Clinical Utility of the epoc Blood Analysis System in the Pre-hospital Setting

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Pre-hospital personnel, including emergency medical services (EMS) first responders, EMTs, and paramedics, are trained to assess patient signs and symptoms and deliver specific protocol-based treatments in the field, serving a critical role in improving the outcomes of both acute diseases and acute exacerbations of chronic illnesses.1

The availability of point-of-care-testing in the pre-hospital setting can supplement the expert clinical assessment provided by these healthcare professionals and potentially improve diagnostic accuracy, leading to rapid initiation of appropriate therapeutic actions.

A University of Alabama at Birmingham study demonstrated implementation of POCT in critical care transport led to a change in treatment, or therapeutic yield, of 30% in patients with a wide variety of diagnoses, including trauma, cardiac, pulmonary, and transplant conditions and premature birth.3

Point-of-care blood analysis systems that provide on-the-scene measurements, including metabolites, electrolytes and blood gases, have been demonstrated to be valuable tools in improving patient outcomes.3 These tests can provide a snapshot of a patient’s health, indicating problems such as:4

  • Kidney failure
  • Insulin shock or diabetic coma
  • Respiratory distress
  • Heart rhythm changes

Some potential scenarios for use of POCT in the pre-hospital setting include:5

  • Identification of hyperkalemia (high potassium) as the cause of EKG changes that could precede a cardiac arrest
  • Identification of septic shock by an elevated lactate level in the presence of a known infection
  • Measurement of creatinine to identify acute kidney injury (AKI)
  • Blood gas testing to distinguish respiratory distress from respiratory failure, determine who should receive CPAP or intubation, and monitor/adjust ventilator settings




All forms of dyspnea or hypoxia

Blood gases


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Blood gases and electrolytes


Suspected acidosis

Blood gases and electrolytes


Cardiogenic shock resistant to therapy

Blood gases and electrolytes


Control of mechanical ventilation

Blood gases


Cardiac arrhythmias and tachycardia



Tissue hypoxia, sepsis, septic shock, and hypovolemic shock



Diabetes, altered mental state, seizure, acute coronary syndrome, organ injury, trauma, sepsis, septic shock, and burns



Internal or external hemorrhage; estimation of blood loss

Hemoglobin and hematocrit


Hydration status



Kidney function prior to administration of contrast agents in CT or MRI


Table 2: Key measurements from point-of-care blood analysis: a snapshot of patient health.8-10

Metabolites & Electrolytes

This collection of tests―sometimes referred to as basic chemistries or a basic metabolic panel―provides a snapshot into a patient’s health, including kidney function, blood sugar levels, and levels of key ions involved in fluid balance. These measurements include:8


  • Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
  • Creatinine (Cr)
  • Glucose
  • Lactate


  • Sodium (Na+)
  • Potassium (K+)
  • Chloride (Cl-)
  • Ionized Calcium (Ca++)
  • Anion Gap

Blood Gas

Blood gas analysis provides several important measurements, which together provide insight into a patient’s pulmonary gas exchange, blood oxygenation, and acid-base balance.9 These measurements can be affected in a range of respiratory and non-respiratory diseases.

  • pH - Hydrogen ion (H+)
  • Carbon Dioxide Partial Pressure (pCO2)
  • Bicarbonate (HC03-)
  • Base Excess (BE)
  • Oxygen partial pressure (pO2)
  • Oxygen Saturation (sO2)
  • Hemoglobin (Hb)

epoc Blood Analysis System

The epoc Blood Analysis System enables fast, accurate, and easy measurement of metabolites, electrolytes, and blood gas from only a few drops of blood (see Table 3).9

  • Room-temperature stability
  • Arterial, venous or capillary samples
  • Results available in < 1 minute

Published reports demonstrate that emergency medical services that have implemented the epoc system have experienced the value of adding point-of-care diagnostic testing to their pre-hospital care.11,12

  • A North Carolina hospital-associated critical care transport team implemented the epoc Blood Analysis system as a way to begin sepsis treatment in the field.11 Using the epoc system to obtain a lactate level in the field helped them achieve their goal: In the first year, they reduced mortality from 47% to 24%, eventually decreasing to 14%. Additionally, they reported:

    “We’ve found that nearly half the time someone runs labs in one of our vehicles, they can directly link that to a change in the care provided to that patient.”
  • A Texas EMS agency reported using the epoc system on approximately 50% of their calls, referring to the lab results it provides as “a game changer” and reporting that the response from receiving facilities was quite positive:12

    “I’ll tell you, nothing makes the receiving emergency department staff (nurses and physicians) happier than when you walk in the door with labs in hands. They’re even happier when you walk in with initial labs in hand, explain your treatment plan, and follow-up labs showing improvement and/or complete resolution of the issue. It alleviates a lot of the workload, as the nursing staff isn’t scrambling to draw labs, and allows the staff to focus on a proper transfer of patient care.”12

pH, pCO2, pO2 (blood gases)

Aid in the diagnosis and aid in the treatment of life-threatening acid-base disturbances

Total Carbon Dioxide (TCo2)

Aid in the diagnosis and aid in the treatment of disorders associated with changes in body acid-base balance

Sodium (Na+)

Aid in the diagnosis and aid in the treatment of diseases involving electrolyte imbalance

Potassium (K+)

Aid in the diagnosis and aid in the treatment of diseases involving electrolyte imbalance

Calcium (Ca+)

Aid in the diagnosis and aid in the treatment of parathyroid disease, a variety of bone diseases, chronic renal disease, and tetany

Chloride (Cl-)

Aid in the diagnosis and aid in the treatment of electrolyte and metabolic disorders.

Glucose (BGL)

Aid in the diagnosis and aid in the treatment of carbohydrate metabolism disorders, including diabetes mellitus and idiopathic hypoglycemia, and of pancreatic islet cell tumors


Evaluation of acid base status and are used in the diagnosis and treatment of lactic acidosis (abnormally high acidity of the blood)

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)

Aid in the diagnosis and aid in the treatment of certain renal and metabolic diseases

Creatinine (Cr)

Aid in the diagnosis and aid in the treatment of certain renal diseases and monitoring of renal dialysis


Distinguishing normal from abnormal states of blood volume, such as anemia and erythrocytosis

Calculated Values

  • Bicarbonate cHCO3-
  • Calculated Total Carbon Dioxide cTCO2
  • Base Excess BE
  • Oxygen Saturation cSO2
  • Alveolar Oxygen A
  • Arterial Alveolar Oxygen Tension Gradient A-a
  • Arterial Alveolar Oxygen Tension Ratio a/A
  • Anion Gap AGap
  • AGapK
  • Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate
    • GFRmgr
    • GFRmdr-a
    • GFRckd
    • GFRckd-a
    • GFRswz
  • BUN/Crea Ratio
  • Urea/Crea Ratio
  • Hemoglobin cHgb
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