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The physiological variables of oxygen saturation, blood pressure and pulse rate were compared in the pre-hospital phase and on arrival at hospital in a group of 63 patients with severe chest injury. Eighty-nine pre-hospital thoracic drainage procedures were carried out. Pre-hospital Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) was associated with a significant improvement in all three variables. Median oxygen saturation increased by 17 per cent (P<0.001), median blood pressure increased from 90 to 120 mmHg (P<0.001) and median pulse rate decreased from 125 to 105 (P<0.001). Pre-hospital intervention is indicated for tension pneumothorax, and contraindicated for haemothorax without respiratory compromise. In other situations further evidence is required, and standard ATLS protocols should be used until this is available.
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Accepted: May 31, 1995
© 1995 Published by Elsevier Inc.