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Prehosp Emerg Care. 2003 Jan-Mar;7(1):13-23.

Prehospital therapy for acute congestive heart failure: state of the art.

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University of Pittsburgh, Department of Emergency Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Acute congestive heart failure (CHF) is one of the most common syndromes encountered in emergency care settings. Correct diagnosis and treatment for pulmonary edema, the most common acute manifestation of CHF, are of primary importance as misdiagnosis can result in deleterious consequences to patients. The pathogenesis of acute pulmonary edema (APE) is currently believed to arise primarily from the redistribution of intravascular fluid to the lungs secondary to acutely elevated left ventricular (LV) filling pressures. This understanding has provided a basis for the management of acute APE, which entails reduction of LV preload, reduction of LV afterload, ventilatory support, inotropic support as needed, and identification and treatment of other underlying factors contributing to elevated LV filling pressures. The agent most applicable and effective for field treatment is nitroglycerin. Diuretics and morphine should be used with caution, as they carry higher risks, especially in misdiagnosed patients. The role of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors has yet to be demonstrated in a prehospital setting. Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation methods are effective adjuncts to current treatment, but their mode of delivery presents technical challenges. The development of novel rapid diagnostic tools, currently in progress, might prove valuable for emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in the future. But for now, EMS personnel must rely on their fundamental skills of history taking and physical examination for accurate diagnosis of CHF.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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