Articles of the month (September 2015)

I am on vacation this month and I am trying hard to make it a real vacation. So I am not reading any medical literature, even if I have a minute while wait in line at the Colosseum (yes, that has happened before.) Instead of my usual articles of the month, covering the most recent papers I have been reading, I am going to summarize a few classic emergency medicine papers. Most people probably know all of these already, but it is good to review the evidence behind our practice occasionally. Enjoy…

ARDSnet: The rise of low tidal volumes

Ventilation with lower tidal volumes as compared with traditional tidal volumes for acute lung injury and the acute respiratory distress syndrome. The Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Network. N Engl J Med. 2000;342:(18)1301-8. PMID: 10793162

This is an RCT of 861 mechanically ventilated patients with ALI or ARDS, designed as a 2×2 trial (half of which examined ketoconazole, but that arm of the trial was stopped due to lack of efficacy.) They randomized patients to the now famous ARDSnet protocol of low tidal volumes to limit plateau pressures or a traditional ventilation strategy. The ARDSnet protocol resulted in a decrease in mortality (31.0% versus 39.8%, p=0.007).

Bottom line: Follow the protocol for your intubated patients. (Copy available here)


GUSTO II: Cath versus lytics

Andersen HR, Nielsen TT, Rasmussen K, et al. A comparison of coronary angioplasty with fibrinolytic therapy in acute myocardial infarction. N Engl J Med. 2003;349:(8)733-42. PMID: 12930925 [free full text]

This is a substudy of GUSTO II. It is a prospective multicenter RCT that assigned 1138 patients presenting within 12 hours of their STEMI to either primary angioplasty or thrombolytic (t-PA). For their primary outcome, a composite of death, non-fatal reinfarction, and non-fatal stroke at 30 days, angioplasty had better outcomes (8.0% versus 13.7% p<0.001). This effect was entirely from non-fatal re-infarction, as stroke and death were unchanged – a problem with composite outcomes. Interestingly, and something that we don’t tend to talk about a lot, or at least I was never taught, there was no difference in that composite outcome at 6 months (14.1 vs 16.1% statistically insignificant.)

Bottom line: Angioplasty provides some early benefit over fibrinolytics, but we may be over-emphasizing its benefit. For many centers and specific patients, lytics may still be the best option. (See, I am not just totally against t-PA. I am just for evidence.)


Analgesics for abdominal pain

Mahadevan M, Graff L. Prospective randomized study of analgesic use for ED patients with right lower quadrant abdominal pain. Am J Emerg Med. 2000;18:(7)753-6. PMID: 11103723

I only know the medical world after this study was published, but many people probably still remember the days when surgeons wouldn’t let us treat patients’ pain because it would ruin the abdominal exam. This is a randomized, double blind trial of 68 adult patients suspected of appendicitis, given either tramadol or placebo. Of course, pain was lower in the group that received pain medication (although not by a lot). Not only was the analgesic group examinable, but actually had more specific exams for appendicitis.

Bottom line: If patients are in pain, doctors treat it. I am not sure what surgeons do.


NEXUS: A pain in the neck?

Hoffman JR, Mower WR, Wolfson AB, Todd KH, Zucker MI. Validity of a set of clinical criteria to rule out injury to the cervical spine in patients with blunt trauma. National Emergency X-Radiography Utilization Study Group. N Engl J Med. 2000;343:(2)94-9. PMID: 10891516 [free full text]

Jerry Hoffman. Nexus. This is classic emergency medicine. We should all know the criteria:

  1. No midline cervical tenderness
  2. No focal neurological deficit
  3. Normal alertness
  4. No intoxication
  5. No painful, distracting injury

This was a prospective, multi-centre observational study that included 34,069 patients who had imaging of the cervical spine after blunt trauma and found 818 cervical spine injuries. The decision instrument was 99% sensitive (95%CI 98-99.6%) with a negative predictive value of 99.8% (95%CI 98.0-99.6%). Of course, you do have to accept the specificity of 12.9%. Only 1 of the 8 patients missed had a clinically significant injury that required a surgical intervention.

Bottom line: You can remove c-collars quickly and safely in many patients. If you are EMS, you can probably even prevent them from going on in the first place.


Cage match: NEXUS versus the Canadian C-spine rule

Stiell IG, Clement CM, McKnight RD, et al. The Canadian C-spine rule versus the NEXUS low-risk criteria in patients with trauma. N Engl J Med. 2003;349:(26)2510-8. PMID: 14695411 [free full text]

This is a prospective cohort of 8283 alert trauma patients comparing NEXUS and Canadian c-spine rule (CCR). There were 169 (2%) clinically important c-spine injuries. Unfortunately, in 10% of patients physicians did not properly apply the CCR – they did not assess range of motion as defined. Of course, if a decision instrument is easily misinterpreted (even with the Hawthorne effect of a study) that will affect its utility in practice. How you interpret this study depends entirely on what you do with those patients. If you exclude them, the CCR looks great (sensitivity of 99.4% and specificity of 45.1%). However, if you include them, the sensitivity drops to 95.3% and specificity is 50.7%. This compares with NEXUS with a sensitivity of 90.7% and a specificity of 36.8%. Obviously, neither test performed quite as well as we would hope in this cohort.

Bottom line: It is important to know the specifics of clinical decision instruments, including inclusion and exclusion criteria. I still use a combination of both these tools in clinical practice.


Dexamethasone for croup

Bjornson CL, Klassen TP, Williamson J, et al. A randomized trial of a single dose of oral dexamethasone for mild croup. N Engl J Med. 2004;351:(13)1306-13. PMID: 15385657 [free full text]

This is a multi-centre, double-blind, RCT that included 720 children with mild croup who were randomized to either dexamethasone 0.6mg/kg to a max dose of 20mg or placebo. The children receiving dexamethasone had less “return to medical care” – 7.3% versus 15.3%, p<0.001. The dexamethasone group also had slightly lower croup scores and slept about 1 hour a day more than the placebo group.

Bottom line: A NNT of 14 to prevent further visits is your primary benefit in mild croup.


Dexamethasone for croup: But what dose?

Geelhoed GC, Macdonald WB. Oral dexamethasone in the treatment of croup: 0.15 mg/kg versus 0.3 mg/kg versus 0.6 mg/kg. Pediatr Pulmonol. 1995;20:(6)362-8. PMID: 8649915

This is an RCT of admitted pediatric patients with croup comparing dexamethasone at doses of 0.15mg/kg, 0.3mg/kg, and 0.6mg/kg. There was no difference in length of hospital stay, use of epinephrine, croup scores, or representations for medical care.

Bottom line: Dexamethasone at 0.15mg/kg is probably just as good as the 0.6mg/kg we have all been taught.


Rehydration – isn’t that what the GI tract was designed for?

Fonseca BK, Holdgate A, Craig JC. Enteral vs intravenous rehydration therapy for children with gastroenteritis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158:(5)483-90. PMID: pubmed

This is a meta-analysis of 16 RCTs involving 1545 children comparing enteral to intravenous rehydration in the treatment of gastroenteritis. (Unfortunately, I have been told by medical-legal types that I am never allowed to make the diagnosis of “gastroenteritis”, so I am not sure who I will apply this study to.) Oral rehydration has significantly fewer adverse events including death and seizure (relative risk 0.36 95%CI 0.14-0.89) and significantly reduced hospital stay (mean decrease of 21 hours). There was no difference in the treatment effect or weight gain. The failure rate for enteral therapy was 4%.

Bottom line: You should almost never place an IV in a pediatric gastroenteritis patient.


Steroids for meningitis

de Gans J, van de Beek D; European Dexamethasone in Adulthood Bacterial
Meningitis Study Investigators. Dexamethasone in adults with bacterial
meningitis. N Engl J Med. 2002 Nov 14;347(20):1549-56. PMID: 12432041 [free full text]

This is a multi-centre, prospective RCT of 301 adult patients suspected of having meningitis and having either cloudy CSF, bacteria on CSF gram stain, or a CSF white count >1000. Patients were randomized to either placebo or dexamethasone 10mg IV q6h for 4 days, with the first dose give 20 minutes before or concurrently with antibiotics (initial antibiotics treatment was with amoxicillin alone). 7% of the steroid group died as compared to 15% of placebo (p=0.04; relative risk 0.48 95%CI 0.24-0.96). There was no difference in hearing loss or focal neurologic abnormalities. Note that steroids and antibiotics were given only after waiting for the CSF results.

Bottom line: Steroids decreased mortality, but did not affect neurologic outcomes

However, although this study is considered a classic, it is at odds with the bulk of the literature.

