Routine Screening Laboratory Studies for Nonheat Stroke Field Heat Injuries Are Unnecessary: A Retrospective Review

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    Schauer SG, Pfaff JA 18(1). 88 - 90 (Journal Article)

    Background: Heat injuries are common in the military training environment. Base policies often mandate that heat causalities require evaluation at a higher level of care, which comes at significant use of resources. Laboratory studies are often ordered routinely, but their utility is unclear at this time. Methods: This project evaluated the use of screening laboratory studies for heat casualties brought to Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, Fort Polk, Louisiana. Casualties brought from the field directly to the emergency department (ED) were included. Abnormalities in laboratory study findings, admission/discharge rates, and length of stay were documented. Results: From May through September 2014, 104 casualties were seen in the ED because of heat injury. Laboratory tests were ordered for 101 patients. Of these, 11 patients were admitted to the hospital because of laboratory, history, and/or physical examination abnormalities. Nine were discharged in less than 24 hours. The remaining two were discharged within 48 hours; both had documented altered mental status on arrival to the ED. Laboratory test abnormalities were seen in most of the patients and appeared to have no impact on the decision to admit. Conclusion: Routine laboratory studies appeared to have low clinical utility in this patient population. A more targeted approach based on the history and physical examination may reduce military resource use.

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