Some movies are based on real life events. But, sometimes people go to extremes and think movie scenes can be applied to real life situations such as using a ballpoint pen to open an airway.
Sticking a ballpoint pen into someone's neck to assist breathing is actually dangerous, a new study has revealed. While some emergency textbooks recommend using ballpoint pens as emergency breathing tubes, present evidence suggest that it could be doing more harm than good.
Dr. Ulrich Kisser from Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich and his team tested three types of ballpoint pens, which can be used as possible breathing tubes. Of the three, only two were used for the study.
To demonstrate whether ballpoint pens would be effective in affording temporary airway in cases of emergencies, 10 individuals such as police officers, lawyers, and students set out to create an airway passage by pushing ballpoint pens through fresh cadaver necks. The result: only one individual was able to open the airway, while the rest were unsuccessful, and some even hit the cadavers' thyroid gland.
But that one person who successfully established airflow was only able to do so after three attempts within five minutes. The neck and airway were also damaged.
The researchers said that attempting cricothyroidotomy using ballpoint pen alone is not possible. Researchers concluded that airflow resistance makes it difficult for ballpoint pens to establish effective ventilation and that the cricothyroid ligament is too resilient for ballpoint pens to penetrate.
But, a dismantled ballpoint pen can be used as a breathing tube once airflow is established.
Cricothyroidotomy is done during emergency situations to assist the patient's breathing when it is compromised by blockage, inflammation, or trauma. Emergency personnel use scalpels and tubes, however.
"Trying to perform this without any medical type of experience would potentially lead to consequences and failure," said Dr. Michael Kamali, chair of Emergency Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, who was not part of the study. "It's something I would not recommend [sic] people take on."
Only those with proper knowledge of basic life support such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation are advised to provide intervention; otherwise, it would be best to err on the side of caution.
When someone is having difficulty breathing, keep that nifty ballpoint pen, pull out your phone, and put it to good use by calling 911.
The study was published in Emergency Medical Journal on April 19.