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Electrocardiographic Responses During Fire Suppression and Recovery Among Experienced Firefighters

Al-Zaiti, Salah RN, NP, PhD; Rittenberger, Jon C. MD; Reis, Steven E. MD; Hostler, David PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2015 - Volume 57 - Issue 9 - p 938–942
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000507
ORIGINAL ARTICLES
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Objective: We sought to evaluate the impact of high-intensity exertion and heat stress on electrocardiographic changes during fire suppression and recovery.

Methods: Healthy firefighters completed a live-fire training evolution. Each firefighter was randomly assigned to complete either two or three intervals of fire suppression tasks followed by a structured recovery. Firefighters were continuously monitored using 12-lead Holter electrocardiogram.

Results: Most firefighters (71.4%) exceeded their maximum heart rate and one third had pathological ST events. Nearly one third of each of these abnormalities persisted throughout recovery period. Longer fire suppression intervals did not affect the incidence of these abnormalities.

Conclusions: Fire suppression is associated with ST-segment changes among firefighters at low risk for cardiovascular disease. These abnormalities continued into initial recovery even though cooling and rehydration were provided.

From the School of Nursing, Department of Acute & Tertiary Care (Dr Al-Zaiti), Department of Emergency Medicine (Drs Rittenberger, Reis, and Hostler), Department of Medicine, (Dr Reis), University of Pittsburgh, Penn; and Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences (Dr Hostler), SUNY University at Buffalo, NY.

Address correspondence to: David Hostler, PhD, Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, SUNY University at Buffalo, 212 Kimball Tower, Buffalo, NY 14214 (dhostler@buffalo.edu).

This study was sponsored by the FEMA AFG Fire Prevention & Safety Program (EMW-2011-FP-00651).

Conflict of interests: None.

Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine