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Adequacy of bystander actions in unconscious patients

an audit study in the Ghent region (Belgium)

Lamote, Inesa; Calle, Paulb; Lyphout, Cathelijnec; Van de Voorde, Patrickc,d

doi: 10.1097/MEJ.0000000000000595
Original article: PDF Only

Objectives Early recognition and appropriate bystander response has proven effect on the outcome of many critically ill patients, including those in cardiac arrest. We wanted to audit prehospital bystander response in our region and identify areas for improvement.

Patients and methods We prospectively collected data, including Emergency Medical Services dispatch center audio files, on all patients with a decreased level of consciousness presenting to the Ghent University Hospital prehospital emergency care unit (n=151). Three trained emergency physicians reviewed the bystander responses, both before and after dispatcher advice was given. Suboptimal actions (SAs) were only withheld if there was 100% consensus.

Results SAs were recognized in 54 (38%) of the 142 cases, and most often related to delayed (n=35) or inaccurate (n=12) alerting of the dispatch center. In seven cases, the aid given was considered suboptimal in itself. Importantly, in 21 (25.9%) of the 81 cases where a clear advice was given by the dispatcher, this advice was ignored. In 12 cases, a general practitioner was present at scene. We recognized SAs in 80% of these cases (8/10; insufficient information, n=2). Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was started in only 29 (43.3%) of the 67 cases of cardiac arrest where dispatcher-assisted cardiopulmonary resuscitation was indicated at the moment of first Emergency Medical Services call.

Conclusion We audited bystander response for unconscious patients in our region and found a high degree of suboptimal actions. These results should inform policy makers and healthcare professionals and force them to urgently reflect on how to improve the first parts of the chain of survival.

aDepartment of Emergency Medicine, Jan Yperman Ieper, Ieper

bDepartment of Emergency Medicine, Maria Middelares Hospital, Ghent University

cDepartment of Emergency Medicine, University Hospital Ghent

dFederal Department of Health, Emergency Dispatch Centre 112 Eastern-Flanders, Ghent, Belgium

Correspondence to Patrick Van de Voorde, MD, PhD, FERC, Department of Emergency Medicine, University Hospital Ghent, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium Tel: +32 93 324 906/+32 48 842 0841; e-mails:,

Received March 5, 2018

Accepted December 17, 2018

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