Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has been used effectively in the prehospital environment for a wide range of respiratory emergencies. The feasibility of CPAP when used by primary care paramedics (PCPs) has not been established.
We sought to study the feasibility of prehospital CPAP when used by paramedics trained to the primary care paramedic (PCP) level compared with those trained to the advanced care paramedic (ACP) level. Our hypothesis was that the feasibility of CPAP use by paramedics trained to the PCP level is similar to that of paramedics trained to the ACP level.
We conducted an observational study of 302 consecutive cases of CPAP use over one year beginning June 25, 2009. We defined compliant use as 100% adherence to the provincial CPAP medical directive. The criteria for compliance included specifics of patient presentation, vital signs, and appropriate documentation by the paramedic, as well as proper use, titration, and discontinuation of CPAP equipment according to protocol. Data were abstracted from ambulance call reports.
Using the criteria set out for compliant CPAP use, the highest level of compliance among the ACPs and the PCPs was 98.6% and 98.9%, respectively, for documenting indication for CPAP use. The lowest level of compliance among the ACPs was 84.4% for titration of CPAP during treatment, and the lowest level of compliance among the PCPs was 90% for adherence to criteria for CPAP application according to patients' vital signs. Overall, the criteria for compliant use of CPAP were met for 76.8% (232/302) of the call reports examined. The rate of compliant use of CPAP was 75.9% (161/212) for ACP calls and 78.9% (71/90) for PCP calls. The difference between rates of compliant use for ACP calls versus PCP calls was not statistically significant (?(2) [1 df] = 0.31, p = 0.66).
This study found no significant difference in the compliant use of prehospital CPAP between paramedics trained to the PCP level and those trained to the ACP level. This study suggests that CPAP use by PCP-level paramedics may be feasible. Further study is required to determine whether compliance translates to safe use of prehospital CPAP by PCP-level paramedics.