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What Is Advanced Pediatric Life Support?

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  • Written By: Benjamin Arie
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Advanced Pediatric Life Support (APLS) is a medical training course that covers emergency procedures for use on infants and children. The APLS curriculum is designed for health professionals such as paramedics and doctors, and it addresses important life-saving actions that are commonly used for critically ill pediatric patients. The Advanced Pediatric Life Support course helps medical professionals understand the anatomical differences between children and adults, which helps them provide the best care in an emergency.

Before the 1980s, there were no emergency medical courses focused specifically on pediatric life support. Several physicians, led by Dr. Martha Bushore-Fallis, recognized the need for this training and began putting together a program. The first APLS training course was held in 1984, and a comprehensive course manual was published in 1989. These developments greatly advanced the pediatric life support education of emergency providers.

APLS courses are organized and certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics. A similar course, known as Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), is offered by the American Heart Association. Both APLS and PALS cover many of the same topics but are certified by different organizations. The American Heart Association's PALS program focuses primarily on pediatric resuscitation, and the American Academy of Pediatrics' APLS course deals with a broader range of pediatric medical emergencies.

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At the core of APLS emergency training is a technique called the Pediatric Assessment Triangle (PAT). The PAT allows medical professionals to quickly determine the severity of a child's condition and provides clues regarding the cause of an emergency. Three elements form the pediatric assessment triangle: appearance, breathing and circulation. First responders use these three indicators to decide which course of action is most appropriate for an advanced pediatric life support patient.

APLS training programs teach a variety of actions that can be used to treat problems revealed by the pediatric assessment triangle. Many of these actions are similar to responses intended for adults, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The responses taught through APLS are adapted for children, who have more fragile body structures and different sizes of internal organs. For example, chest compressions used during CPR are modified to be less forceful and more rapid than with adults.

In addition to pediatric CPR, APLS training includes information on respiratory management, the use of defibrillators for cardiac emergencies and the administration of intravenous fluids. Every action taught through an Advanced Pediatric Life Support course is designed to be as effective as possible for pediatric patients and helps to prepare first responders for real-life emergencies.

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