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    Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon containing materials. CO poisoning causes a range of symptoms of which headache is the most common, occurring in up to 90% of patients. An audit in the Emergency Department at University Hospital Aintree, Liverpool, UK found a lack of clinical awareness among healthcare professionals (HCPs) with CO exposure being considered in only 0.8% of patients presenting with non-traumatic headache. This Quality Improvement Project (QIP) aimed to increase this consideration to 50% of presentations. Three separate sequential Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycles were instigated. Interventions involved verbal reminders to frontline HCPs (cycle 1), using strategically placed CO posters (cycle 2) and finally designing and introducing a CO sticker education scheme (cycle 3). These stickers, highlighting the approved CO COMA acronym, were placed in patient notes to serve as a physical reminder for HCPs when seeing patients. Rapid cycle sequencing was used with each cycle lasting 2 weeks. Patient notes were analysed for evidence that the HCP considered a diagnosis of CO. An average of 61 patients were included in each PDSA cycle. Given baseline findings, each cycle demonstrated positive results with CO awareness being considered in 1.7% and 10.0% of patients with non-traumatic headache following cycles 1 and 2, respectively. The final PDSA cycle demonstrated significant increase in consideration of CO to 42.1% of non-traumatic headache presentations. This QIP demonstrated that even small interventions can lead to significant change in awareness of CO exposure. Implementation of a CO sticker education scheme is a feasible way of increasing awareness among emergency care professionals and serves as a low-cost, easy to use, transferable and sustainable solution to address the lack of CO awareness in acute emergency settings. Importantly, this serves to promote improved patient safety. © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


    Fahad Siddique Malik, Randa Ghazal Asswad, Simon Clarke. Carbon monoxide: raising awareness of the silent killer in the emergency department. BMJ open quality. 2022 Jun;11(2)

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    PMID: 35675945

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