Decision making in prehospital traumatic cardiac arrest; A qualitative study

Anna-Marie R Leemeyer, Esther M M Van Lieshout, Maneka Bouwens, Wim Breeman, Michael H J Verhofstad, Mark G Van Vledder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Despite improving survival of patients in prehospital traumatic cardiac arrest (TCA), initiation and/or discontinuation of resuscitation of TCA patients remains a subject of debate among prehospital emergency medical service providers. The aim of this study was to identify factors that influence decision making by prehospital emergency medical service providers during resuscitation of patients with TCA.

METHODS: Twenty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with experienced ambulance nurses, HEMS nurses and HEMS physicians individually, followed by a focus group discussion. Participants had to be currently active in prehospital medicine in the Netherlands. Interviews were encoded for analysis using ATLAS.ti. Using qualitative analysis, different themes around decision making in TCA were identified.

RESULTS: Eight themes were identified as being important factors for decision making during prehospital TCA. These themes were: (1) factual information (e.g., electrocardiography rhythm or trauma mechanism); (2) fear of providing futile care or major impairment if return of spontaneous circulation was obtained; (3) potential organ donation; (4) patient age; (5) suspicion of attempted suicide; (6) presence of bystanders or family; (7) opinions of other team members; and (8) training and education. Several ambulance nurses reported they do not feel adequately supported by the current official national ambulance guidelines on TCA, nor did they feel sufficiently trained to perform pre-hospital interventions such as endotracheal intubation or needle thoracocentesis on these patients.

CONCLUSION: Eight themes were identified as being important for decision making during prehospital TCA. While guidelines based on prognostic factors are important, it should be recognized that decision making in TCA is impacted by more than factual information alone. This should be reflected in educational programs and future guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1196-1202
Number of pages7
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation/methods
  • Decision Making
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest/therapy
  • Qualitative Research

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