The pressure to practice truly patient-focused, evidence-based medicine weighs on every anaesthetist and anaesthesiologist. Yet as the volume of evidence has grown, so has the expectation to always provide the highest quality care.
There is a trap of unknown knowns: evidence known in the greater medical-knowledge body but that we are naively ignorant of.
Bastardising William Gibson (1993), we risk that the evidence:
“…is already here – it's just not very evenly distributed.”
The greatest challenge for evidence-based anaesthesia continues to be the translation of research findings into actual practice change. The key to this is the intersection between quality, personal relevance, general significance, and credibility. But how can we achieve this?summary
Why the excitement?
Since the landmark 2017 WOMAN trial (collected below) showed that tranexamic acid (TXA) may reduce mortality in post-partum haemorrhage, TXA has increasingly been found in close proximity to where obstetric spinal anaesthetics are commonly performed.
TXA's operating theatre ubiquity has also been enhanced by it's replacement of aprotonin in cardiac surgery (Myles 2017, Koster 2015), after the former's associated mortality bump, along with the increasingly routine use of TXA in major joint surgery to reduce bleeding and transfusion (Ho 2003, Poeran 2014).
Recent reviews have identified 21 case reports of mistaken intrathecal administration of TXA over 60 years of anaesthetic publications – although it is likely many cases have been unreported.
Seems rare - why should I be concerned?
- Intrathecal TXA has a 50% mortality, and frequently leaves survivors with permanent neurological injury.
- Once recognised, immediate, aggressive management may improve outcome (particularly, CSF lavage).
- Although rarely published, the increased use of intra-operative TXA may bring it into close proximity with common intrathecal drug ampoules, increasing the risk of this devastating error. Case report publication dates support the increasing incidence.
- Knowing the potential for this error is the first step to avoiding it both personally and systemically.
- Almost all cases involve drug swap errors with major human factor contributions.
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