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Emergency Readiness
Home > News > Tipsheet List > Tipsheet
Experts Tipsheet

Emergency medicine: Trends & treatments

June 2004

Cell phone survey: Hang up and drive
How dangerous is it to talk on the phone while driving? Very dangerous, thinks Dr. Federico Vaca, assistant professor of emergency medicine at UCI and fellow at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Vaca wrote a commentary on an NHTSA study showing that more than half of American drivers surveyed had a cell phone in their car, and 75 percent felt that cell phone use while driving was unsafe. “Nearly 500,000 Americans are talking on a cell phone while driving at any given time, which may help explain why driver distraction accounts for up to 30 percent of all crashes,” Vaca said. Even a hands-free headset may not solve the problem, Vaca adds, because of the distractions in cognition that occur when performing such multiple tasks as dialing and driving. Contact Federico Vaca at 714-456-5239,  

Computers beat the odds on predicting drug interactions
In busy emergency rooms, doctors must quickly determine what drugs a patient is taking and how they may interact with proposed treatments. That's getting harder to do with a steady stream of new drugs on the market. Dr. Mark Langdorf, chief of emergency medicine, and his colleagues have a potential source for help: a computer. Langdorf and Fox found that faculty members could not identify as many drug interactions as could the computer. Fortunately, the small number of interactions found did not pose harm to patients. “More than half of the patients had potential adverse issues with drugs and alcohol, and others had potential problems stemming from mixing drugs with new prescriptions or lab tests,” Langdorf said. “UCI’s computer program, combined with software on our emergency physicians’ handheld computers, could be invaluable in helping them quickly look up drugs and other substances to ward off potential complications.” Contact Mark Langdorf at 714-456-5239,

Ouch! But is it an emergency?
Which is more likely to send people to an emergency room-stroke symptoms or a sore throat? Patients are more likely than their doctors to think the sore throat is an emergency condition, a UCI College of Medicine study has found. Dr. Brian Bearie, senior emergency medicine resident, found that 12 percent of patients thought sore throats merited a visit, compared to eight percent of doctors. All physicians thought stroke symptoms (partial paralysis) required emergency care; only 83 percent of patients agreed. And abdominal pain would send less than half of patients to an ER, while 80 percent of doctors called the condition an emergency. “With overloaded emergency rooms, we’re not only in danger of missing truly urgent matters because of non-emergencies, we may not even be hearing about emergencies at all,” Bearie said. “Clearly, patients need to better understand what constitutes an emergency, and what does not.” Contact Brian Bearie at 714-456-5239


Related Links

UCI Medical Center's Burn Center

Emergency Medicine


Tom Vasich
(949) 824-6455


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