Brouwer MC, McIntyre P, Prasad K, van de Beek D. Corticosteroids for acute bacterial meningitis. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 6:CD004405. 2013. PMID: 23733364

This review covers 25 studies involving 4121 participants. Steroids did NOT provide a statistically significant mortality advantage (RR 0.90, 95%CI 0.80-1.01). However, steroids did results in less hearing loss (RR 0.74 95%CI 0.63-0.87).

Bottom line: Unfortunately steroids will probably not save any lives. Given the potential delay to antibiotics if steroids are used as they were in the de Gans study, it is unclear how important the hearing changes are. The steroids for meningitis question is not definitively answered, but any benefits are likely to be small.


Sepsis: early goal directed therapy

Rivers E, Nguyen B, Havstad S, et al. Early goal-directed therapy in the treatment of severe sepsis and septic shock. N Engl J Med. 2001;345:(19)1368-77. PMID: 11794169 [free full text]

This paper is now infamous and certainly created its share of controversy. It was a randomized trial of 263 patients with severe sepsis who were randomized to a specific treatment protocol or standard care. Rivers was able to show a significant mortality benefit, 30.5% versus 46.5% (p=0.009). However, we now know that the specifics of his protocol were mostly irrelevant, you just need to care for your sepsis patients.

Bottom line: Dr. Rivers pushed sepsis care forward around the world, but there is no reason to be using this protocol anymore.


Restrictive transfusion policy

Hébert PC, Wells G, Blajchman MA, et al. A multicenter, randomized, controlled clinical trial of transfusion requirements in critical care. Transfusion Requirements in Critical Care Investigators, Canadian Critical Care Trials Group. N Engl J Med. 1999;340:(6)409-17. PMID: 9971864 [free full text]

This is a multi-centre RCT based in Canada that included 838 adult ICU patients with anemia Hb≤ 90 (excluding chronic anemia and patients with active blood loss.) They were randomized to either a restrictive transfusion strategy (transfuse with a Hb <70; target 70-90) or a liberal strategy (transfuse with a Hb < 10; target 100-120). There was not a statistical significance in 30 day mortality (18.7% in restrictive versus 23.3% in liberal). The liberal group had higher in-hospital mortality and cardiac events (secondary outcomes.)

Bottom line: This was the first of many studies showing we give too much blood.


OPALS: What is the value of ACLS?

Stiell IG, Wells GA, Field B. Advanced cardiac life support in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The New England journal of medicine. 351(7):647-56. 2004. PMID: 15306666 [free full text]

This is a prospective multicenter before and after trial that compared outcomes with basic life support paramedic crews (who had defibrillators) to advanced crews with full ACLS training including medications. 5638 adult patients with out of hospital cardiac arrest were included. The advanced life support paramedics resulted in more ROSC (12.9% vs 18%) and more admissions to hospital (10.9% vs 14.6%), but without any change in survival to hospital discharge (5.0 vs 5.1%).

Bottom line: This is one of the many studies that indicate ACLS and particularly the use of medications in cardiac arrest don’t work, but might actually be harmful.


Cheesy joke of the month

Why didn’t skeleton cross the road?

He has no guts

Articles of the month (August 2015)

A monthly collection of the most interesting emergency medical literature I have encountered

Here is this month’s summary of my favorite reads from the medical literature.

Simple and brilliant: A pediatric rainbow

Moreira ME, Hernandez C, Stevens AD, et al. Color-Coded Prefilled Medication Syringes Decrease Time to Delivery and Dosing Error in Simulated Emergency Department Pediatric Resuscitations. Ann Emerg Med. 2015;66:(2)97-106.e3. PMID: 25701295

Pediatric resuscitations are stressful at the best of times and pediatric medication doses can be complicated, increasing the risk of medication errors. This group came up with an ingenious solution: single pre-filled syringes that are color-coded in a rainbow pattern that corresponds to the Broselow tape we all know and love. All you have to do is discard down to the color that corresponds to the size of the child and you are sure to be giving the right dose (best explained by looking at a picture).This study assessed the speed and accuracy of medication administration in simulated pediatric resuscitations. 10 teams consisting of physicians and nurses participated in a cross over study, so that they did one simulation with the new syringes and one without. Time to delivery of medications was quicker with the new syringes (47 versus 19 seconds, a difference of 27 seconds; 95%CI 21-33 seconds). Teams were also more accurate using the new color-coded syringes, with dosing errors occurring 17% of the time with the conventional approach and 0% of the time with the new syringes (absolute difference 17%; 95% CI 4-30%). Obviously a simulation based study is not real life – but I would actually expect more stress and therefore more errors during a real resuscitation.

Bottom line: Simple. Brilliant. Worth looking into.

The same group replicated basically the same study with similar results, but this time running the simulations with paramedics:

Stevens AD, Hernandez C, Jones S, et al. Color-coded prefilled medication syringes decrease time to delivery and dosing errors in simulated prehospital pediatric resuscitations: A randomized crossover trial. Resuscitation. 2015. PMID: 26247145


Fingers, toes, nose and hose. The epinephrine myth

Ilicki J. Safety of Epinephrine in Digital Nerve Blocks: A Literature Review. J Emerg Med. 2015. PMID: 26254284

I’ve talked about this before, but possibly not in the articles of the month. This is a systematic review looking at the safety of using epinephrine in digital nerve blocks. They found a total of 39 relevant articles, although only 12 of them were RCTs. They report no cases of necrosis attributable to epinephrine. In total, they found 2797 reported cases of digital nerve blocks using epinephrine without any important complications.

Bottom line: This was a myth. Epinephrine is almost certainly safe in fingers and toes if you think it might help you.


Physicians might not be so great around genitals

Stewart CM, Schoeman SA, Booth RA, Smith SD, Wilcox MH, Wilson JD. Assessment of self taken swabs versus clinician taken swab cultures for diagnosing gonorrhoea in women: single centre, diagnostic accuracy study. BMJ. 2012;345:e8107. PMID: 23236033 [free full text]

This is a prospective cohort of 3859 women aged 16 and over who presented to a single sexual health clinical in the UK. Before undergoing their consultation, they were asked to perform a vulvovaginal swab on themselves which was sent for nucleic acid amplification (NAAT). They then had the normal examination by the physician, with urethral and endocervical swabs sent, both for NAAT and culture. Overall, 2.5% of women tested positive for gonorrhoea (using a gold standard of either positive culture or two different NAAT markers being positive.) The self swabs were the most sensitive (99%), followed by physician swab for NAAT (96%), with the endocervical culture being the least sensitive (81%). In patients with symptoms suggestive of STI, both physician and self swab NAAT were 100% sensitive, but the endocervical culture was only 84% sensitive.

Bottom line: Self taken swabs were the most sensitive at detecting gonorrheal infection in these women

Schoeman SA, Stewart CM, Booth RA, Smith SD, Wilcox MH, Wilson JD. Assessment of best single sample for finding chlamydia in women with and without symptoms: a diagnostic test study. BMJ. 2012;345:e8013. PMID: 23236032 [free full text]

This is another study by the same group, using essentially the same methods, but this time focusing on Chlamydia. They included a total of 3973 women. Again, the self swab outperformed the physician performed swab with a sensitivity of 97% (95%CI 95-98%) as compared to 88% (95%CI 85-91%). The reported specificity of 100% is essentially meaningless because they were using the test itself as the gold standard. Similarly, the sensitivity of both tests might be lower than reported as they were not compared to any other gold standard.

Bottom line: Women do a better job collecting swabs for Chlamydia than physicians do

Overall Bottom line: If there is not another reason for a speculum exam, it does not have to be performed solely to obtain cervical swabs. Unfortunately urine testing was not included in these studies, so we do not know how it compares to self swabs.


Using tamsulosin for kidney stones? You must not be reading these e-mails.

Furyk JS, Chu K, Banks C, et al. Distal Ureteric Stones and Tamsulosin: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized, Multicenter Trial. Ann Emerg Med. 2015. PMID: 26194935 [free full text]

This is a prospective, randomized, double-blind trial of 403 adults with CT confirmed ureteric stones comparing tamsulosin 0.4mg daily to placebo. There was no benefit for the primary outcome of stone expulsion at 28 days, with 87% passed in the tamsulosin group and 81.9% in the placebo group (5.1% difference; 95%CI -3 to 13%). There was a difference in a secondary outcome, distal stones sized 5-10mm, with 83.3% passing as compared to 61%. Of course this is a secondary outcome, so should not affect your practice. More importantly, the vast majority of these people should not being getting imaged, so you will never know the size of the stone, making this information clinically useless. There was no difference in urologic interventions, pain, or analgesia requirements.

Bottom line: Tamsulosin doesn’t help patients with ureteric stones.


