Emergency medical care in the field is one of the most critical phases of care for patients. It largely determines whether a patient will live through the ordeal or not. Emergency medical care out in the field assists in stabilizing the patient to receive further care in the hospital setting. If not well performed, patients can lose their lives on the way to the hospital or upon arrival or lose vital bodily functions in the process. Over time, care professionals found that a thorough knowledge of disease pathophysiology goes a long way in helping emergency medical care teams achieve their purposes and save numerous lives.
Pathophysiology refers to the study of the abnormal biological and physical changes that occur in the patient due to disease processes (Neu et al., 2017). In other words, it entails the events that take place in the body when an injury or disease causes abnormal reactions in the body. Such alterations typically manifest in unusual laboratory findings, mental status defects, changes in physical status, such as breathing and level of pain, and altered vital signs (body temperature, oxygen levels, blood pressure, and heart rate).
Pathophysiology is essential in emergency medical care out in the field in varied ways. Schulz et al. assert that sufficient knowledge of the pathophysiology of various conditions empowers emergency care providers to identify the stage of the disease better and more comprehensively evaluate the patient’s health condition (2021). Thus, pathophysiology enables timely, effective, targeted and appropriate interventions that save lives instead of guesswork or a broad, hopeful approach that may lead to medical errors. Thus, the caregiver can also intervene in a culturally competent fashion since they know what to target to save the patient.
Moreover, knowledge of pathophysiology informs the caregiver of the most urgent things to care for in the field during transportation or stabilization. For instance, a healthcare professional gains understanding that pathophysiological changes involving the airway, breathing, and circulation/ cardiovascular system (ABCs) demand the most immediate attention according to the institutional procedures and policies. For example, cardiac failure often presents with the absence of respiration and pulse. Hence, the priority of the care professional in the field involves initiating CPR, assessing the patient’s respiration and pulse, and alerting the waiting team. The professional can also start an intravenous line where there is no intravenous access.
Pathophysiology helps care professionals to understand the prevailing condition of patients. The caregiver comprehends the events at cellular level secondary to disease, enabling them to offer appropriate assistance. For example, an emergency responder would understand that presenting headache could be a consequence of a pinched nerve, stress, dehydration, or some other condition. According to Beckett & Conlogue (2019), pathophysiology helps to develop treatment plans for patients according to their disease progression levels. As the caregiver stabilizes the patient, they can also arrange for urgent and specific tests upon arrival at the care facility based on their evaluation of the patient and knowledge of pathophysiology.
Apart from helping to develop and apply appropriate treatment plans for patients and conducting specific diagnostic evaluations, knowledge of pathophysiology helps in care in the field by facilitating better pharmacological decisions. A proper understanding of the disease pathology enables the professionals to administer effective drugs to target the ailment and bring relief. Without such comprehension, pharmacological interventions are blind and mostly ineffective. Moreover, pathophysiology enables medical professionals to think critically and act ahead of the disease to save lives. If the provider knows the next step of the ailment, they can undertake appropriate steps to halt disease progression more effectively.
Beckett, R. G., & Conlogue, G. J. (2019). The importance of pathophysiology to the understanding of functional limitations in the bioarchaeology of care approach. International Journal of Paleopathology, 25, 118–128.
Neu, E., Michailov, M. C., Foltin, V., Senn, T., Welscher, U., Foltinova, J., Graw, J., Hofstetter, A., Hohlbrugger, G., Madersbacher, H., Weissenbacher, E. R., & Weiss, D. G. (2017). On importance of pathophysiology for an integrative toxicology. Toxicology Letters, 280(Supplement 1), S305.
Schulz R., Andreadou I, & Ferdinandy P. (2021). Editorial: PCSK9: Importance in Physiology and Pathophysiology. Frontiers in Physiology, 12.