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When Vinay Prasad, MD, was a resident, strict control of blood glucose for patients in the intensive care unit was considered an important goal. “We really chased tight glycemic control in the medical ICU, but of course, just a few years later, a randomized control trial – NICE-SUGAR – came out showing that that actually led to net harm without benefit,” he said.

That’s just one example of a medical reversal, which occurs when new and superior research contradicts and supersedes existing clinical practice. It’s a phenomenon in which Dr. Prasad, an associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University and the author of Ending Medical Reversal: Improving Outcomes, Saving Lives, is an expert.

He and a team of colleagues from OHSU published a comprehensive review of randomized clinical trials in the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine identifying 396 medical reversals.

At least a dozen of these reversals related specifically to emergency medicine, while many others had at least some relationship to emergency care, trauma, and critical care. A few examples:

Mechanical chest compressions with the LUCAS device, in use since 2003 for treating patients in cardiac arrest, was found in the LINC randomized, controlled trial to have no significant effect on survival compared with manual CPR in patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The ability to achieve ROSC with the mechanical device was inferior to manual chest compression during resuscitation. (JAMA. 2014;311[1]:53)

Early and aggressive intervention with the early goal-directed therapy (EGDT) protocol for ED patients in whom sepsis is suspected was widely adopted after one positive study in 2001. It was later found to confer no added survival benefit compared with usual care and to contribute to increased ICU resource utilization. (JAMA. 2017;318[13]:1233)

The REACT-2 trial found that routine use of an immediate total-body CT scan as part of trauma workup did not reduce in-hospital mortality compared with conventional imaging and selective CT scanning in patients with severe trauma. (Lancet. 2016;388[10045]:673)

Platelet transfusion after acute hemorrhagic stroke associated with antiplatelet therapy was a common practice in the ED (as well as in neurosurgery and stroke units), but the 2015 PATCH study found worsened survival in the platelet transfusion group (68%) compared with the standard care group (77%). (Lancet. 2016;387[10038]:2605)