Just in case that wasn’t enough to convince you

Berger D, Ross M, et al. Tamsulosin does not increase one-week passage rate of ureteral stones in Emergency Department patients. Am J Emerg Med. 2015. In Print. PMID:

This is yet another paper indicating tamsulosin has no role in ureterolithiasis. (Its too bad we can’t just start with the high quality studies, rather than following the predictable pattern of a handful of garbage studies showing questionable benefit followed by a lot of time and money spent on multiple good trials that prove that there was never any benefit.) This was a prospective, double-blind RCT with 127 adult patients with CT confirmed ureterolithiasis, randomized to either tamsulosin 0.4mg daily or placebo. There was no difference in the number of patients in whom the stone did not pass (tamsulosin 62.1% 95CI 49-75%; placebo 54.4% 95%CI 40-67%.) There was also no difference in pain scores or analgesic use.

Bottom line: There is no reason to be using tamsulosin in renal colic patients.


Sticking with urology: systematic reviews are pointless if there isn’t any original literature

Hulme P and Wylie K. Towards evidence based emergency medicine: best BETs from the Manchester Royal Infirmary. BET 1: tranexamic acid in life-threatening haematuria. Emerg Med J. 2015;32:(2)168-9. PMID: 25605262

They decided to do a review of tranexamic acid use in life-threatening hematuria. They managed to find 3 case reports and 1 prospective observational trial of 8 patients. There were no controls, so its hard to know what to make of the outcomes. It is good to know that none of the patients broke the emergency medicine rule that all bleeding stops… eventually.

Bottom line: For patients peeing blood, you are free to make it up as you go.


It just might be safe to pee in the Amazon

Bauer IL. Candiru–a little fish with bad habits: need travel health professionals worry? A review. J Travel Med. 2013;20:(2)119-24. PMID: 23464720

This is one of those really weird medical myths that I heard when I was younger and just stuck with me as a true. Apparently if you urinate in the Amazon river, there are little fish, called Candiru, that are attracted to the urine and will swim up your urethra. Once there, they have small barbs that lock them into place. These authors did an extensive review of both the scientific and non-scientific literature and report that there has never actually been a confirmed case of this occurring. For some reason, that is an amazing relief to me (and I have never even been to South America). Was I the only one raised on this particular myth?

Bottom line: Feel free to pee in the Amazon, if that’s your thing.


Don’t write off those vital signs just yet

Rodrigo GJ, Neffen H. Assessment of acute asthma severity in the ED: are heart and respiratory rates relevant? The American journal of emergency medicine. 2015. PMID: 26233619

This is a retrospective look at data that was collected prospectively as part of 7 other asthma trials done at a single emergency department. In total, 1192 adult patients were included. They compared heart rate and respiratory rate between two predefined groups: severe asthma (defined as an FEV1 31-50% of expected) and life threatening asthma (defined as an FEV1 <= 30% expected). The HR and RR were not different between the groups (mean of 102 and 22 respectively). They then use logistic regression to show that only FEV1 and O2 saturation were related to the outcome of admission to hospital. Based on this, they conclude that HR and RR are not determinants of acute asthma severity. I think this is probably the wrong interpretation. They use FEV1 as their definition of illness severity rather than hard outcomes. The lack of correlation between FEV1 and vital signs in this study might equally indicate that FEV1 is not a good indicator of disease severity. (It is a disease oriented, not a patient oriented outcome.) Although FEV1 was correlated with admission rates at this hospital, I imagine this just represents the local practices of the hospital: they believe in FEV1 and therefore admit you to hospital if your FEV1 is low, even if you had no other indications for admission.

Bottom line: I would still strongly suggest assessing patients clinically, including vital signs. Don’t let surrogate outcomes like the FEV1 or peak flow rates confuse you in asthma.


Another quick note on measuring asthma severity

Huff JS and Diercks DB. Use of Peak Expiratory Flow Rate Monitoring for the Management of Asthma in Adults in the Emergency Department. Revision of: American College of Emergency Physicians. Use of Peak Expiratory Flow Rate Monitoring for the Management of Asthma in Adults in the Emergency Department. Ann Emerg Med. 2001;38:198.

Without going into all the problems with the base literature on the use of peak flow rates in emergency medicine, I thought I would include the ACEP policy statement for reference. This is an update of their previous policy statement from 2001, with 27 new studies identified and reviewed. Their summary: “The use of PEFR monitoring has not been shown to improve outcomes, reliably predict need for admissions, or limit morbidity or mortality when used during the ED management of adult patients with acute exacerbations of asthma.”

Bottom line: Peak flow is a disease oriented outcome. Focus on patient oriented outcomes.


Sepsis and the rush to early antibiotics

de Groot B, Ansems A, Gerling DH. The association between time to antibiotics and relevant clinical outcomes in emergency department patients with various stages of sepsis: a prospective multi-center study. Critical care. 2015;19:194. PMID: 25925412

This is a prospective, multicentre observational cohort study including a total of 1,168 adult patients with sepsis (although their definition was anyone admitted to hospital with an infection who received IV antibiotics.) The overall mortality of their cohort was 10%, so significantly lower than the trials of severe sepsis we are used to. In this cohort, the length of time it took to give antibiotics was not associated with mortality. Much like the prior studies that showed a higher mortality in patients with delays to antibiotics, we must be aware of the mantra: association is not causation. In the current study, the delay to antibiotics might have been because patients had less severe infections. On the other hand, in prior studies in which antibiotic delays were associated with increased mortality, we might guess that patients were misdiagnosed or inappropriately dispositioned, which could be the true cause of increased mortality. Why did this study come to a different conclusion? One possibility is simply the timing of the studies. It is impossible to practice emergency medicine these days without a keen awareness of sepsis. This heightened awareness may lead to over-treatment in general, such that the few patients that don’t get early antibiotics really don’t require them.

Bottom line: Once you know there is a bacterial infection, obviously give antibiotics. However, there are many factors that will affect the timing of antibiotic administration and it should not be used as a quality of care metric.


We should probably just install CT scanners at triage

Claessens YE, Debray MP, Tubach F, et al. Early Chest CT-Scan to Assist Diagnosis and Guide Treatment Decision for Suspected Community-Acquired Pneumonia. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015. PMID: 26168322

I think this paper is a little ridiculous and I include it only so you can ignore anyone who talks about it (including me, if you would like.) These authors enrolled 319 adult patients with clinically suspected community acquired pneumonia and subjected them to both a chest xray and a CT scan. Not surprisingly, the CT scan found what were interpreted as infiltrates in 33% of patients who had normal chest xrays. The CT findings were used to change management, both in terms of use of antibiotics as well as decision to admit, in a reasonable number of patients. However, it is not clear if any of those management changes were actually warranted. The authors want to use this data to conclude that patients suspected of community acquired pneumonia should all get CT scans. That is absolutely nutty. If we were missing 33% of clinically important pneumonias with current practice, our morgues would be full. Either these are tiny infiltrates that we fight off ourselves (after all, the human species has survived millennia without antibiotics), they are false positives, or we catch the pneumonia on a follow up xray 2 days later with a substantially lower radiation burden. (As a side note, be prepared for a similar problem of overdiagnosis in the many studies I assume will soon be published about using ultrasound for pneumonia, even if it has the advantage of no radiation.)

Bottom line: Just say no to CT scans for pneumonia


Glue works for abrasions too

Singer AJ, Chale S, Taylor M. Evaluation of a liquid dressing for minor nonbleeding abrasions and class I and II skin tears in the emergency department. The Journal of emergency medicine. 48(2):178-85. 2015. PMID: 25456777

This is an open label observational trial with no comparison group,using a convenience sample of 40 patients and 50 total wounds. The wounds were either abrasions or skin tears. They used a cheaper skin adhesive that has not been tested for tensile strength (unlike dermabond). If tensile strength was required, a steristrip was applied before the glue. In follow up, there were no infections and only one patient needed anything else: his glue peeled off on day 3 and he had bandage applied. Of course, with no comparison group, all we can say is “Mikey likes it”.

Bottom line: Glue works in skin. Perhaps there is a role for stocking the cheaper liquid bandaid products sold at drug stores?


A simple, life-saving therapy I didn’t know about

Jamtgaard L, Manning SL, Cohn B. Does Albumin Infusion Reduce Renal Impairment and Mortality in Patients With Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis? Ann Emerg Med. 2015. PMID: 26234193

I always find it funny that I finished residency with a head full of practices, like PPIs for GI bleeds, that are demonstrably unhelpful, but at the same time there are potentially life saving treatments that I have never heard about. Albumin for spontaneous bacterial peritonitis is one of those treatments. These authors report a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs studying albumin for SBP. In total they found 4 studies that include 288 patients with limited heterogeneity and no evidence of publication bias. Only 1 trial was blinded, but with a hard outcome of mortality that might be less important. The administration of albumin (the 2 largest trials made sure to give it within 6 hours, so this might be an ED therapy) was associated with less renal impairment (OR 0.21 95%CI 0.11-0.42) and lower mortality (OR 0.34 95%CI 0.19-0.60). Dosing varied among studies, but the largest trial used 1.5grams/kg IV at the time of diagnosis and 1gram/kg on day 3.

