When did you last see a medical emergency?

A research team at Newcastle University is investigating their prevalence – and needs your help

14 December, 2021 / indepth
 Dr Ian Corbett  

Medical emergency events can occur anywhere within a primary dental care setting, whether in the surgery, the patient waiting room, reception or even the bathroom! How confident will you feel when it happens to you?

The GDC identifies managing medical emergencies as an essential skill that requires up-to-date evidence of capability and recommends that all registrants maintain their competence by carrying out at least two hours of medical emergency related continuing professional development (CPD) annually. Furthermore, members of the dental team must understand and be trained in their role for managing a medical emergency.

It has been suggested that most members of the dental team will encounter a medical emergency in their professional career. However, there is limited up-to-date data regarding how often medical emergencies occur in primary care in the UK. Although there have been more recent studies on medical emergency prevalence elsewhere, the last study to investigate the prevalence of medical emergency events among dentists in the UK is now 22 years old.

Approximately 7.6 million people are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease in the UK, with the number expected to rise due to an ageing and growing population. Furthermore, by 2040, diabetes is expected to affect one in 10 people. Polypharmacy is also becoming more common and is driven by an ageing population and the increasing prevalence of co-morbidities. These, in combination with several other factors, lead to an increased risk in medical complications in dental practice, which the dental care team need to be ready to manage.

According to the literature, the most common medical emergencies in dental practice include vasovagal syncope, acute angina, seizures, and hypoglycaemia. The 1999 UK study reported myocardial infarction to be very rare, with only two out of 302 dentists reporting to have patients who have experienced this.

Changes to medical and surgical management techniques for many disease processes may have also influenced the profile of medical emergencies that dentists encounter. With this in mind, a research team at Newcastle University is currently undertaking a survey investigating the prevalence of medical emergency events and the confidence of the dental team in managing them.

The results of the study will hopefully inform training needs and help the dental team to feel more prepared for when an emergency occurs.

Can you help?

The team is looking for dentists, specialists, dental hygienists and therapists to take part in the survey; this includes those working in all aspects of primary care, including general dental practice, specialist practice and community dental services.

The simple online survey is anonymous, takes only a few minutes to complete, and has full UK ethics approval. At the end of the survey you have the opportunity to enter a prize draw for a chance to win a £50 Amazon gift voucher.

To take part in the survey or for more information please visit newcastle.onlinesurveys.ac.uk please, Thank you in advance for helping to make patient safety a priority.

Dr Ian Corbett is a Consultant Oral Surgeon and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Oral Surgery at Newcastle Dental Hospital

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