Here is this month’s summary of my favorite reads from the medical literature.
A simple clinical test to rule out PE? (Yeah right)
Amin Q, Perry JJ, Stiell IG, Mohapatra S, Alsadoon A, Rodger M. Ambulatory vital signs in the workup of pulmonary embolism using a standardized 3-minute walk test. CJEM. 2015;17:(3)270-8. PMID: 26034913
I love this study, although unfortunately it isn’t useful for clinical practice. It is a prospective cohort study of 114 patients, either in an ED or a thrombosis clinic, who were suspected of or had newly confirmed PE. They had patients walk for 3 minutes, and then measured heart rate and oxygen saturation. An increase in HR >10 had a sensitivity of 96.6% and a specificity of 31% for PE. A drop in O2 sat ≥2% had a sensitivity of 90.2% and a specificity of 39.3%. The combination of both had a sensitivity of 100% (95% CI 87-100) and a specificity of 11% (95% CI 6-21).
Bottom line: Although vitals signs seem to change in PE patients when walking, this is a pilot study and isn’t ready for prime time. The horrible specificity of this test may render it clinically useless.
We miss very few MIs, no matter what people want to tell you
Weinstock MB, Weingart S, Orth F, et al. Risk for Clinically Relevant Adverse Cardiac Events in Patients With Chest Pain at Hospital Admission. JAMA Intern Med. 2015. PMID: 25985100
A bunch of big names on this one: David Newman, Scott Weingart, Michael Weinstock. This is a retrospective review, with decent methods, looking at 11,230 patients admitted for an ACS rule out, but who had 2 normal troponins in the ED. In total, 20 of those patients (0.18%; 95%CI 0.11-0.27) had any of: an arrhythmia, STEMI, cardiac arrest, or death during their hospitalization. If you exclude patients with abnormal vital signs or abnormal ECGs, only 4 out of 7266 (0.06%; 95%CI 0.02-0.14%) patients had any of those outcomes.
Bottom line: If you are ruled out by biomarkers and ECG, you are probably ruled out as well as we will ever be able to accomplish.
Patient oriented outcomes: PPIs don’t improve any of them
Cabot JC, Shah K. Are proton-pump inhibitors effective treatment for acute undifferentiated upper gastrointestinal bleeding? Ann Emerg Med. 2014;63:(6)759-60. PMID: 24199839
I know we just talked about the use of PPIs in GI bleeds, but I will throw this in as a bit of staged repetition. This is one of the Annal’s systematic review snap shot series, covering the Cochrane review of the same topic. I will quote: “In conclusion, this systematic review does not demonstrate improvement in clinically important outcomes with proton-pump inhibitor treatment before index endoscopy for undifferentiated upper gastrointestinal bleeding”
Bottom line: We need to choose wisely and stop using PPIs for our GI bleed patients
You actually heard a pericardial friction rub! Now what?
Imazio M, Brucato A, Cemin R, et al. A randomized trial of colchicine for acute pericarditis. N Engl J Med. 2013;369:(16)1522-8. PMID: 23992557
An RCT of 240 patients with acute pericarditis, comparing colchicine (0.5mg daily if 70kg) to placebo. All patients got NSAIDs. The primary outcome of incessant or recurrent pericarditis was decreased from 38% with placebo to 17% with colchicine. Colchicine also decreased symptoms at 72 hours, at 1 week, and hospitalizations. Adverse events were not increased in this study, but everyone knows that colchicine can be nasty at higher doses, like those that used to be used for gout.
Bottom line: I tend to prescribe colchicine for pericarditis based on a NNT of about 5 to decrease recurrence or prolonged symptoms
Speaking of which, the correct colchicine dose is low dose
Terkeltaub RA, Furst DE, Bennett K, Kook KA, Crockett RS, Davis MW. High versus low dosing of oral colchicine for early acute gout flare: Twenty-four-hour outcome of the first multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, dose-comparison colchicine study. Arthritis Rheum. 2010;62:(4)1060-8. PMID: 20131255 (free full text)
Hopefully anyone using colchicine for gout has already seen this one. This is a double blind, placebo controlled RCT comparing low dose (1.2mg once then 0.6mg 1 hour later) to high dose (4.8mg over 6 hours) colchicine and to placebo. Pain was significantly improved in about 35% of both colchicine groups, but only 15% of placebo. Severe diarrhea and nausea were both increased by the high dose colchicine, but not the low dose.
Bottom line: Colchicine is equally effective at lower doses than traditionally given, but much better tolerated.
Steri-strips for good cosmetic outcomes
Gkegkes ID, Mavros MN, Alexiou VG, Peppas G, Athanasiou S, Falagas ME. Adhesive strips for the closure of surgical incisional sites: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Surg Innov. 2012;19:(2)145-55. PMID: 21926099
This is a systematic review including 12 RCTs of 1317 patients, comparing the use of adhesive strips to sutures in closing surgical wounds. They found no difference in cosmetic results, infection, or dehiscence. Of course, this is in clean surgical wounds.
Bottom line: Almost every paper I read on wounds just reinforces my inherent bias that it doesn’t really matter how you close wounds – within reason.
