Sedation-assisted Orthopedic Reduction in Emergency Medicine

The Safety and Success of a One Physician/One Nurse Model

David R. Vinson, MD; Casey L. Hoehn, BA


Western J Emerg Med. 2013;14(1):47-54. 

In This Article


During the 18-month study period we identified 1,322 patients in the 3 EDs who underwent closed reduction for a dislocated shoulder, elbow, or hip, or a fractured forearm. Of these, 442 (33.4%) received procedural sedation during their reduction and constitute our study cohort. Patient demographics and characteristics are described in Table 1. No cases were excluded from analysis because of missing or incomplete records.

The 111 shoulder dislocations included 110 anterior dislocations and 1 posterior dislocation. Three of the anterior dislocations were noted to have minor pre-reduction fractures of the humeral head. Only 1 of the 29 elbow dislocations had a concomitant pre-reduction fracture—a small avulsion fracture of the lateral epicondyle. All 101 hip dislocations involved prosthetic hips; none was fractured. The 201 closed forearm fractures included 134 (66.7%) combined radius and ulna fractures, 66 (32.8%) isolated radius fractures and 1 (0.5%) isolated ulna fracture.

Procedural sedation was performed 457 times on 442 patients. The additional 15 rounds of sedation were required for a second reduction attempt when the first one had failed to achieve adequate anatomical results. Five medications were used during these 457 sedations: propofol (303; 66.3%), etomidate (67; 14.7%), ketamine (57; 12.5%), methohexital (17; 3.7%), midazolam alone (13; 2.8%). Midazolam alone was used exclusively for forearm fracture reduction, and ketamine was used exclusively in children.

In the vast majority of this cohort (98.4% [435/442]; 95% CI, 96.7 - 99.3%), a single emergency physician simultaneously managed both the procedural sedation and the initial orthopedic reduction without the assistance of a second physician. The reduction was successful or satisfactory in 96.6% (425/435; 95% CI, 95.8 - 98.8%) of these cases, with a low incidence of intervention-requiring adverse events (2.8% [12/435]; 95% CI, 1.5 - 4.8%). A two physician/one nurse model was employed in select cases in lieu of the one physician/one nurse model for orthopedic reasons (n = 7; 1.6%) and when the one physician/one nurse model failed to achieve adequate results (n = 15; 3.4%). The two physician team in all 22 cases included an emergency physician and an orthopedic surgeon. The results achieved for each model specific to each of the 4 orthopedic procedures are reported in Table 2.

Overall, procedural sedation was administered 457 times. Adverse events requiring intervention occurred in 12 (2.8%) of 435 cases using the one physician/one nurse model and in none of the 22 two physician/one nurse cases (P = 0.43). Note that the 15 cases initially in the one physician/one nurse group underwent an unsuccessful first attempt at reduction and then were moved into the two physician/one nurse group for the second attempt at reduction. None of these 15 patients experienced an adverse event during their first procedure while in the one physician/one nurse group.

In all cases the ED intervention was sufficient to resolve the adverse event without further sequelae. Most of the adverse events were respiratory in nature. No patients required endotracheal intubation, prolonged observation, or admission for complications. There were no cardiopulmonary arrests and no deaths. The adverse events and their interventions were as follows: One patient who had received etomidate developed apnea, which resolved after 30 seconds of a chinlift procedure. Eight patients who had received propofol alone developed ventilatory insufficiency (4 with hypoxemia below 90% and 4 with apnea), all of whom were successfully treated with less than 2 minutes of supplemental ventilation via bag-valve mask. One patient who had received propofol developed hypotension, which was treated with a bolus of intravenous saline. Another patient who had received propofol and midazolam developed apnea and hypotension, both of which resolved with intravenous flumazenil. One child who had received ketamine developed urticaria, which resolved with intravenous diphenhydramine. No complication required prolonged observation or hospital admission.