shock, and death. More
The Resuscitation Council provides the algorithms for
treating choking in adults
over 1 year.
A protocol for managing
massive haemorrhage. (Blood bank: 3640) More
(Cricothyrotomy) An emergency procedure, to provide a temporary emergency
airway, via the cricothyroid membrane (in the adult: 10 mm high, 22 mm wide),
when there is obstruction at, or above, the larynx.
routine intubation failure is unanticipated, any further attempts must be
made according to the algorithm provided by the
Difficult Airway Society
ventilating the patient has priority over intubation.
Hypertensive disorder of pregnancy and toxaemia of pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is
characterized by high blood pressure and significant amounts of protein in the
urine, and this can develop into Eclampsia, where the patient may suffer tonic-clonic
seizures. NICE guidelines
An emergency case, such as a ruptured aortic aneurysm, demands minimum delay to
anaesthetic induction (typically by RSI
and surgical intervention. More
A neurological disorder
marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of
consciousness, or convulsions. First aid
Failed Rapid Sequence Induction
When routine RSI is unanticipated, follow the algorithm, as described by the
Difficult Airway Society
A seizure (rarely serious)
which occurs in a child with a fever over 39°C (102.2°F).
Reflux of gastric contents. If the contents reach the lungs, permanent damage may
occur. If the contents are very acidic, death can result.
Glasgow Coma Score
A system for rating a patient's level of consciousness, based on an assessment
of 3 response types: Eye opening, Motor response, and Verbal response.
Heart blockImpaired conduction between the
atria and ventricles.
Heart failure (congestive heart failure)Heart failure is a
global term for the state in which cardiac output is insufficient in meeting the
needs of the body. Most commonly caused when cardiac output is low, and the body
becomes congested with fluid.
Hypercapnia (hypercarbia)Increased level of carbon dioxide
in the blood.
A high level of serum potassium: the
normal range is 3.5 – 5.3 mmol/L.
For raised levels, give 10ml of calcium gluconate
10% intravenously over 2-5 minutes; then 10 IU Actrapid + Glucose 50%, 50 mls.
ECG characteristics of hyperkalemia:
- P-waves are widened and low amplitude due to slowed conduction.
- Tall tented T waves.
- QRS widening
- Fusion of QRS-T
- Loss of the ST segment
Blood pressure which is above the
normal range for a particular category of person, according to such factors as age
and weight. Typical treatment is by a Beta-blocker, such as Atenolol, Esmolol, or
Abnormally deep breathing or excessive ventilation of the lungs, usually
accompanying emotional stress.
A low level of serum potassium. Normal
range is 3.5 – 5.3 mmol/L. Treat with rapid infusion of potassium. ECG indications are:
- Flattened T waves
- Negative T waves
- Sometimes, prominent U waves
- ST depression
Blood pressure which is below the normal range for a
particular category of person, according to such factors as age and weight. Typically treated
by a vasoconstrictor. Low diastolic pressure suggests arterial vasodilation, as with sepsis
or anaphylaxis. A small pulse pressure could be due to arterial vasoconstriction, such as
with hypovolaemia, or cardiogenic shock
Core body temperature below
(35°C). Consequences can vary from minor to severe.
Hypoventilation refers to inadequate breathing and impaired gas exchange, which
prevents the body from being able to remove carbon dioxide appropriately. As a
consequence, there develops an increase in the level of carbon dioxide
(hypercapnia) in the blood, together with a decreased level of oxygen.
Reduced circulating blood volume,
typically caused by shock.
- Dry mouth
- Dry axillary skin
- Postural hypotension
The immediate goal is to raise systolic blood pressure to 100 mmHg, by administering
250-1,000 ml isotonic (0.9%) saline solution.
Low level of oxygen in the tissues (cellular level).
Low level of oxygen in arterial blood.
A reflexive prolonged contraction of the laryngeal muscles, and closing of the
vocal chords, characterised by noisy inspiration. If the vocal chords are completely
closed, there will not be any airway noise.
abnormality of the muscle fibre membrane. The two most powerful triggers are
Suxamethonium and volatile agents, such as Halothane. Also triggered by
Lignocaine, Atropine, Diazepam, Pancuronium, Phenothiazines, and stress.
Necrosis of part of the heart muscle, due to interrupted blood
supply, usually following a coronary thrombosis (artery occlusion).
depression, signified by a low minute volume, with resultant hypercapnia.
- Pin-point pupils
- Slow respiratory rate
Reverse with Naloxone, or stimulate respiration with eg, Doxapram.
Oxygen toxicityA condition resulting from the harmful effects
of breathing molecular oxygen at elevated partial pressures (hyperoxia). Severe
cases can result in cell damage and death, with effects most often seen in the
central nervous system, lungs and eyes. Oxygen toxicity is a concern for those
on high concentrations of oxygen (particularly premature babies), and those
undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Symptoms may include disorientation,
breathing problems, burning sensation with deep breathing, anxiety, vomiting,
and vision changes.
Panic attackPsychological state, indicated by
hyperventilation, tachycardia, and erythematous rash (redness), but without
hypotension, pallor, wheeze, or urticarial rash.
