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Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. Helps Emergency Physicians Improve Lifesaving Efforts In Hospitals

HMM Founding Partner Christopher T. Hurley took lessons learned from a recent trial to advocate for and fund The Emergency Airway Management Course at NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Evanston Hospital

On November 15 and 16, 2016, Chicago’s emergency physicians got the opportunity to up their “airway game” from a unique source. Trial attorney Chris Hurley, Founding Partner of Chicago personal injury law firm Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C., funded a two-day airway management workshop for local emergency physicians at Evanston Hospital.

Hurley’s interest in the program arose from his work on a recent trial involving a young mother who died in a Chicago-area hospital’s emergency room after an asthma attack. The problem: she went too long without oxygen while in an emergency room, and the physicians caring for her did not utilize the proper techniques for ensuring that the woman would get life-saving oxygen through intubation, cricothyrotomy or other recognized techniques.

In preparing for trial, Hurley learned:

  • Approximately 25,000 potentially life-threatening errors occur DAILY in hospital Intensive Care Units with approximately 10% of the adverse events involving unintended and preventable incidents related to airway management. More than half of these errors are deemed preventable. (Hurst T, Thomas AN. "Airway Safety in Adult Intensive Care." Care of the Critically Ill. Feb.2 (2010): 65-69).
  • Rare, yet catastrophic, airway mismanagement leads to severe morbidity and mortality and costs providers and hospitals large amounts in settlements. (American Society Anesthesiologists (ASA Closed Claims Database)
  • Failure to evaluate the airway and predict difficulty is the single most important factor leading to a failed airway. 20% of all adverse airway events in hospitals result from difficult airways (American Society Anesthesiologists (ASA) Closed Claims Database) (Hurst T, Thomas AN. "Airway Safety in Adult Intensive Care." Care of the Critically Ill. Feb.2 (2010): 65-69.)
  • 20% of Emergency intubations in anesthesia and emergency medicine practice may result in difficult to manage airways. (Hung O and Murphy MF, Management of the Difficult and Failed Airway, 2012, p.4; with footnotes 9 – 12)
  • “First pass” success or single attempt intubations decreases rate of complications by 33% (Sakles JC, Chiu S, Mosier J, Walker C, Stolz U. “The importance of first pass success when performing orotracheal intubation in the emergency department.” Acad Emerg Med. 2013 Jan; 20(1):71-8. doi: 10.1111/acem.12055.

Hurley also found a text that described in detail how to prevent such a catastrophe--The Manual of Emergency Airway Management, by Ron Walls, MD, and Michael Murphy, MD. This airway text is called the “airway bible” by many emergency medicine experts. “I noticed early on from studying The Manual that the most critical steps had not been taken to protect my client’s airway and save her life,” said Hurley. “You cannot just move on from a case like that – especially when you feel that it could have been prevented.”

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