Bottom line: These are small numbers, but I will be giving albumin to SBP patients until we see more.


Diverticulitis is not necessarily a reason to promote antibiotic resistance

Chabok A, Påhlman L, Hjern F, Haapaniemi S, Smedh K; AVOD Study Group. Randomized clinical trial of antibiotics in acute uncomplicated diverticulitis. Br J Surg. 2012 Apr;99(4):532-9. PMID: 22290281

I included the meta-analysis a few months back, but here is a multicentre RCT of 623 adult patients with CT confirmed uncomplicated diverticulitis (defined as lower abdo pain plus fever, an elevated WBC, and CT consistent with diverticulitis but no abscess or free air) randomized to either antibiotics or not. They used pretty big gun antibiotics: either a 2nd/3rd gen cephalosporin plus metronidazole or a carbapenem or piperacillin-tazobactam. There were no statistical differences between the groups. There were 3 perforations in each group. There were 3 abscesses in the no antibiotics group compared to none in the antibiotics group. 10 patients (3.2%) that started with no antibiotics were given antibiotics eventually. There were no differences in length of hospital stays or recurrent diverticulitis.

Bottom line: It may well be that we don’t need antibiotics for diverticulitis, but these patients were all treated as inpatients, so its probably not up to us to make that call.


Read enough and I might sound like an antibiotic nihilist

Matthys J, De Meyere M, van Driel ML, De Sutter A. Differences among international pharyngitis guidelines: not just academic. Annals of family medicine. 5(5):436-43. 2007. PMID: 17893386 [free full text]

I love this article, probably because it hits on two of my favorite soapbox topics: guidelines and antibiotics for sore throats. They searched for any major pharyngitis guidelines and found 10 from different countries and organizations. Two people individually coded each guidelines for all the major recommendations. The key finding of this paper is that despite all of these guidelines being “evidence based”, they arrive at wildly different recommendations. Several guidelines recommend prescribing antibiotics only if the patient is very sick or high-risk, but others suggest treating almost everyone. (If you want to find a guideline that tells you not to give antibiotics, look to Belgium, the Netherlands, England, or Scotland. Interestingly, these were the guidelines that were written by family doctors, as compared to specialists – I knew we had brains.) Not a single publication, including the Cochrane review, was cited by all the guidelines.

Bottom line: Unfortunately, guidelines are rarely an adequate source of evidence based clinical information. (Also, for most parts of the world, pharyngitis probably doesn’t need antibiotics.)


When is a clot a clot?

Morgan C, Choi H. BET 1: Do patients with a clinically suspected subsegmental pulmonary embolism need anticoagulation therapy? Emergency medicine journal : EMJ. 32(9):744-7. 2015. PMID: 26293150

What is the evidence for treating subsegmental pulmonary emboli? This review identified 2 observational trials that included patients with subsegmental PEs who were not anticoagulated. Of the total of 47 patients with untreated subsegmental PEs, none had recurrent venous thromboembolism at 3 months. It would not be surprising if the harms of anticoagulation outweighed the benefits, but 47 patients can’t give enough information to decide either way.

Bottom line: We still really don’t know what to do, but any treatment benefit is likely to be small.


Positive troponins are negative for patients

Hakemi EU, Alyousef T, Dang G, Hakmei J, Doukky R. The prognostic value of undetectable highly sensitive cardiac troponin I in patients with acute pulmonary embolism. Chest. 2015;147:(3)685-94. PMID: 25079900

This is a retrospective chart review of 298 patients with confirmed PEs looking at the prognostic value of a positive high sensitivity troponin. 45% of the group had a negative troponin and therefore 55% had a positive trop. If the troponin was negative, no patients died, needed CPR, or received lytics. Among those with a positive trop, 6% died and 9% had either CPR or lytics given. For a retrospective study, this one is more likely than usual to give us a correct answer as death, lytics, troponin, and to a lesser extent CPR are objective values that are likely to be accurately recorded on a chart.

Bottom line: It’s not surprising, but a positive troponin is likely a bad prognostic factor for PE patients.


Less relevant than the pee fish article?

Morgenstern J, Hegele RA, Nisker J. Simple genetics language as source of miscommunication between genetics researchers and potential research participants in informed consent documents. Public Underst Sci. 2015;24:(6)751-66. PMID: 24751688

This isn’t directly related to emergency medicine, but I was excited that after a few years of being “in press” the article based on my master’s thesis actually got published in print. This was a study that used qualitative methods to analyze the language of informed consent documents in genetics research. The main finding was that apparently simple, easy to understand language can be a source of miscommunication. This can occur because different people or groups of people will understand words differently. An example would be geneticists conceptualizing “disease” as an entity that may or may not cause actual symptoms in the future based on genetic predispositions, while their research participants may think of a “disease” as something they definitely have and will notice the effects of. Might this be applicable to emergency medicine? I think so, but without any good evidence. However, we know that when patients hear the words “congestive heart failure” they envision something that will kill within days – after all, their heart is failing – but this is not necessarily what we are trying to convey with those words. Similarly, we might talk about “low risk chest pain”, but different people might understand those words to indicate a 2% risk, or a 1 in a thousand risk, or a 1 in a million risk.

Bottom line: Communication is essential in emergency medicine. It is an area that probably deserves more attention.


Cheesy Joke of the Month

What is the difference between surgeons and God?

God doesn’t think he is a surgeon


FOAM resource of the month

A new site and podcast that I think will benefit all emergency physicians is:

https://www.phenomenaldocs.com/

Rather than being focused on clinical aspects of care, this site is run by Jason Brooks, a performance enhancement coach, with the goal of improving performance (both in the ED and in life in general) and making it sustainable. High level athletes have coaches, why shouldn’t we? I really enjoyed the first few podcasts.


Enjoy the free open access medical education? Think you know someone else who might? It would help me a lot if you spread the word and shared this resource with just one of your friends or colleagues. Even easier, you could also help by just clicking the like button on Facebook. Thank you so much!

Articles of the month (July 2015)

A monthly collection of the most interesting emergency medical literature I have encountered

Here is this month’s summary of my favorite reads from the medical literature.

Sick kids look sick

Vaillancourt S, Guttmann A, Li Q, Chan IY, Vermeulen MJ, Schull MJ. Repeated emergency department visits among children admitted with meningitis or septicemia: a population-based study. Ann Emerg Med. 2015;65:(6)625-632.e3. PMID: 25458981

This is a retrospective cohort of children 30 days to 5 years old who were hospitalized with the final diagnosis of either meningitis or septicemia. They were looking specifically at the children that had bounce backs. In total, 521 children were diagnosed with meningitis or septicemia, 114 (21.9%) of whom had been seen at a hospital in the 5 days prior to that diagnosis. The children all had similar mortality, lengths of stay, and critical care use whether you diagnosed them on the first visit or on the bounce back. Furthermore, meningitis and septicemia is very rare in pediatrics. There were a total of 511 cases in all of Ontario over the entire 5 years of this study. That is 511 out of 2,397,427 ED visits in this age group, or 0.02%, and you are only missing 20% of those on the first visit.

Bottom line: Emergency doctors are doing fine at diagnosing sick children. We don’t need fancy tests like CRPs or procalcitonins. Even if you miss the rare child, as long as you ensure good follow up, outcomes will be identical.


Green SM, Nigrovic LE, Krauss BS. Sick kids look sick. Ann Emerg Med. 2015;65:(6)633-5. PMID: 25536869

This is the excellent editorial that goes with the above paper. I just wanted to include a few quotes:

“A second explanation, simpler and more plausible, is that sepsis or meningitis was not present at the initial visit. The first diagnoses of nonserious viral or bacterial infections were not in error; however, after discharge these children had the rare misfortune of an unanticipated progression of illness.” Ie, don’t kick yourself too hard if you have a bounceback

“The study data of Vaillancourt et al suggest that, outside of the neonatal period, sepsis and meningitis are not occult conditions and that, accordingly, “sick kids look sick.” ”

“The status quo is working.”

“These results encourage emergency physicians to trust the power and value of their clinical gestalt.”


Dead? Kick him in the chest

Trenkamp RH and Perez FJ. Heel compressions quadruple the number of Bystanders who can perform chest compressions for ten minutes. Am J Emerg Med. 2015. In Print. PMID: not yet available

This is an observational study in which a convenience sample of 49 individuals, who acted as their own controls, were asked to perform 10 minutes of chest compressions, first in the standard fashion, then using their heel. They describe this process as: the shoeless rescuer straddles the patient’s head facing the patient’s feet, with one foot next to the patient’s ear and the heel of the other foot placed on the chest at the standard CPR point. (A video of this maneuver is provided.) Defining adequate compressions as 100-120 two inch compressions per minute, overall 16% were able to maintain manual compression at 10 minutes and 65% were able to do 10 minutes of heel compressions. Performance of both got worse with age.

