Utilization and Effect of Direct Medical Oversight during Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest

Tristen M. Zimmerman, Matthew R. Neth, Mary E. Tanski, Laura Chess, Kathryn Thompson, Jonathan Jui, Ritu Sahni, Mohamud R. Daya, Joshua R. Lupton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objective: Direct medical oversight (DMO), where emergency medical services (EMS) clinicians contact a physician for real-time medical direction, is used by many EMS systems across the United States. Our objective was to characterize the recommendations made by DMO during out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) and to determine their effect on EMS transport decisions and patient outcomes. Methods: This is a secondary analysis of DMO call recordings from OHCA cases in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area from January 1, 2018 to February 28, 2021. Data extracted from the audio recordings were linked to OHCA cases in the Portland Cardiac Arrest Epidemiologic Registry (PDX Epistry). The primary outcomes are recommendations made by DMO: transport, continued field resuscitation, or termination of resuscitation (TOR). Secondary outcomes include EMS transport decisions, survival to hospital admission, and survival to hospital discharge. We used descriptive statistics, unpaired t-tests, and chi-square tests as appropriate for data analysis. Results: There were 239 OHCA cases for which DMO was contacted by EMS. The median time from EMS arrival to DMO contact was 25.6 min, and EMS requested TOR for 72.0% of patients. Compared to patients where EMS requested further treatment advice, patients for whom EMS requested TOR had poor prognostic signs including older age, asystole as an initial rhythm, and lower rates of transient return of spontaneous circulation prior to DMO call compared with cases where EMS did not request TOR. DMO recommended transport, continued field resuscitation, or TOR in 21.8%, 18.0%, and 60.2% of patients, respectively. Of the 239 patients, 59 (24.7%) were ultimately transported by EMS to the hospital, 14 (5.9%) survived to admission, and only 1 patient (0.4%) survived to hospital discharge and had an acceptable neurologic outcome (Cerebral Performance Category score of 2). Conclusions: Patients for whom EMS contacts DMO for further treatment advice or requesting field TOR after prolonged OHCA resuscitation have poor outcomes, even when DMO recommends transport or further resuscitation, and may represent opportunities to reduce unnecessary DMO contact or patient transports. More research is needed to determine which OHCA patients benefit from DMO contact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPrehospital Emergency Care
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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