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Study: EMTs can’t administer glucagon

Diabetics who call 911 during a hypoglycemic episode have a 3 in 4 chance the responding EMS provider will not be able to administer the lifesaving drug


By EMS1 Staff

BOSTON — A recent study found that the administration of glucagon is not in the EMT scope of practice, meaning diabetic patients who call 911 only have a 1 in 4 chance that the responding EMS provider will be able to administer the lifesaving drug.

The study, which was recently published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine,” said that only paramedics are allowed to administer glucagon, which is used to treat diabetics suffering a hypoglycemic episode.

The study said that only paramedics are allowed to administer glucagon, which is used to treat diabetics suffering a hypoglycemic episode. (Photo/Greg Friese)
The study said that only paramedics are allowed to administer glucagon, which is used to treat diabetics suffering a hypoglycemic episode. (Photo/Greg Friese)

The episodes cause the patient’s blood sugar to drop dangerously low, which can lead to brain tissue loss or death, but patients who call EMS for help have a 75 percent chance of not being treated by a paramedic.

“These restrictions are even more surprising given that glucagon is routinely administered by family members, and the side effects experienced by those receiving glucagon were not serious and most typically include nausea,” the study said.

The study also found that 911 dispatchers only told EMTs they would be responding to a diabetic call in 44 percent of the observed incidents.

“[This] potentially increas[es] the likelihood of dispatching providers who cannot administer glucagon to patients suffering from hypoglycemia,” study co-author Dr. Robert Gabbay said. “Diabetes specialists should work with emergency medical personnel to design curricula for the safe and effective use of glucagon nationwide.”

 

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