Identifying high cognitive load activities during simulated pediatric cardiac arrest using functional near-infrared spectroscopy


Aim To identify specific activities associated with high cognitive load during simulated pediatric out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (POHCA) resuscitation using physiological monitoring with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Methods We recruited teams of emergency medical services (EMS) responders from fire departments located throughout the Portland, OR metropolitan area to participate in POHCA simulations. Teams consisted of both paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), with one paramedic serving as the person in charge (PIC). The PIC was outfitted with the OctaMon to collect fNIRS signals from the prefrontal cortex. Signals reported changes in oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin concentrations, which were used to determine moments of increased cognitive activity. Increased cognitive activity was determined by significant increases in oxygenated hemoglobin and decreases in deoxygenated hemoglobin. Significant changes in fNIRS signals were associated with specific concurrent clinical tasks recorded by two independent researchers using video review. Results We recorded cognitive activity of EMS providers in 18 POHCA simulations. We found that a proportion of PIC’s experienced relatively high cognitive load during medication administration, defibrillation, and rhythm checks compared to other events. Conclusion EMS providers commonly experienced increased cognitive activity during key resuscitation tasks that were related to safely coordinating team members around calculating and administering medications, defibrillation, and rhythm and pulse checks. Understanding more about activities that require high cognitive demand can inform future interventions that reduce cognitive load.

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