Date Published

June 20, 2016

Updated For

ALS PCS Version ALS PCS Version 5.2


Question: I am a ACP student and was discussing among my colleagues the proper time frame for vitals and drug administration for morphine and NTG in the cardiac ischemia medical directive. I understand that each drug has a 5 minute intervals but someone had mentioned that you could stagger both drugs in 5 minute intervals, for example after administering a third NTG wait 5 minutes then morphine then wait 5 minutes then NTG etc. I was wondering what the preferred interval for vital signs and drug administration would be with two drugs staggered at 5 minute intervals.


Excellent question, its actually easy, just perform the vitals every 5 minutes, and then you can pick which drug you are going with next. The practical considerations, and patient preference, and situation can often guide you.

Aspirin decreases mortality in chest pain, and it treats the cause of the pain, so never forget to start with that one.

Then treat the pain!

Generally, it is quicker to access the nitro, and so that is the best one to begin with. It takes time to do the ECG, and start the IV, and so tactically it makes sense to go with nitro first for the first three doses as stated in the protocol. The patient may have taken loads of nitro prior to your arrival, and you may have a partner certified in IV starts, so this may guide you to go with morphine next, although you still have to give a minimum of three doses of nitro as you cannot count the patient nitro dosing. But you may use the effectiveness of nitro overall in this situation to consider morphine.

The patient may be afraid of morphine, or their nitro could be expired. You may choose more nitro in that situation.

Each time whether you are giving 0.4 of nitro, or 2mg of morphine keep taking the vitals every 5 minutes.  In this way if they fall out of protocol for nitro with heart rate below 60 as an example you can adjust your plan. Once they fall out of the directives vital sign parameters for either drug, then they can no longer receive that specific medication even if the patients vitals return to acceptable parameters



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