More of the same
Mattick A, Clegg G, Beattie T, Ahmad T. A randomised, controlled trial comparing a tissue adhesive (2-octylcyanoacrylate) with adhesive strips (Steristrips) for paediatric laceration repair. Emerg Med J. 2002;19:(5)405-7. PMID: 12204985
An RCT of 44 emergency department pediatric patients comparing steri-strips with dermabond. Both a plastic surgeon and the parents judged cosmetic outcomes. There were no differences between the two groups.
Bottom line: Again, just clean it out and get the edges close. Humans have been healing for millennia.
Reading articles about droperidol leaves me in a state that may require some droperidol
Calver L, Isbister GK. High dose droperidol and QT prolongation: analysis of continuous 12-lead recordings. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2014;77:(5)880-6. PMID: 24168079
I included the much larger study by the same group last month, but it is always nice to explore how many high level decisions in medicine lack a scientific basis. In this prospective observation study, they gave 46 psychiatric patients between 10 and 25 mg of IV droperidol for sedation. All were placed on holter monitors. There were no dysrhythmias. Only 4 patients had any lengthening of their QT and all 4 had other reasons for this, such as methadone.
Bottom line: We should not give up excellent medications based on shoddy science.
Options, for when they take our good drugs away or we run into ‘drug shortages’
Gaffigan ME, Bruner DI, Wason C, Pritchard A, Frumkin K. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Intravenous Haloperidol vs. Intravenous Metoclopramide for Acute Migraine Therapy in the Emergency Department. J Emerg Med. 2015. PMID: 26048068
This is a double-blind RCT of 64 adults with migraines comparing haloperidol 5mg IV to metoclopramide 10mg IV. Both medications offered excellent pain relief, 57/100mm for haloperidol and 49/100mm for metoclopramide (no difference). The metoclopramide group required more rescue medications. There was more restlessness with haloperidol.
Bottom line: Like magnesium (that we discussed a few months ago), Haldol is another option I will keep in mind for the treatment of migraines.
A classic: The FEAST trial
Maitland K, Kiguli S, Opoka RO, et al. Mortality after fluid bolus in African children with severe infection. N Engl J Med. 2011;364:(26)2483-95. PMID: 21615299 (free open access)
This is a classic RCT that randomized 3170 febrile pediatric patients in resource poor environments to either 20ml/kg NS, 20ml/kg albumin, or no bolus. All patients were severely ill with either impaired consciousness or respiratory distress plus signs of impaired perfusion. 48 hour mortality was significantly worse in the bolus groups than the no bolus group (10.5% versus 7.3%). Mortality was also worse at 4 weeks.
Bottom line: In an African setting, poorly perfused pediatric patients do worse with a fluid bolus. Although these results probably don’t generalize to our population, it does remind us that IV fluids are a drug and should be treated as such.
Bonus: This is a free open access article discussing the mechanisms of increased mortality in FEAST. This paper was discussed a great deal at the SMACC conference, and some experts think FEAST is more applicable to our patients than we have recognized.
Vasopressor? Peripheral line is fine
Loubani OM, Green RS. A systematic review of extravasation and local tissue injury from administration of vasopressors through peripheral intravenous catheters and central venous catheters. J Crit Care. 2015;30:(3)653.e9-17. PMID: 25669592
This systematic review looked for any primary studies or case reports that described local tissue injury from vasopressor extravasation, and includes 85 articles and 270 patients. Although there are reports of tissue injuries after peripheral vasopressor administration, these tend to occur after very long use (the average duration of infusion was 55.9 hours.)
Bottom line: Although data is pretty limited, I would be very comfortable starting vasopressors through a peripheral line. Long term management should probably include central access.
What is a placebo controlled trial of sucrose for pain? You compare sugar pills to sugar pills
Harrison D, Yamada J, Adams-Webber T, Ohlsson A, Beyene J, Stevens B. Sweet tasting solutions for reduction of needle-related procedural pain in children aged one to 16 years. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;5:CD008408. PMID: 25942496
This Cochrane review identified 8 studies encompassing 808 pediatric patients, examining the utility of sucrose or other sweet tasting solutions in decreasing the pain of needles. The studies were all small and of moderate quality. Overall, sweetened substances did not seem to lower pain scores no matter what scoring system you used. Prior studies have concluded benefit – but always after trying to assess the look on a neonate’s face. Judging pain in neonates may be difficult, but I think there is an inherent flaw in saying that a child smiled more after the sugar, so it must have hurt less.
Bottom line: If you think a child is in pain, please give them a pain medication, rather than the key ingredient of every placebo ever made.
Speaking of placebos, a needle may not be better than pills
Schwartz NA, Turturro MA, Istvan DJ, Larkin GL. Patients’ perceptions of route of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug administration and its effect on analgesia. Acad Emerg Med. 2000;7:(8)857-61. PMID: 10958124
I love this study. For 64 patients presenting to the ED with an MSK injury, they gave everyone a juice drink that actually had 800mg of ibuprofen in it (unknown to the patients). They then randomized them to either get placebo pills that looked liked 800mg of ibuprofen or a placebo IM injection resembling 60mg of ketorolac. The patients and the nurses were all blinded. There were no differences in pain on a visual analog scale in the 2 hours that followed, contradicting prior research that indicated that needle based placebos are ‘stronger’ than pill based placebos.
