Research Gaps in Wilderness Medicine

Daniel Tritz, Kody Dormire, Travis Brachtenbach, Joshua Gordon, Donald Sanders, David Gearheart, Julia Crawford, Matt Vassar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Wilderness medicine involves the treatment of individuals in remote, austere environments. Given the high potential for injuries as well as the unique treatment modalities required in wilderness medicine, evidence-based clinical practice guidelines are necessary to provide optimal care. In this study, we identify evidence gaps from low-quality recommendations in wilderness medicine clinical practice guidelines and identify new/ongoing research addressing them. Methods: We included relevant clinical practice guidelines from the Wilderness Medical Society and obtained all 1C or 2C level recommendations. Patient/Problem/Population, intervention, comparison, outcome (PICO) questions were created to address each recommendation. Using 24 search strings, we extracted titles, clinical trial registry number, and recruitment status for 8899 articles. We categorized the articles by trial design to infer the effect they may have on future recommendations. Results: Twelve clinical practice guidelines met inclusion criteria. From these we located 275 low-quality recommendations and used them to create 275 PICO questions. Thirty-three articles were relevant to the PICO questions. Heat-related illness had the highest number of relevant articles (n=9), but acute pain and altitude sickness had the most randomized clinical trials (n=6). Conclusion: Overall, few studies were being conducted to address research gaps in wilderness medicine. Heat-related illness had the most new or ongoing research, whereas no studies were being conducted to address gaps in eye injuries, basic wound management, or spine immobilization. Animals, cadavers, and mannequin research are useful in cases in which human evidence is difficult to obtain. Establishing research priorities is recommended for addressing research gaps identified by guideline panels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-303
Number of pages13
JournalWilderness and Environmental Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • evidence-based emergency medicine
  • immobilization
  • injuries
  • practice guideline
  • snakebites
  • wound


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