Bottom line: If you are a lone bystander who will have to perform prolonged CPR, you might want to consider using your foot.


But might a machine be better than a kick in the chest?

Perkins GD, Lall R, Quinn T, et al. Mechanical versus manual chest compression for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (PARAMEDIC): a pragmatic, cluster randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2015;385:(9972)947-55. PMID: 25467566

This is a prospective, randomized control trial of 4471 adult patients with out of hospital cardiac arrest, comparing mechanical CPR (the LUACS-2 device) to conventional CPR. There was no difference in return of circulation, or survival to hospital, at 30 days, at 90 days, or at 1 year. Personally, I find these results confusing. Although I am always biased to assume that new technologies are not going to be better than current practice (because they so rarely are), in this case we know that the one thing that matters for survival in cardiac arrest is consistent, good chest compressions. We also know that people tire and generally don’t provide great compressions, whereas the machine never tires. Based on that theory, the machine should clearly be better. Obviously we are missing something. Maybe it takes too long to get the machine on in the first place? Maybe no technology is capable of raising people from the dead?

Bottom line: There is no benefit to mechanical CPR, so don’t go blowing your budgets yet, but they are probably as good as manual CPR, so might be useful in certain specific scenarios (ongoing chest compressions during cardiac cath?)


Did everyone invest in CT scanners when I wasn’t looking?

Zonfrillo MR, Kim KH, Arbogast KB. Emergency Department Visits and Head Computed Tomography Utilization for Concussion Patients From 2006 to 2011. Acad Emerg Med. 2015. PMID: 26111921

This is a large database study looking at CT usage in concussion from 2006 to 2011 in the US. Overall, 0.5% of ED visits ended in a diagnosis of concussion. Although you might think we all know the CT head decision rules by now, the rate of CT in concussion increased by an absolute value of 11%. Conversely, the injury severity score decreased.

Bottom line: Although I though the CAEP choosing wisely choices were incredibly weak, because they should all already be part of basic good clinical practice, I will quote their first recommendation: Don’t order CT head scans in adults and children who have suffered minor head injuries (unless positive for a head injury clinical decision rule).


Should patients on warfarin should just have a daily head CT?

Nishijima DK, Offerman SR, Ballard DW, et al. Immediate and delayed traumatic intracranial hemorrhage in patients with head trauma and preinjury warfarin or clopidogrel use. Ann Emerg Med. 2012;59:(6)460-8.e1-7. PMID: 22626015

This is a prospective observational trial of 1064 adult patients with blunt head trauma on either warfarin (768 patients) or clopidogrel (296 patients) designed to look for delayed intracranial hemorrhage. These were patients with relatively minor trauma, mostly ground level falls, and 88% having a GCS of 15 at the time of examination. 7% had a bleed on the first scan (12% if on clopidogrel and 5% on warfarin). No patients on clopidogrel and 4/687 (0.6% 95%CI 0.2-1.5%) of patients on warfarin had a delayed intracranial hemorrhage. The major limitation of this study is that not everyone had CT scans.

Bottom line: The rate of delayed intracranial hemorrhage after a normal CT is low. It almost certainly doesn’t warrant routine repeat scans or admissions, but good patient instructions and follow up are reasonable.


Diltiazem over metoprolol for atrial fibrillation. Surprised?

Fromm C, Suau SJ, Cohen V, et al. Diltiazem vs. Metoprolol in the Management of Atrial Fibrillation or Flutter with Rapid Ventricular Rate in the Emergency Department. J Emerg Med. 2015. PMID: 25913166

This is a randomized, double-blind study comparing metoprolol (0.15mg/kg) and diltiazem (0.25mg/kg) in 106 adult patients with atrial fibrillation. The primary outcome of HR<100 at 30 minutes was achieved in 95.8% of the diltiazem group and 46.4% of the metoprolol group (p<0.0001). Diltiazem was better at all time points measured. There was no difference between in groups in term of adverse outcomes (hypotension or bradycardia).

Bottom line: Another small trial illustrating that calcium channel blockers are probably more effective than beta-blockers at controlling atrial fibrillation in the ED.


This doesn’t change anything: Asymptomatic hypertension still shouldn’t be treated in the ED

Levy PD, Mahn JJ, Miller J, et al. Blood pressure treatment and outcomes in hypertensive patients without acute target organ damage: a retrospective cohort. Am J Emerg Med. 2015. PMID: 26087706

A retrospective cohort of 1016 adult patients with a blood pressure greater than 180/110 and no signs or symptoms of acute organ damage. About 43% were given some kind of treatment, and there was no difference in ED revisits or mortality whether you were treated or not. Of course, this type of association doesn’t prove anything – maybe there was a reason some people were treated and others weren’t.

Bottom line: We still shouldn’t be treating (or working up) asymptomatic hypertension in the ED.


On that note, I might as well include the ACEP clinical policy:

Wolf SJ, Lo B, Shih RD, et al. American College of Emergency Physicians Clinical Policies Committee. Clinical policy: critical issues in the evaluation and management of adult patients in the emergency department with asymptomatic elevated blood pressure. Ann Emerg Med. 2013 Jul;62(1):59-68. PMID: 23842053

A few points from this policy (the policy contains only level C recommendations):

1) In ED patients with asymptomatic markedly elevated blood pressure, routine screening for acute target organ injury (eg, serum creatinine, urinalysis, ECG) is not required.

2) In patients with asymptomatic markedly elevated blood pressure, routine ED medical intervention is not required

Bottom line: (Cut and paste from above). We still shouldn’t be treating (or working up) asymptomatic hypertension in the ED.


We no communicate so good

Newman DH, Ackerman B, Kraushar ML, et al. Quantifying Patient-Physician Communication and Perceptions of Risk During Admissions for Possible Acute Coronary Syndromes. Ann Emerg Med. 2015;66:(1)13-18.e1. PMID: 25748480

This is a great paper by David Newman. They did paired surveys of patients being admitted to rule out ACS and their treating physicians to determine if patients and their physicians were on the same page with regards to the risk of MI (the reason the patient was being admitted). After having a conversation about admission, the patient and physician estimates of risk were only within 10% of each other 36% of the time. When asked about the chance of dying if an MI occurred at home, patients estimated the mortality at 80% compared to physicians estimates at 10%.

Bottom line: We do a poor job communicating to patients why we want to admit them to hospital. Without an understanding of their risk, patients cannot possibly make informed decisions that account for their own values and personal risk tolerance.


If you aren’t using bedside ultrasound, you probably also won’t be able to find this post on the internet, but congratulations on your upcoming retirement…

Stein JC, Wang R, Adler N, et al. Emergency physician ultrasonography for evaluating patients at risk for ectopic pregnancy: a meta-analysis. Ann Emerg Med. 2010;56:(6)674-83. PMID: 20828874

This is a systematic review and meta-analysis that includes 10 studies of 2057 patients looking at the accuracy of emergency physician performed ultrasound for ectopic pregnancy. The sensitivity (patients with an ectopic who had no IUP on ultrasound) was 99.3%, with a negative predictive value of 99.9% in this population with a 7.5% incidence of ectopic pregnancy.

Bottom line: Bedside ultrasound is excellent for ruling out ectopic.


Whats the best way to keep a cast dry?

McDowell M, Nguyen S, Schlechter J. A Comparison of Various Contemporary Methods to Prevent a Wet Cast. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2014;96:(12)e99. PMID: 24951750

This non blinded trial compared six methods of keeping casts dry. There were 2 commercial products, compared to a plastic bag with duct tape, double plastic bags with duct tape, a plastic bag with a rubber band, or glad cling wrap. The weighed the cast after submerging in water for 2 minutes (so more intense than a shower) to determine water absorption. Plastic wrap and a single bag with duct tape were the least effective. A double bag with duct tape was 100% effective, as were the commercial products.

Bottom line: Of easily available methods, double plastic bags and duct tape are probably the best for showering with a cast.


Everything you could ever want to know about anal fissures

Nelson RL, Thomas K, Morgan J, Jones A. Non surgical therapy for anal fissure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;2:CD003431. PMID: 22336789

This cochrane systematic review of the medical management of anal fissures covers 75 trials and 5031 patients of different medical therapies. Topical nitroglycerin increased early cure rates from about 35% to 49% compared to placebo, an NNT of 7, but about half of patients had late relapses. No conclusions can be made about calcium channel blockers or botox, because all studies were severely under-powered. Surgical therapy (which I have never referred for) was significantly better than any medical therapy, but does have a small risk of incontinence.

