Question 21

A 30-year-old patient was admitted to the ICU with a traumatic brain injury and cervical spine injury. The patient is intubated, ventilated, has an intracranial pressure (ICP) monitor in situ and remains on spinal precautions. The ICP is rising despite medical management and in response to this, a CT brain is considered.
a) Outline the preparation for the transfer to and from the CT scanner for this patient. (7 marks)
b) Outline the challenges in transferring this patient and indicate how you will manage them. (3 marks)

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College Answer

Syllabus topic/section:

2.1.    Medical Expert.
2.1.1    Structure and process – L1.


The candidate is expected to have a good understanding of intrahospital transfer of patients.
The candidate is expected to be able to anticipate and manage issues regarding the transfer of patient with traumatic brain injury and cervical spine injuries.

Candidates generally performed well in this question and good answers were characterised by clear headings with subsequent relevant clinical detail and prioritisation. Candidates who performed below the standard expected, excluded key safety aspects as outlined in the College guideline document "IC-10 Guidelines for Transport of Critically Ill Patients", provided largely unstructured responses, or neglected to identify the specific challenges and priorities posed by transporting a patient with a raised ICP and C-spine injury.

As the question required candidates to outline, they were required to include what they would do and why, rather than just a transport checklist. Candidates should be encouraged to think about the major points, use sub-heading for these and then list or describe relevant detail under each heading.

Several candidates did not address the second part of the question or only put 1 or 2 examples of challenges with little or no detail regarding management. Many easy marks were forfeited in this section. Candidates should look at the allocated marks (in this case 3 marks) and consider that it is likely that a minimum of three or more significant challenges (and their management) would be required for full marks. Examples of challenges would include emergency management for ICP control during transport with limited resources (e.g. in the lift) , the difficult in maintaining C-spine protection, dislodgement of various life sustaining equipment, logistical, staffing, and ventilation issues among others.


IC-10 is the definitive guide referred to by the college in their answer, but it contains very little about intrahospital transport, mostly referring to the equiment and preparation required for "medical retrieval", i.e. interhospital transport of the critically ill. 


  • Staff
    • ("at least of an appropriately qualified nurse, an orderly, and a medical practitioner with the specific skills and training required for such transport")
    • More staff will be required at the receiving CT scanner, as this patient will need to be log-rolled
  • Communication
    • Destination notified of departure (to expedite the preparation of the scanner, contrast, extra staff for log roll, etc)
    • Porters notified of the timing of return transport (so there will be no delay for return)
    • Intubation grade is communicated to the transporting staff
    • Documentation of observations and events during transport
    • Handover to the home team on return
  • Emergency equipment
    • Airway drugs and sedation/NMJ relaxants checked and present
    • Airway equipment
    • Mannitol and hypertonic saline
    • Clamps for drains and tubes
  • Safety equipment
    • Two oxygen cylinders, full
    • Monitor batteries
    • Spare IV line

Challenges in transporting this patient:

  • EVD management
    • Keep the system upright; avoid laying it on the bed
    • Close it for transport (otherwise a disastrous amount of CSF will potentially drain out with changes in posture, as you lay the patient flat and roll them, or air will get entrained into the ventricles) 
  • C-spine management in transfer
    • Log roll for transport on/off the CT scanner
  • Emergency management of ICP control during transit
    • NMJ blockade and deep sedation for transport
    • Osmotherapy available on hand to manage any crises


ANZCA "Guidelines for Transport of Critically Ill Patients

CICM "Minimum Standards for Transport of Critically Ill Patients" (IC-10, 2010)

Warren, Jonathan, et al. "Guidelines for the inter-and intrahospital transport of critically ill patients*." Critical care medicine 32.1 (2004): 256-262.

Knight, Patrick H., et al. "Complications during intrahospital transport of critically ill patients: Focus on risk identification and prevention.International journal of critical illness and injury science 5.4 (2015): 256.

Bergman, Lina, et al. "Improving quality and safety during intrahospital transport of critically ill patients: a critical incident study." Australian Critical Care 33.1 (2020): 12-19.

Williams, Peter, et al. "A checklist for intrahospital transport of critically ill patients improves compliance with transportation safety guidelines." Australian critical care 33.1 (2020): 20-24.Stout, Donald E., et al. "Management of external ventricular drains during intrahospital transport for radiographic imaging." Journal of Radiology Nursing 38.2 (2019): 92-97.