PericardiocentesisAspiration of fluid through fifth intercostal
Accumulation of air (or other gas) in the pleural cavity, which may lead to
collapse of the lung. Usually accompanied by sudden sharp pain in one side of the
chest, during inspiration. The pneumothorax can clear of it's own accord.
Post operative nausea and vomiting
effect of general anaesthesia, suffered by 1 in 4 patients. If unmanaged, can
lead to pulmonary aspiration of gastric contents. Younger patients are more
susceptible than older ones, as are gynaecological, urological,
correction, and middle ear surgery patients. Treatment is by
dispensing a combination of agents, until efficacy is achieved.
Postpartum Haemorrhage (PPH)
The loss of 500 ml or more of
blood from the genital tract, within 24 hours of giving birth.
Precordial thumpAn attempt to interrupt an arrhythmia, such as
Ventricular Fibrillation or pulseless Ventricular Tachycardia, by making a single
strike, with the fist, to the centre of the patient's sternum. The thump is only
effective if made at the onset of a witnessed and monitored adverse rhythm
(VF/pVT), and a defibrillator is not immediately available. Latest resuscitation
guidelines de-emphasise use of the precordial thump.
Steps to take when assessing an unconscious
Order of steps
|Danger||Assess Dangers to yourself and casualties|
|Response||Use the Glasgow Coma Scale to ascertain the level of
|Airway||Examine the Airway for obstructions|
|Breathing||Look, listen, and feel for adequate respiratory effort.
Supplement with oxygen to correct hypoxia, if saturations are below 95%|
|Circulation||If a carotid pulse is not palpable, then
resuscitation should be commenced|
which usually originates from the proximal veins of the thigh and pelvis.
Pulmonary oedemaExcess of watery fluid in the lungs,
which collects in the air sacs, making it difficult to breathe. Pulmonary oedema is most often
caused by heart failure (cardiogenic pulmonary oedema), but it may be caused by other conditions,
which do not directly affect the heart (non-cardiogenic pulmonary oedema).
Pulseless Electrical Activity (PEA)
cardiac arrest where the patient has cardiac electrical activity, which would
otherwise produce cardiac output and an obvious pulse. PEA usually has an
underlying treatable cause which, in emergency situations, is most often
hypovolemia. Performing a pulse check after a rhythm/monitor check will ensure
that PEA is identified. More
QuickTrach Cricothyrotomy kit
For making an airway opening during a "can't ventilate" emergency.
When the respiratory
system fails in oxygenation and/or carbon dioxide (CO2
A more in depth survey of the patient than the primary survey.
Failure of the cardiovascular system
to deliver adequate blood flow necessary to properly supply oxygen and nutrients
to vital organs, particularly to the kidneys and brain. This inadequate tissue
perfusion causes an accumulation of lactic acid in the tissues. If untreated,
shock can lead to multiple organ failure. More
A harsh vibrating sound, during inspiration, caused by tumour,
infection, or partial obstruction of the larynx or trachea.
• Oxygen and positioning the head of the bed 45 - 90 degrees.
• Nebulized racemic Adrenaline (0.5 to 0.75 ml of 2.25% racemic
Adrenaline added to 2.5 to 3 ml of normal saline) in cases where airway oedema
may be the cause of the stridor.
• Dexamethasone (Decadron) 4-8 mg IV q 8 - 12 h in cases where
airway oedema may be the cause of the stridor; note that some time (hours) may
be needed for dexamethasone to work fully.
• Inhaled Heliox (70% helium, 30% oxygen); the effect is almost
instantaneous. Helium, being a less dense gas than nitrogen, reduces turbulent
flow through the airways.
• Always ensure an open airway.
of Suxamethonium, which means a patient may reverse from anaesthesia, but remain
SyncopeA brief period of unconsciousness, due to reduced
blood flow to the brain.
- Vagolytic drugs, such as Atropine
Adult treatment algorithm
to air escaping into the pleural cavity, typically as a consequence of a penetrating
Thorax to aspirate pleural fluid or gas.
A procedure to make an
airway opening through the second or third tracheal ring, typically because of upper
- A lateral cut is made, superior to the sternal notch.
- The skin is separated and surrounding tissues dissected, exposing the trachea.
- The 2nd or 3rd tracheal ring is incised, and the tracheostomy tube placed.
- The tube cuff is then inflated (2-5 ml).
- The incision is sutured at the side of the tracheostomy tube.
Ventricular Fibrillation (VF)
Heart rhythm is chaotic -
the heart is in a state of electrical chaos. No blood is pumped from the heart,
and the patient has no pulse. The ECG trace lacks P-waves, QRS complexes, or
T-waves. Action is electrical defibrillation.
See Advanced Life Support
Ventricular Tachycardia (VT)
A pulseless ryhthm, characterised
by regular fast beating of the ventricles (120 beats/min), which is too fast for
them to fill with sufficient blood betweeen beats. Pulseless VT
lead to Ventricular Fibrillation, which is a more serious condition. Action for
is electrical defibrillation.
See Advanced Life Support