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Critical Findings

Table 2-1Findings that Warrant Immediate Physician Referral

The On-Field Examination


Schematic representation of the on-field decision-making process


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Type Characteristics Implication
Accelerated Pulse >150 beats per minute (bpm) (>170 bpm usually has fatal results.) Pressure on the base of the brain; shock
Bounding Pulse that quickly reaches a higher intensity than normal, then quickly disappears Ventricular systole and reduced peripheral pressure
Deficit Pulse in which the number of beats counted at the radial pulse is less than that counted over the heart itself Cardiac arrhythmia
High Tension Pulse in which the force of the beat is increased; an increased amount of pressure is required to inhibit the radial pulse. Cerebral trauma
Low Tension Short, fast, faint pulse having a rapid decline Heart failure; shock

Respiratory Rate and Pattern

  • Rapid, shallow breaths: Rib fracture; internal injury; shock

  • Deep, quick breaths: Pulmonary obstruction; asthma

  • Noisy, raspy breaths: Airway obstruction

Abnormal breathing patterns are further classified based on the tempo and relationship between inspirations and exhalations.

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Type Characteristics Implications
Apneustic Prolonged inspirations unrelieved by attempts to exhale Trauma to the pons
Biot's Periods of apnea followed by hyperapnea Increased intracranial pressure
Cheyne-Stokes Periods of apnea followed by breaths of increasing depth and frequency Frontal lobe or brain stem trauma
Slow Respiration consisting of fewer than 12 breaths per minute CNS disruption
Thoracic Respiration in which the diaphragm is inactive and breathing occurs only through expansion of the chest; normal abdominal movement is absent Disruption of the phrenic nerve or its nerve roots

On-Field History

  • Location of the pain

  • Peripheral symptoms

  • Mechanism of the injury

  • Associated sounds and symptoms

  • History of injury

On-Field Inspection


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