Bottom line: There is poor evidence for any medical therapy. In patients with chronic problems, surgical therapy should be considered.


Your kid rolled in poison ivy – what do you do?

Stibich AS, Yagan M, Sharma V, Herndon B, Montgomery C. Cost-effective post-exposure prevention of poison ivy dermatitis. Int J Dermatol. 2000;39:(7)515-8. PMID: 10940115

I didn’t know that you could prophylactically treat poison ivy after coming into contact with the plant, but before developing a rash. 20 healthy “volunteer” medical students were used them as their own controls. They exposed the students to poison ivy at 4 different spots. 2 hours later, the applied 0.5ml of either dial dish soap, Tecnu (a commercial product designed to chemically inactivate poison ivy), or Goop (a commercial cleaning product), and then rinsed the skin. They left the 4th area untouched as a control (but for some reason didn’t even rinse it off – just left it covered.) All three products were similar, but seem to decrease severity of the rash as compared to control. Ii was unclear if the study was blinded in any way.

Bottom line: If you touch poison ivy, it may be worth putting dish soap on the area and then cleaning thoroughly.


Lidocaine for limb pain – no, not a nerve block

Vahidi E, Shakoor D, Aghaie Meybodi M, Saeedi M. Comparison of intravenous lidocaine versus morphine in alleviating pain in patients with critical limb ischaemia. Emerg Med J. 2015;32:(7)516-9. PMID: 25147364

Like low dose ketamine, although to a lesser extent, I have heard a lot about using IV lidocaine for pain control this past year. This is a small RCT of 40 patients with ischemic limbs comparing IV morphine (0.1mg/kg) and IV lidocaine (2mg/kg). In patients with pain starting at 7.5/10, pain in the lidocaine group was better at 15 minutes (5.75/10 vs 7/10) and 30 minutes (4.25/10 versus 6.5/10), although those numbers may not be clinically significant.

Bottom line: Intravenous lidocaine may be an option for pain, but I am not sure when or why I would use it.


There is no such thing is a free lunch

Solomon RC. Coffers brimming, ethically bankrupt. Ann Emerg Med. 2012;59:(2)101-2. PMID: 22078890

An older editorial, but worth a read. The summary is that although we make a lot of excuses for why we take money from drug companies, none are any good. As individuals and as a group, we must just stop.

Bottom line: I will say it again. There is no such thing as a free lunch.


Patient with a PE – do you admit, send them home, or get them to the gym?

Lakoski SG, Savage PD, Berkman AM, et al. The safety and efficacy of early-initiation exercise training after acute venous thromboembolism: a randomized clinical trial. J Thromb Haemost. 2015;13:(7)1238-44. PMID: 25912176

A very small randomized, controlled trial that included 19 patients with PE, 9 of whom were randomized to a 3 month program including exercise and weight loss. They commit a cardinal sin by claiming to have multiple primary outcomes, but it looks like the exercise group lost weight and was more fit as compared to the usual care group. Of course, a grain or two of salt is required, but it looks like an interesting area for future research.

Bottom line: In the future, we may seen an equivalent to cardiac rehab for our PE patients. For now, I recommend all my patients exercise.


Completely irrelevant to medicine, but maybe the most useful information of the month: flight delays

When to fly to get there on time? Six million flights analyzed. Decision Science News. 2015.

http://www.decisionsciencenews.com/2014/11/06/flight-delays/

This is a database study that looked at all the flight data in the United States for the year of 2013 to determine when you are most likely to be delayed. Not surprisingly, the later your flight is in the day, the longer a delay you can expect, until about 10pm, when the delays start to fall again. There are some graphs you can look at.

Bottom line: For the next conference you book (like say SMACC in Dublin next year), try to book your flight early in the morning if you don’t want to be delayed.


Cheesy Joke of the Month

Why can’t you tell when a pterodactyl is going to the bathroom?

Because their P is silent


FOAMed of the month

The world of critical care and open access medical education suffered an incredible loss this month with the passing of Dr. John Hinds. He was one of the most inspirational individuals I have encountered in my life, and although I only shook his hand a single time, his words have forever changed me.

It is hard to pick just one of this many incredible talks, but I know both my wife and I were blown away by his keynote speech at the SMACC conference in Chicago: “Crack the chest and get crucified”:

http://intensivecarenetwork.com/hinds-crack-the-chest-get-crucified/

Articles of the Month (June 2015)

A monthly collection of the most interesting emergency medical literature I have encountered

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDghbN7I_SM&sns=tw

Articles of the month (May 2015)

A monthly collection of the most interesting emergency medical literature I have encountered

Here are my favorite reads from this month. It is a little longer than usual, because apparently what I enjoy doing while sitting pool-side in paradise is catching up on the medical literature. I am sure there is room in the next iteration of the DSM for that.

 

Myth: Wound eversion magically eliminates scarring

Kappel S, Kleinerman R, King TH, et al. Does wound eversion improve cosmetic outcome?: Results of a randomized, split-scar, comparative trial. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015;72:(4)668-73. PMID: 25619206

This is a prospective, randomized trial of post-op skin surgery patients where they closed half of the wound using wound eversion and the other half using basic planar approximation. The patients and 2 assessors were blinded and there was no significant difference in appearance at 3 or 6 months. This is in clean surgical wounds, so external validity to the ED is questionable. However, the authors looked for science supporting the dogma of wound eversion, and not surprisingly: there is none.

Bottom line: This is enough for me to stop dogmatically teaching wound eversion – though with only one study, I am always ready to change my mind.


“Therapeutic” hypothermia

Mark DG, Vinson DR, Hung YY, et al. Lack of improved outcomes with increased use of targeted temperature management following out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: a multicenter retrospective cohort study. Resuscitation. 2014;85:(11)1549-56. PMID: 25180922

A retrospective, before and after study of 1119 patients in a system where therapeutic hypothermia for out of hospital cardiac arrest was implemented in 2009. Despite the fact that you would expect improved outcomes just because of improved medical care over the half decade the study ran, there was no difference in mortality or neurologic outcomes whether or not you were cooled.

Bottom line: Thanks to TTM, we already know that cooling is not necessary. We should remember that fever avoidance is currently only a theory without significant evidence basis.


Kids don’t like being cold either

Moler FW, Silverstein FS, Holubkov R, et al. Therapeutic Hypothermia after Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest in Children. N Engl J Med. 2015;372:(20)1898-1908. PMID: 25913022 

You probably would have been fine applying the TTM data to children, as they are just little adults, but we now have some pediatric specific data. This is a multicentre RCT of pediatric (2 days to 18 years) out of hospital cardiac arrest, comparing 33.0 with 36.8 degree Celsius targets. As you might expect, there was no difference in survival or functional outcomes up to one year. However, the raw numbers were better in the hypothermic children, despite being non-statistically significant.

Bottom line: There is no reason to put kids on ice outside of the context of further clinical trials.


Rate control in atrial fibrillation cage match: the cardiology approach (beta blockers) versus the emergency medicine approach (calcium channel blockers)

Martindale JL, et al. β-Blockers versus calcium channel blockers for acute rate control of atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response: a systematic review. Eur J Emerg Med. 2015;22:(3)150-4. PMID: 25564459

This is a systematic review of calcium channel blocker versus beta blockers for acute rate control of atrial fibrillation. They could only find 2 quality studies, which were very small. In these studies, diltiazem was better than metoprolol (RR 1.8 95% CI 1.2-2.6) for rate control.

Bottom line: The very limited evidence seems to fit with clinical experience: calcium channels blockers are more likely to get patients controlled in the ED.


The toughest question in the resus room? Maybe if a.fib is the cause of or the result of hemodynamic instability

Scheuermeyer FX, Pourvali R, Rowe BH, et al. Emergency Department Patients With Atrial Fibrillation or Flutter and an Acute Underlying Medical Illness May Not Benefit From Attempts to Control Rate or Rhythm. Ann Emerg Med. 2015;65:(5)511-522.e2. PMID: 25441768

This is a retrospective chart review (well done, but a chart review) of 416 patients with atrial fibrillation and an acute medical illness, out of British Columbia. They compared those patients who had their atrial fibrillation actively managed, versus those in whom the focus was only in treating the underlying condition. No one died in this study. Patients who had either rate or rhythm control had significantly increased rates of major adverse events, primarily increased requirement for pressors and increased intubations.

Bottom line: In sick medical patients who happen to have atrial fibrillation, focus on basic resuscitation over rate/rhythm control.


The new angioedema meds

Bas M et al. A randomized trial of icatibant in ACE-inhibitor-induced angioedema. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015;372(5):418-25. PMID: 25629740

This is one of a few new, very expensive treatments for hereditary angioedema. It is a selective bradykinin B2 receptor antagonist. This was a phase 2 RCT of 30 patients who either received Icatibant or standard therapy of steroids and anti-histamines for patients with ACE inhibitor induced angioedema. The icatibant group responded quicker (8 hours versus 27 hours) and had more complete resolution of their symptoms. The biggest concern with this study (aside from the tiny size and industry involvement) is that, although the standard therapy group probably represents usual care, ideal care might involve use of FFP instead.

