Emerg Med J 30:483-486 doi:10.1136/emermed-2012-201239
  • Original article

Transfer of patients with ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm from general hospitals to specialist vascular centres: results of a Delphi consensus study

Open Access
  1. Janet T Powell3
  1. 1St George's Vascular Institute, St George's Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Improving Global Health through Leadership Development Programme, NHS South of England, Winchester, UK
  3. 3Vascular Surgery Research Group, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Janet T Powell, Vascular Surgery, Imperial College, Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham Palace Road, London W6 8RF, UK; j.powell{at}


Aim To explore areas of consensus and disagreement concerning the interhospital transfer of patients with a clinical diagnosis of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Methods A three-round Delphi questionnaire approach was used among vascular and endovascular surgery and emergency medicine specialists to explore patient characteristics and clinical management issues for emergency interhospital transfer. Analysis is based on 38 responses to rounds 2 and 3 (19 vascular surgeons, 6 interventional radiologists, 13 emergency care specialists) with agreement reported when 70% of respondents were in agreement.

Results Initially there was agreement that transfer patients should be <85 years of age, either alert or with fluctuating consciousness, with moderate or minimal systemic disease, needing no/some help with daily living. Round 3 clarified that patients requiring inotropes and those institutionalised for mental infirmity should be transferred. Those with cardiac arrest in current episode should not be transferred. There was no agreement as to whether those institutionalised with physical infirmities, unconscious/intubated patients or those with severe systemic disease should be transferred. Speed was accepted as important, with agreement for specialty trainees to arrange transfer if consultants were not on site. Consultant–consultant discussion was recommended for patients with severe systemic disease. CT confirmation of diagnosis was considered unnecessary before transfer but ultrasound assessment was desirable, and transfers should not be delayed by waiting for specific tests. There was no agreement about blood tests and ECG before transfer or whether blood should accompany the patient being transferred. There was no agreement as to whether specific staff/facilities needed to be in place at the specialist hospital. A systolic blood pressure ≥70 mm Hg was sufficient for transfer without the need for intravenous fluids unless deterioration occurred.

Conclusions There is broad agreement about the type of patient who should be eligible for transfer but disagreements about patient management before and during transfer remain.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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0.5% - 43% response rate
3% - 41% response rate
10% - 16% response rate

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