EMCrit Podcast 34 – 2010 ACLS Guidelines

The brand new ACLS & BCLS guidelines were published last week. Not huge changes, but some good stuff! The free full text is available at the Circulation website. It takes hours to make your way through all of it. I boiled it down to just the facts and posted a summary on the Crashing Patient Site.

ACLS 2010 Guidelines Summary

In this EMCrit Podcast I discuss some of the highlights that I think are particularly important.

There have also been many questions about the head impulse testing discussed in episode 33. I have an easier method; check out this post.

EMCrit Podcast 31 – Intra-Arrest Management

Update: Some of the information in this post and podcast has been superseded by podcast 125; so click on over there.

This week we talk about managing the intra-arrest period of cardiac arrest. My paradigm has changed dramatically over the past few years. In the past, I viewed the arrest as a period to teach my residents how to place a subclavian central line, how to intubate when the patient is moving, and how to cram as many drugs as possible into a patient in a short period of time.

Looking at how I manage an arrest today, so much has changed.

I use the ACLS ABCDABCD mnemonic, though I’ve changed some of the intent:

Place an Oropharyngeal Airway

Place the patient on the ventilator with a BVM mask.
Set the vent to VT 500, Flow 30 lpm, Rate 10, FiO2 100%. Increase the pressure limit to 80-100 cm H20.

Compressions, Compressions, Compressions

The most important thing these days are continuous, rhythmic, chest compressions. If you want to get perfusion to the coronaries and get a chance at shocking (the only other effective therapy for arrest), you need perfect compressions.

I use a metronome and switch out providers every 1-2 minutes. Got the idea from this article.

Here is the metronome I use.

ETCO2 can be used as a marker of how well compressions are being performed.


Defib. Shock early and shock often.

You can shock without having the compressor stop compressions if they are wearing gloves and you have a biphasic defib with pads. (Circulation 2008;117:2510-2514.)


Advanced airway = LMA, not an ET Tube
Here is my LMA video

Advanced Breathing

Put the patient back on the vent. If you know how, switch them to pressure control at 20 cm H20, with an insp time of 1-2 seconds

Advanced circulation

pop in an IO

listen to the podcast for my feelings on meds


I recommend the RUSH exam created by my colleagues and me.

Last, we talk about when to stop: for me ETCO2 < 10 and no heart motion = stop, if I have been trying for 10-20 minutes.

EMCrit Podcast 20 – The Crashing Atrial Fibrillation Patient

Your patient is pale and diaphoretic. Blood pressure is 70/50. Heart rate is 178. EKG shows atrial fibrillation… What are you going to do???

Yeah, yeah the Pavlovian ACLS response–You cardiovert. Wonderful, except it didn’t change a thing. Now what?

In this episode, I discuss the crashing atrial fibrillation patient.


If the patient is chronically in atrial fib, the shock rarely works. Your patient is unstable, so you decide to give it a shot. You might as well give yourself the best chance of success, so go right for 360 J on monophasic, or equivalently high on your biphasic. This will not cause more injury than lower joules (Heart 1998, 80:3 and Resuscitation 1998;36:193). PA is probably better than AA if you have pads. Make sure the synch is on.

You need to give your patient something to disguise the fact that you are electrocuting them. Yet you don’t want to drop their pressure. Ketamine is ok in disassociative dosing, but then your patient is loopy and you lose your mental status exam. Consider 5-7 mg of etomidate along with a pain dose of ketamine, 10-15 mg.

Screen for WPW

If you have a. fib with a wide QRS and a rate > 250-300, be scared, very scared. This is WPW and these patients just love to ruin your day by going into v. fib. Shock early, shock often, light them up.

Get the BP Up

So you made sure it’s not WPW and the cardioversion has failed, as it so often does in chronic a. fib. Now you need to raise the BP before anything else. Use push-dose phenylephrine. 50-200 mcg every minute or so until you get the blood pressure above a diastolic of 60; this will temporize the situation and make the patient’s heart more likely to slow down.

Though things look better, you have not really fixed the problem, you have just temporized.

Slow them them down

Give either amiodarone 150 mg bolus and then the drip (may repeat the bolus x 1)


Use diltiazem, but not as a push. Drip it in at 2.5 mg/minute until HR < 100 or you get to 50 mg. (Resuscitation 52:167, 2002) See here for more.

Still not working?

  • Consider magnesium
  • Consider reshocking
  • Consider cardiology consult
  • Consider something else is going on
  • Consider signing out to one of your colleagues and running away