Bottom line: In a very small study, icatibant seems to decrease angioedema a lot quicker than ‘usual care’.


Lots of Os up the nose

Frat JP, Thille AW, Mercat A, et al. High-Flow Oxygen through Nasal Cannula in Acute Hypoxemic Respiratory Failure. N Engl J Med. 2015. PMID: 25981908

This is a multi-centre randomized, open label study of high flow, humidified nasal oxygen, versus standard oxygen face mask, versus non-invasive positive pressure ventilation in adult, hypoxic patients. (CHF and exacerbations of asthma or chronic respiratory failure was excluded, so in other words this is primarily pneumonia patients.) There was no difference in their primary outcome of need for intubation, although they powered the study to detect a 20% difference, which is probably larger than the clinically important difference. This biggest news is that 90 day mortality was decreased in the high flow oxygen group (12%, versus 23% with standard oxygen and 28% in NIPPV), but this is a secondary outcome so should be interpreted with caution.

Bottom line: High flow nasal oxygen seems to be at least as good as NIPPV or facemask oxygen (in this select group of patients). This is enough for me to try this with alert pneumonia patients who don’t obviously need intubation.


More evidence PPIs aren’t completely safe

Antoniou T et al. Proton pump inhibitors and the risk of acute kidney injury in older patients: a population-based cohort study. CMAJ Open 2015;3(2):E166-71. (Free full text here)

Using the Ontario Drug Benefit database, these authors compared the cohort of patients with newly prescribed PPIs with a propensity matched group as a control. They excluded anyone also prescribed known nephrotoxic drugs, or with basically any other renal risk factors. People on PPIs were more likely to develop acute kidney injury, with a hazard ratio of 2.52 (95% CI 2.27-2.79). Out of 290,000 patients studied, 1787 were admitted to hospital with AKI – about 8 more than controls for every 1000 patient years on PPIs.

Bottom line: No medication is without side effects, but we treat some like they are water. Early studies will always emphasize benefits and downplay harms.


You don’t need fancy lenses and mirrors to see the retina

Vrablik ME et al. The diagnostic accuracy of bedside ocular ultrasonography for the diagnosis of retinal detachment: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Emerg Med 2015; 65(2):199-203. PMID: 24680547

This meta-analysis attempted to determine the accuracy of ultrasound for diagnosis of retinal detachment in the hands of emergency physicians. In population with a prevalence of detachment between 15% and 38%, they found a sensitivity of ultrasound of 97-100% and a specificity of 83-100%. Of course, these studies are often done with experienced ultrasonographers or after specific training.

Bottom line: I think this definitely has a place in the ED.

Bonus: This castlefest lecture is a great resource for ocular ultrasound, with free CME


A little more diagnostic technology: iPhone otoscopes

Richards JR, Gaylor KA, Pilgrim AJ. Comparison of traditional otoscope to iPhone otoscope in the pediatric ED. Am J Emerg Med. 2015. PMID:  25979304

These authors compared a traditional otoscope with a new one that attaches to your iphone and gives you a video display. There was reasonable agreement between the new one and the old one, although residents and attendings still disagreed about the findings a lot. They claim that the iPhone scope changed the final diagnosis a number of times, but without a clear gold standard I wouldn’t focus on that result.

Bottom line: I am not sure how important it is to treat anything they found here, which limits the value of the tool – but this could be a great way to teach students otoscopy.


Can the D-Dimer be improved? (Well, it can’t get any worse, can it?)

Jaconelli Y and Crane S. Towards evidence based emergency medicine: best BETs from the Manchester Royal Infirmary. BET 2: Should we use an age adjusted D-dimer threshold in managing low risk patients with suspected pulmonary embolism? Emerg Med J 2015;32(4):335-7. PMID: 25804861

This is a systematic review (published before last month’s paper, and so not including it) that found 13 papers addressing the use of an age adjusted d-dimer (less than age x 10). Most of the studies were retrospective, so not of high quality. The authors conclusion is “In older patients suspected of having a PE, with a low pretest possibility, an age-adjusted D-dimer increases specificity with minimal change in the sensitivity, thereby increasing the number of patients who can be safely discharged without further investigations.”

Bottom line: It is looking like the age adjusted d-dimmer in low pre-test probability patients will result in a post-test probability below the test threshold, while increasing specificity.


Speaking of PE testing, the CTPA is not a perfect test

Miller WT, Marinari LA, Barbosa E, et al. Small Pulmonary Artery Defects Are Not Reliable Indicators of Pulmonary Embolism. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2015. PMID: 25961445

In this study, they took all of the CT scans that were read as positive for PE in one radiology system, and had the scan review by 4 subspeciality thoracic radiologists. 15% of scans read as showing a subsegmental PE by community radiologists were thought to be false positives by the specialists. Another 27% were thought to be indeterminate. This only represents disagreement among radiologists and not the inherent false positives of the test itself.

Bottom line: A positive CT scan is not an objective finding. Before subjecting patients to lifelong anticoagulation, a second opinion on the read might be warranted.


PEs come from the legs – those IVC filters make sense, right?

Mismetti P, Laporte S, Pellerin O, et al. Effect of a retrievable inferior vena cava filter plus anticoagulation vs anticoagulation alone on risk of recurrent pulmonary embolism: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015;313:(16)1627-35. PMID: 25919526

Prosecptive RCT with blinded outcome assessors, but unblinded patients and treating physicians, randomized 399 patients with PE plus a DVT plus a marker of severity to either anticoagulation alone or anticoagulation plus a retrievable IVC filter. Recurrent PE occurred in 3% of the filter group (all fatal) and 1.5% of the no filter group (2 of 3 fatal) for a non statistically significant relative risk of 2.0 (95% CI 0.51 – 7.89).

Bottom line: IVC filter don’t decrease the rate of PE in patients than can be anticoagulated.


Medications don’t cure kidney stones

Pickard R et al. Medical expulsive therapy in adults with ureteric colic: a multicentre, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2015. PMID: 25998582

Flomax was pushed for renal stones based on a number a small studies with horrible methods and a few meta-analyses of those horrible studies. There has already been one large RCT with excellent methods demonstrating that Flomax doesn’t work. This should be the nail in the coffin. This is a multicentre placebo controlled RCT of 1167 adult patients with CT confirmed renal stones. They were randomized to either tamsulosin 0.4mg, nifedipine 30mg, or placebo. There was no difference between any of the groups in the number of patients requiring urologic intervention. (About 80% of the patients passed spontaneously, and 20% required an intervention in all groups.)

Bottom line: There is no role for medical expulsive therapy in renal colic.


Antibiotics don’t work for diverticulitis? Is nothing sacred?

Shabanzadeh DM, Wille-Jørgensen P. Antibiotics for uncomplicated diverticulitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;11:CD009092. PMID: 23152268

This is a Cochrane systematic review that was able to identify 3 RCTs looking at the use of antibiotics for uncomplicated diverticulitis. Only one compared antibiotics to no antibiotics, the other two compared different types and courses of antibiotics. There was no difference in any of the regimens. In other words, no antibiotics was the same as antibiotics.

Bottom line: Not enough to change my practice, but it is good to know that we have minimal footing to our current practice.


Antibiotics in appendicitis? The right side of the bowel is different from the left, right?

Varadhan KK, Humes DJ, Neal KR, Lobo DN. Antibiotic therapy versus appendectomy for acute appendicitis: a meta-analysis. World J Surg. 2010;34:(2)199-209. PMID: 20041249

This meta-analysis concludes surgery may have a lower risk of complications than antibiotics (RR 0.43 95% CI 0.16-1.18). A little more than 30% of patients treated with antibiotics will actually require surgery. The authors seem to think biases in current study favour the antibiotics group, so real outcomes might be worse.

Bottom line: We don’t really get to make this decision anyway, but surgery is probably still the gold standard.


One last one on antibiotics: If you are going to treat with oral (which you probably should in most cases) don’t give a dose IV in the department

Haran JP, Hayward G, Skinner S, et al. Factors influencing the development of antibiotic associated diarrhea in ED patients discharged home: risk of administering IV antibiotics. Am J Emerg Med. 2014;32:(10)1195-9. PMID: 25149599

This is a prospective cohort study of 247 patients, all of whom were being treated with outpatient oral antibiotics. They compared those who received an IV dose in the ED to those who did not. 25.7% of the IV group developed antibiotic associated diarrhea versus 12.3% in the no IV group (a number needed to harm of 7.5).

Bottom line: Unnecessary IV antibiotics harm our patients.


