BACKGROUND: Peripheral nerve stimulation is necessary to quantify the level of neuromuscular blockade and prevent prolonged paralysis related to drug accumulation. Some nurses and physicians are hesitant to administer nerve stimulation because of concerns about inflicting pain on the patient. OBJECTIVE: To describe the feeling associated with train-of-four ulnar nerve stimulation, and to quantify discomfort, monitor heart rate response, and define the amount of current necessary to stimulate thumb adduction. METHODS: Healthy, nonmedicated volunteer subjects (N = 39) were asked to describe train-of-four ulnar nerve monitoring at 3 current strengths. Heart rate was monitored throughout the testing procedure. The milliamperes delivered at each current strength and the occurrence of thumb adduction were recorded. RESULTS: Subjects described nerve stimulation generally as an unusual prickly sensation. On a discomfort scale of 1 to 10, the mean discomfort score when stimulated with the current setting at 4 (15.5-23.6 mA) was 3.63. Level 4 stimulation produced thumb adduction in 54% of subjects. No heart rate change occurred in response to nerve stimulation. CONCLUSION: Nerve stimulation by train-of-four method was moderately uncomfortable but not painful. Heart rate response could not be relied on as a measurement of discomfort. Protocols for stimulation should include testing at level 4 and increasing as necessary to cause thumb adduction.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the characteristics and service utilization patterns of long-term ventilator-dependent patients. DESIGN: Using medical records, a cohort of ventilator-dependent patients was identified and followed. SETTING: A vertically integrated healthcare system in southwestern Pennsylvania. PATIENTS: Forty-nine adults requiring prolonged ventilatory assistance. MEASURES: Demographics, admission date, admission diagnosis, discharge diagnosis, reason for ventilator dependency, level of care to which the patient was admitted, dates of all transfer orders, dates of all transfers between levels of care, discharge destination and subsequent readmissions. RESULTS: The major reason for long-term ventilator dependency was progressive debilitating disease of either a pulmonary or nonpulmonary nature. The mean length of stay within the system was 72.6 days +/- 42.55 (median = 59 days, range = 24 to 267 days). Patients had an average of 3.3 transfers +/- 2.53 within the system (median = 3, range = 0 to 10). No delays in transfer to lower levels of care were found. Health utilization variables were largely unrelated to reason for ventilator dependency. Almost half of the patients (n = 24 or 49.0%) died in the system. Patients who died in the system were significantly older than patients for whom discharge home was possible. CONCLUSIONS: Additional studies are necessary to describe the prevalence, etiology, health status and functional status of ventilator patients at all levels of care; the impact of different system approaches on patient well-being and cost of care; and the process of medical decision making. Economic analyses of costs and outcomes for ventilator-dependent patients using a cost-utility approach are also needed.