Frequency and Severity of Prehospital Obstetric Events Encountered by Emergency Medical Services in the United States.

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth


BACKGROUND: Prehospital obstetric events encountered by emergency medical services (EMS) can be high-risk patient presentations for which suboptimal care can cause substantial morbidity and mortality. The frequency of prehospital obstetric events is unclear because existing descriptions have reported obstetric and gynecological conditions together, without delineating specific patient presentations. Our objective was to identify the types, frequency, and acuity of prehospital obstetric events treated by EMS personnel in the US.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of EMS patient care records in the 2018 National EMS Information System dataset (n=22,532,890). We focused on EMS activations (i.e., calls for service) for an emergency scene response for patients aged 12-50 years with evidence of an obstetric event. Type of obstetric event was determined by examining patient symptoms, the treating EMS provider's impression (i.e., field diagnosis), and procedures performed. High patient acuity was ascertained by EMS documentation of patient status and application of the modified early obstetric warning system (MEOWS) criteria, with concordance assessed using Cohen's kappa. Descriptive statistics were calculated to describe the primary symptoms, impressions, and frequency of each type of obstetric event among these activations.

RESULTS: A total of 107,771 (0.6%) of EMS emergency activations were identified as involving an obstetric event. The most common presentation was early or threatened labor (15%). Abdominal complaints, including pain and other digestive/abdomen signs and symptoms, was the most common primary symptom (29%) and primary impression (18%). We identified 3,489 (3%) out-of-hospital deliveries, of which 1,504 were preterm. Overall, EMS providers documented 34% of patients as being high acuity, similar to the MEOWS criteria (35%); however, there were high rates of missing data for EMS documented acuity (19%), poor concordance between the two measures (Cohen's kappa=0.12), and acuity differences for specific conditions (e.g., high acuity of non-cephalic presentations, 77% in EMS documentation versus 53% identified by MEOWS).

CONCLUSION: Prehospital obstetric events were infrequently encountered by EMS personnel, and about one-third were high acuity. Additional work to understand the epidemiology and clinical care of these patients by EMS would help to optimize prehospital care and outcomes.





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