Perimortem C-section at St.Emlyn’s
There are a few blog posts that seem to stick in the mind more than others, and certainly ones that I direct colleagues back to on a regular basis. One of these for me (and I suspect for many others) is the post from Cliff Reid back in July 2012 looking at Life, Limb and Sight saving procedures. Maybe it was because it was around at the start of my entry into social media learning, but also because it still lists those procedures that every emergency physician should know, but in the knowledge that the same topics are on the list of ‘things that scare the **** out of most EPs’.
Having been around for a while and having worked in a big city I’ve seen or done pretty much everything on Cliff’s list, everything that is apart from emergency hysterotomy. Now, I’m actually quite glad about that because whilst all the other procedures have the potential to kill the patient, this one has the opportunity for a 200% mortality (although to be honest that’s your starting point and your mission is to reduce 200% to 100% and hopefully to 0%).
So, I’m riding my luck. I’m about half way through my EM career and I’ve been lucky so far. No hysterotomies for me, but I’m getting worried. This blog post outlines my anxieties and what I’m doing to help myself. If you find it helpful too then all the better.
Basically, the more senior I get the more likely it will be that I will be the person required to make the decision.
‘Let’s go for it. Get the baby out’
That day may be tomorrow, it may be never but I want to be prepared and I’d like you to be prepared. It’s therefore time to turn to the #FOAM gods and ask for help. So this post is not about my experience (I have none), it’s a little bit about the practicalities, but mostly it’s about how we can prepare for what I hope will be a never event. There is a lot
of stuff already out there on some great blogs (see notes at the end of this post), please visit them and use the experience of those writers, but by sharing my thoughts here I hope to give some guidance on the process of preparing for something that may never happen. This post is also unusual in that I am very happy to amend, improve and adjust if you have suggestions. Please put them in the comments section and I’ll incorporate where needed. This is #FOAM in evolution, not #FOAM edict.
Step 1. Ask for help.
Step 2. Listen and learn
Step 3. Collate, Consider, Communicate
When am I going to do a hysterotomy
You do not have time to….
- Consultant a textbook (or this blog)
- Phone a friend
- Wait for an obstetrician (though you should crash call one to resus straight away)
- Wait for a paediatrician (though you should crash call one to resus straight away)
- Discuss with colleagues
- Check how many weeks pregnant she is
- Discuss the options with her partner
This is not a problem though as you can decide when you are going to do it right here and right now. Here it is.
If you have an obviously pregnant lady with a easily palpable uterus and they are within 10-15 mins of cardiac arrest onset then you are going to do a Hysterotomy.
Some books will say that this needs to be completed within 4 minutes, but hat tip to Casey Parker in Broome for spotting this paper via Cliff that suggests you should consider doing it for a longer time period. If in doubt about times – crack on.
So that's it then, Just go for it?
- Allocate someone to continue to lead the adult cardiac arrest team.
- Displace the Uterus to try and improve venous return
- Tilt the mother to 15 degrees laterally
- Allocate a team (it’s going to be you) to perform the Hysterotomy.
- Allocate someone to take and resuscitate the baby once delivered
- Get the kit ready
So there are three groups of people here that are going to have to work towards a common goal but with quite specific roles.
- The mother
- The C-section
- The baby
Yep, this looks like a major human factors management problem so early, clear direction by the team leader is absolutely essential. So, in preparation. What would you say to people, who would you allocate at midday on a Wednesday in your department. Who would you allocate at 0400 on a Wednesday in your department? Think now – there will be no time on the day.
What do I need?
- For the Mother – standard ALS kit (you must have this)
- For the C-section it’s probably unrealistic to have specific kit on the shelf for a once in a lifetime event. However, in our department the Thoracotomy tray has retractors, scissors and clamps which together with a scalpel is all that you will need.
- For the Child – standard neonatal resuscitation kit, again you should have this in your ED already for the unexpected delivery which we all occasionally face.
- For you – face mask, apron, gown if time, double gloves. Just as though this were a thoractomy for trauma. Standard stuff, nothing fancy. Sterility less important than speed.
So in other words, you should know what you need now. You should visualise where it is and how it’s going to come to the bedside in resus. Think about it now.
Step 1: Getting in to the abdomen
- The typical C-section incision through the abdominal wall is a Pfannensteil transverse lower abdominal incision through the skin, followed by dividing the rectus sheath vertically and entering the peritoneum vertically. It is great for cosmetic appearances and is also known as a bikini line incision.
- A midline vertical incision from pubis to umbilicus. Straight up, through the linea alba (midline between the recti), clip to peritoneum, open peritoneum, use scissors to extend up and down from umbilicus to pubis.
Now, I have not done Obstetrics since I was a med student, I did do a lot of surgery so I’m used to putting knife to flesh, but I am also quite simple. I am going to go for option 2, and I think you should too.
It’s pretty easy to remember and I like that. If you are familiar with Obstetric techniques and you are confident with the Pfannensteil – go for it. Roger Bloomer and his chums in Australia did it successfully so I am in no position to say don’t, but it’s too clever for me.
Step 2: Getting into the Uterus
- Make a big hole, it’s going to make stage 3 easier.
- If the placenta is in the way, you will just have to cut through it.
- There should be a lot of fluid about at this point. If you did not put an apron on you may be regretting that decision at this point.
Step 3: Get the baby out
- Insert hand into uterus
- Find the head
- Get hold of head
- Deliver head
- Body should follow
- You can apply pressure to external part of uterus to help delivery.
Step 4: The cord and placenta.
- There is much discussion about when to cut the cord following a normal delivery.
- This is not a normal delivery.
- Cut the cord and hand to the clinician waiting to resuscitate the baby.
- Scoop the placenta out with your hand whilst applying traction on the remaining cord.
- Give syntocinon
- You may have to close the Uterus, but in my department I’m hoping that help will have arrived by this point.
Can I practice this?
1. We can look to simulate the scenario, the human factors and the roles that we would need as we resuscitate our patients. Jason Wagner has put together a simulation for hysterotomy and kindly shared the video via Twitter.
This is fantastic stuff, but it’s not the same as the real thing. C-sections are a messy business and whilst your patient is arrested there may not be much blood flow, there will still be plenty of blood and amniotic fluid knocking about. The Sim lab will not familiarise you with the feel of the tissues, the smell or surgery and the anatomical features that you would expect to find as you perform the procedure
2. So, phone your local Obstetrician and ask them to join them for an elective section list. Whilst this will clearly be different, they may well use a Pfannensteil incision for example and that’s fine. You will still get to see what the uterus looks like, how thick it is, how big a hole do you need to deliver the baby, how to get the baby out etc. Please, consider a half day in the Obstetric theatres. Familiarity breeds contempt of fear. Go on, give them a call today and make a date.
- Casey Parker on Can you cut it in Obstetric Resus?
- Cliff Reid on Life, Limb and Sight threatening conditions
- Campbell and Sampson - Cardiac Arrest in Pregnancy review article
- McDonnell article mentioned by Casey - Cardiopulmonary arrest in pregnancy: two case reports of successful outcomes in association with perimortem Caesarean delivery
- Roger Bloomer’s case report on prehospital hysterotomy -Prehospital resuscitative hysterotomy.
- Special thanks to John Wood of GWAA for a look at their SOP which we hope to share if we can get permission