Prevention by Routine Screenings

In the largest study of its kind, more than 14,000 patients visiting the hospital’s emergency department were routinely screened for exposure to CO, a highly toxic gas that can cause brain and heart damage and even death. Researchers identified 11 cases of CO poisoning in which the patients did not know they were being exposed to dangerous levels of the gas. None of the patients exhibited the usual signs of CO poisoning, such as headaches, dizziness and flu-like symptoms.

In the study, hospital staff used a portable, non-invasive pulse CO-oximeter - a device similar to the standard pulse oximeter - to screen 14,438 patients who presented to the emergency department for various concerns over a three-month span. A sensor placed on the patient’s index or middle finger quickly measured the amount of CO in the blood. These measurements were documented along with initial vital signs and oxygen saturation as part of the standard triage process. A total of 28 cases of CO poisoning were detected, 11 of which were unexpected and identified only with routine screening. Nearly a third of the patients required hyperbaric oxygen treatment, in which 100 percent oxygen is delivered under high pressure in a specialized chamber to reduce the amount of CO in the blood and return oxygen levels to normal. Overall, four of the 11 patients were smokers.

Patients diagnosed with CO poisoning were interviewed by researchers to determine how they used the information they were provided in the emergency department after being discharged. Those judged to have environmental CO poisoning were also contacted by telephone and asked if they discovered the source of CO, whether the fire department was contacted, the incidence of recurrent similar symptoms, and whether a smoke or CO detector was purchased. “This is a public health initiative that could be applied universally in other large health care institutions”, said lead author Selim Suner, M.D., M.S., director of emergency preparedness and disaster medicine at Rhode Island Hospital.

MEDICA.de; Source: Lifespan