Intravenous (IV) access has an essential role in the care provided for trauma patients, allowing for transfusion of blood products, fluids, and drugs. Decisions should be made regarding the necessity of IV access while considering cost-benefit of the procedure in terms of delayed evacuation times.
A retrospective review of all trauma patients in whom at least one attempt at IV access was performed were reviewed. Data were abstracted from the Israeli Defense Force Trauma Registry.
Of 7,476 patients, 1,082 patients who had at least one documented attempt at IV access between January 1997 and April 2013 were included in this study. Overall cumulative success rate at IV access was 82%. Success rates for IV access were 86%, 68%, 63%, 50%, 20% for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth attempts, respectively. The first and second attempts accounted for 96% of the successful procedures. Mortality in patients for whom IV access was successful was 13%; mortality in patients for whom IV access was not successful was 35%.
The success rate of IV access declined with each subsequent attempt. There was minimal improvement of overall success rate seen after the second attempt. Our findings suggest that the inability to obtain peripheral venous access is associated with severe injuries. These finding support a policy of limiting the number of venous access attempts to two attempts, followed by a reevaluation of need for parenteral access. Improved training of combat medics and paramedics might marginally increase the success rates of IV access. Point-of-injury data, used for ongoing learning and research, form the ground for improving combat casualty care and thus help saving lives.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE
Therapeutic study, level IV.