Following CBRN incidents health care professionals will be required to care for critically ill patients within the warm zone, prior to decontamination, whilst wearing CBRN-PPE. The loss of fine-motor skills may adversely affect delivery of medical care.
64 clinicians were recruited to perform, intubation, LMA placement, insertion of an IV cannula and IO needle whilst wearing CBRN-PPE. A fractional factorial design was employed, in which each of the 64 clinicians had two attempts at performing each skill whilst wearing CBRN-PPE and once unsuited according to a pre-specified sequence.
The unsuited and suit data were analysed independently with the primary outcome being time taken to complete each skill whilst suited. Analysis was undertaken using STATA (V9.2).
Mean times differ considerably by skill (p<0.001). Overall, times to completion on attempt 2 were shorter than attempt 1 (p=0.045), though the reduction in time differed significantly by skill (p=0.004). LMA placement was on average completed nearly 45s faster than intubation, and IO cannulation was nearly 90s faster than IV cannulation. Whilst suited, 8% of intubation and 12% of intra-venous cannulation attempts were unsuccessful. Previous familiarity with CBRN-PPE did not improve performance (p=0.23). Professional groups differed significantly (p=0.009) with anaesthetists performing all skills faster than the other clinicians.
This study supports the concept of instigating airway and vascular access skills whilst wearing CBRN-PPE but challenges the sole reliance on ‘high-dexterity skills’. Intubation is feasible but must be considered within the context of the incident as the LMA may offer a viable alternative. Intra-venous access prior to casualty decontamination is arguably a pointless skill and should be replaced with IO access.