Approximately 45%–50% of all duty-related deaths among firefighters are due to sudden cardiovascular events, and a disproportionate number of these fatalities occur after strenuous fire suppression activities.
Purpose: The objective of this study is to evaluate the effect of strenuous firefighting activities on platelets, coagulation, and fibrinolytic activity and to document the extent to which these variables recovered 2 h after completion of the firefighting activity.
Methods: Firefighters performed 18 min of simulated firefighting activities in a training structure that contained live fires. After firefighting activities, firefighters were provided with fluid and allowed to cool down and then recovered for 2 h in an adjacent room. Blood samples were obtained prefirefighting, postfirefighting, and 2 h postfirefighting.
Results: Platelet number, platelet activity, and coagulatory potential increased immediately postfirefighting and many variables (platelet function, partial thromboplastin time, and factor VIII) reflected a procoagulatory state even after 2 h of recovery. Fibrinolysis, as reflected by tissue plasminogen activator, also was enhanced immediately postfirefighting but returned to baseline values by 2 h postfirefighting. In contrast, inhibition of fibrinolysis, as evidenced by a reduction in plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, was depressed at 2 h postfirefighting.
Conclusions: Firefighting resulted in elevated coagulatory and fibrinolytic activity. However, 2 h postfirefighting, tissue plasminogen activator returned to baseline and coagulatory potential remained elevated. The procoagulatory state that exists after firefighting may provide a mechanistic link to the reports of sudden cardiac events after strenuous fire suppression activities.