Bottom line: Don’t give patients IM/IV medications just for the placebo affect. Oral NSAIDs are almost always appropriate.
An expensive placebo made popular by sports stars
Rowden A, Dominici P, D’Orazio J, et al. Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Use of Platelet-rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) for Acute Ankle Sprains in the Emergency Department. J Emerg Med. 2015. PMID: 26048069
Less relevant to emergency medicine, but I have been asked about platelet rich plasma therapy by patients and friends. This is the (placebo?) therapy of sports stars such as Kobe Bryant, in which your own platelets plus some cytokines are injected back into you to treat tendonitis among other things. This was a double blind RCT comparing platelet rich plasma therapy to placebo for acute ankle sprain in the ED. There was no change in pain or function at day 0, 3, or 8.
Bottom line: Despite the huge amount of money being spent on this by rich athletes, it is unlikely to benefit your patients.
Placebos may not help, but medications can actually hurt you
Fralick M, Macdonald EM, Gomes T, et al. Co-trimoxazole and sudden death in patients receiving inhibitors of renin-angiotensin system: population based study. BMJ. 2014;349:g6196. PMID: 25359996 (Free open access)
This is another great massive case control study from David Juurlink and his group looking at the Ontario drug benefit database. They identified all patients who died suddenly and were treated with either an ACEi or an ARB. Those patients who had been on antibiotics within the 7 days before their death were matched to controls who hadn’t received antibiotics. There were 1027 sudden deaths after antibiotics (out of 38879 total sudden deaths.) Using amoxicillin as the baseline, there was an increased risk of sudden death with co-trimoxazole (OR 1.38 95% CI 1.09-1.76) and ciprofloxacin (OR 1.29 95% CI 1.03-1.62). Risk was not increased with nitrofurantoin or norfloxacin. Of course, all standard problems with database observational studies apply.
Bottom line: A tiny absolute risk in the greater scheme of things, but you might want to consider if your UTI patients are on an ACEi or ARB and all else is equal.
Raising a skeptical eyebrow at the literature
White T, Mellick LB. Debunking medical myths: the eyebrow shaving myth. Emerg Med Open J. 2015; 1(2): 31-33. (Free open access)
I love medical myths, so although this myth has never affected my practice in the emergency department, I thought that I would include it. These authors did a systematic review of the literature to determine if shaving of the eyebrows causes problems with eyebrow regrowth. They did not find a single case report or study that would support this myth. There is one tiny study in which they shaved the eyebrows of volunteers and followed them for 6 months, and they all grew back fine.
Bottom line: I don’t know. If you want to shave some eyebrows, go for it.
Steroids for low back pain?
Balakrishnamoorthy R, Horgan I, Perez S, Steele MC, Keijzers GB. Does a single dose of intravenous dexamethasone reduce Symptoms in Emergency department patients with low Back pain and RAdiculopathy (SEBRA)? A double-blind randomised controlled trial. Emerg Med J. 2015;32:(7)525-30. PMID: 25122642
The idea of using corticosteroids for low back pain seems to pop up every once in a while. Although I have never seen it used, I understand there are a number of people who use this regularly. This was a double-blind RCT of 58 patients with acute low back pain in the ED comparing dexamethasome 8mg IV (1 dose) to placebo. At 24 hours, the dexamethasone group averaged 1.86/10 lower pain scores on a visual analogue scale. At 6 weeks pain scores and function were identical. (They report that the dexamethasone group had a lower ED length of stay, but the length of stay in the placebo group was almost 19 hours, which is incomprehensible to me.)
Bottom line: Like steroids for a lot of MSK conditions, there seems to be short term, but not long term improvement in pain.
We now know the evidence. How do you provoke change? Through shame
Yeh DD, Naraghi L, Larentzakis A, et al. Peer-to-peer physician feedback improves adherence to blood transfusion guidelines in the surgical intensive care unit. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2015;79:(1)65-70. PMID: 26091316
This trial attempted to address the slow uptake of evidence based guidelines surrounding more restrictive transfusion targets for post-op patients. It was a before and after study in a single tertiary surgical ICU. In the intervention period, if physicians ordered a transfusion in a stable patient that didn’t adhere to the guidelines, they received a follow-up email and education from a colleague. The rate of ‘inappropriate transfusions’ went from 25% to 2%. 30 day readmission rates and mortality were unchanged.
Bottom line: If you want physicians to change their behavior, you shouldn’t just teach them. You should provide peer to peer feedback, aka shame.
Cheesy Joke of the Month
Why was the Kleenex dancing?
Because it had a little boogie in it
FOAMed of the month
Why should we be giving fentanyl IN at triage? Check our this rant via the SGEM and Dr. Anthony Crocco:
Morgenstern, J. Articles of the Month (June 2015), First10EM, June 29, 2015. Available at: