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Resuscitation of avalanche victims: Evidence-based guidelines of the international commission for mountain emergency medicine (ICAR MEDCOM): Intended for physicians and other advanced life support personnel

DOI: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2012.10.020
  • Avalanche
  • Extracorporeal Circulation
  • Hypothermia
  • Resuscitation
  • Rewarming
  • Computer Science
  • Medicine


Abstract Background In North America and Europe ∼150 persons are killed by avalanches every year. Methods The International Commission for Mountain Emergency Medicine (ICAR MEDCOM) systematically developed evidence-based guidelines and an algorithm for the management of avalanche victims using a worksheet of 27 Population Intervention Comparator Outcome questions. Classification of recommendations and level of evidence are ranked using the American Heart Association system. Results and conclusions If lethal injuries are excluded and the body is not frozen, the rescue strategy is governed by the duration of snow burial and, if not available, by the victim's core-temperature. If burial time ≤35min (or core-temperature ≥32°C) rapid extrication and standard ALS is important. If burial time >35min and core-temperature <32°C, treatment of hypothermia including gentle extrication, full body insulation, ECG and core-temperature monitoring is recommended, and advanced airway management if appropriate. Unresponsive patients presenting with vital signs should be transported to a hospital capable of active external and minimally invasive rewarming such as forced air rewarming. Patients with cardiac instability or in cardiac arrest (with a patent airway) should be transported to a hospital for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or cardiopulmonary bypass rewarming. Patients in cardiac arrest should receive uninterrupted CPR; with asystole, CPR may be terminated (or withheld) if a patient is lethally injured or completely frozen, the airway is blocked and duration of burial >35min, serum potassium >12mmolL−1, risk to the rescuers is unacceptably high or a valid do-not-resuscitate order exists. Management should include spinal precautions and other trauma care as indicated.

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