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New Kan. EMS policy limits use of backboards

They will use backboards when moving patients to the ambulance, but then roll them onto a cot during transport to the hospital

By Kelsey Ryan
The Wichita Eagle

WICHITA, Kan. — The Wichita-Sedgwick County Emergency Medical Services System is no longer keeping patients on long spineboards when transporting them to the hospital, officials say.

The change was prompted by scientific studies that showed most patients do not need the boards during transport, officials said.

“The issue of backboards has become more prominent in the last couple of years,” said Sabina Braithwaite, EMS System medical director. “We found that ‘Wow, we don’t have anything that shows this helps people,’ and there’s more and more evidence that it hurts people potentially.”

“Realistically, when you break your neck and go into the hospital they don’t keep you on a board there either.”

Wichita-Sedgwick County EMSS – made up of Sedgwick County EMS, Sedgwick County Fire, the Wichita Fire Department and other response partners– responded to 58,031 patients in 2013, and 5,018 of those patients were transported to the hospital on a long spineboard, said Darrel Kohls, education manager for Wichita-Sedgwick County EMSS.

EMS personnel have been trained in new methods of moving patients, Kohls said. They will still use the backboards when transporting patients to the ambulance, but then roll them onto a cot.

The change won’t cost anything, Kohls said, but it could save money over time.

“If the science is correct, there should be a huge savings to health care in the area,” he said.

“ Studies are showing ... if you place a child on the backboard, when you get to the hospital, they report more pain. More pain reported drives up the number of X-rays and tests that they wouldn’t have received otherwise.”

Bare skin on hard boards for long periods can also lead to tissue breakdown, Kohls said.

Cardiac patients will still be transported on a backboard since a hard surface is needed to perform chest compressions, Kohls said.

EMS worked with the Medical Society of Sedgwick County and local trauma surgeons to make the change.

Johnson County emergency services have also made the switch, and Braithwaite said she hopes other communities throughout the state will do the same.