The best drugs are probably those they keep away from us

Calver L, Page CB, Downes MA, et al. The Safety and Effectiveness of Droperidol for Sedation of Acute Behavioral Disturbance in the Emergency Department. Ann Emerg Med. 2015. PMID: 25890395

This is a prospective observational study of 1009 patients in Australia, all of whom received 10mg of droperidol for sedation of acute behavioral disturbances, and second dose at 15 min as needed. Out of those 1009 patients, 13 developed a long QT, and 7 of those had other contributing causes such as methdone or amiodarone. There were no incidences of tosades de pointes.

Bottom line: The black box warning against droperidol is likely without scientific merit. I would use it if it were available to me. Given how useful this medication is, it might be worth fighting for.


Let’s do two on poo

Gerding DN, Meyer T, Lee C, et al. Administration of spores of nontoxigenic Clostridium difficile strain M3 for prevention of recurrent C. difficile infection: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015;313:(17)1719-27. PMID: 25942722

We are all colonized with C.diff., so we should be experts in getting rid of it. This is a new one to me. They took patients who completed their treatment for C.diff. and infected them C.diff. Only, this strain of C.diff does not form toxins. This reduced recurrence of clinical infection from 30% to 11%.

Bottom line: You can treat Clostridium difficile with Clostridium difficile. Maybe we should infect ourselves prophylactically?

Drekonja D, Reich J, Gezahegn S, et al. Fecal Microbiota Transplantation for Clostridium difficile Infection: A Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162:(9)630-8. PMID: 25938992

A systematic review, but there are only 2 RCTs to include. In one RCT, fecal trasplant led to 81% of patients having symptom resolution, versus only 31% in the vancomycin group. In another, they demonstrated no difference between NG and rectal routes for the transplant, with about 70% resolution of symptoms. (I’d choose the rectal route, thanks.)

Bottom line: Still really not enough science to warrant a bottom line, but if C.Diff is turning your life to sh*t, consider someone else’s sh*t: it might make you feel better.


Apparently science is useless for xanthrochromia.

Chu K, Hann A, Greenslade J, Williams J, Brown A. Spectrophotometry or visual inspection to most reliably detect xanthochromia in subarachnoid hemorrhage: systematic review. Ann Emerg Med. 2014;64:(3)256-264.e5. PMID: 24635988

This is a systematic review of 10 studies comparing visual inspection to spectrophotometry for detection of xanthrochromia. Visual inspection: sensitivity 83.3% and specificity 95.7%. Spectrophotometry: sensitivity 86.5% and 85.8%. (The gold standard varied from angiography to clinical follow-up.)

Bottom line: There is no clear difference between the two, but neither seem great. Isn’t there some way for the lab to test for the chemical that makes the fluid yellow?


1 + 1 + 1 = 3?

Angus DC, Barnato AE, Bell D, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of early goal-directed therapy for septic shock: the ARISE, ProCESS and ProMISe Investigators. Intensive Care Med. 2015. PMID: 25952825

Surprise. The meta analysis of three trials that said the same thing, says the same thing: EGDT is not superior to usual care in 2015. What is worth mentioning is that this is a very good meta-analysis because the investigators of all three trials went out of their way to ensure they were using the same definitions and outcomes before starting.

Bottom line: We can be very confident that we don’t need to be following the protocols of the original EGDT study.


Game changer (x2) for neonatal resuscitation?

Gruber E, Oberhammer R, Balkenhol K, et al. Basic life support trained nurses ventilate more efficiently with laryngeal mask supreme than with facemask or laryngeal tube suction-disposable–a prospective, randomized clinical trial. Resuscitation. 2014;85:(4)499-502. PMID: 24440666

A prospective, RCT comparing ventilation with facemask vs the LMA supreme (LMA-S) vs the laryngeal tube suction-disposable (LTS-D) device in neonatal resuscitation. A lot of the outcomes were of questionable relevance, but ventilation failed in 34% of patients with facemask, 22% with the LTS-D, and 2% with the LMA-S. Higher tidal volumes were delivered with both the LTS-D and the LMA-S than the facemask (470ml vs 240ml). All these resuscitations were run by nurses, so external validity may be questionable.

Trevisanuto et al. Supreme Laryngeal Mask Airway versus Face Mask during Neonatal Resuscitation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2015. PMID: 26003882

This is another prospective randomized trial (neither of these could be blinded) of LMA-S versus facemask in 142 neonatal resuscitations of infants greater than 34 weeks or 1500 grams. The LMA resulted in higher 5 minute APGAR scores, less intubations, and lower admissions to NICU.

Overall bottom line: These two prospective studies paint a picture of better ventilation as well as improved patient important outcomes, such as intubations and NICU admissions, when an LMA is used over standard facemask ventilation for neonatal resuscitation. This might cause some culture shock when we run upstairs, but I think this is worth instituting.


Another myth: The subglottic area is the narrowest area of the pediatric airway

Dalal PG, Murray D, Messner AH, Feng A, McAllister J, Molter D. Pediatric laryngeal dimensions: an age-based analysis. Anesth Analg. 2009;108:(5)1475-9. PMID: 19372324

These authors measured the cross sectional area of the airways of 153 children (6months to 13 years) using video bronchoscopy under general anesthesia, and they found that it is the glottis not the cricoid that is the narrowest portion of the airway.

Bottom line: Probably shouldn’t change your daily practice, still pick a tube small enough to pass the cords, but just remember that a lot of what we “know” and teach is wrong. Always keep an open mind in medicine.


Cheesy Joke of the Month

As the doctor completed an examination of the patient, he said, “I can’t find a cause for your complaint. Frankly, I think it’s due to drinking.”

“In that case,” said the patient, “I’ll come back when you’re sober”


FOAMed Resource of the Month

Its not actually up an running yet, but I am really excited about the idea, so its more something to keep an eye out for. If anyone has played around with Coursera or EdX, you know there is a lot of incredible high quality education available for free in just about any subject. These are called MOOCs (massive open online courses). Well, there will soon be an equivalent for emergency medicine education, created for ALiEM: http://www.aliem.com/sneak-peak-aliemu/

Articles of the month (April 2015)

A monthly collection of the most interesting emergency medical literature I have encountered

Here is this month’s summary of my favorite reads from the medical literature.

Troponin is king – why even send an CK?

Le RD et al. Clinical and financial impact of removing creatine kinase-MB from the routine testing menu in the emergency setting. Am J Emerg Med. 2015;33(1):72-5. PMID: 25455047

This is an observational study, looking at a period before and after CK-MB was removed from an automatic order set. Out of 6444 cases included in the study, there were only 17 cases with a positive CK-MB fraction and a negative troponin. All 17 were ultimately determined by the treating physicians to have non-ACS causes (ie, they were false positives). So, CK-MB was not clinically helpful. Removing it from the order set dropped ordering by 80% and saved the hospital about $47,000 a year.

Bottom line: We might want to keep this one in our back pocket for the next time the hospital demands cost savings – dropping the CK helps us and saves money


Speaking of troponin – high sensitivity and the 1 hour rule out

Reichlin T et al. Prospective validation of a 1-hour algorithm to rule-out and rule-in acute myocardial infarction using a high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T assay. CMAJ. 2015 (In Print). PMID: 25869867

This prospective observational study of 1320 chest pain patients attempted to validate a 1 hour rule out protocol. Using high sensitivity troponins, patients ruled out if they had trop of 12ng/L or less and a 1 hour delta of 3mg/L or less. They ruled in with a trop of 52ng/L or more or a 1 hour delta of 5ng/L or more. Everyone else was put in longer observation. It was a relatively high risk cohort, with 17% overall having an acute MI. 60% of patients were able to be ‘ruled out’ at 1 hour, and only one of those patients (0.1%) ultimately had an MI. It ruled in 16% of the patients at 1 hour, with 78% being true positives. The remaining 24% that couldn’t be ruled in or ruled out had an 18% chance of an MI – so the prolonged observation work up makes a lot of sense.

Bottom line: This could work (if we had the right assay), but I think our rule in rate for MI is way less than 17% – so this strategy could actually increase our testing and admissions without benefit to our patients 


How often to you order pregnancy tests just for medication use?

Goyal MK et al. 2015. Underuse of pregnancy testing for women prescribed teratogenic medications in the emergency department. Academic Emergency Medicine (in print). PMID: 25639672

A retrospective study using the NHAMCS database (notoriously poor data) but still raises an interesting point. Looking at all women who were given or prescribed FDA pregnancy category D or X medications, only 22% had pregnancy testing done. (I will note that this is one area where I don’t trust NHAMCS at all – there was one study where 50% of patients diagnosed with ectopic pregnancies didn’t have a pregnancy test done – but then how did they get diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy?) This also doesn’t tell us how many of these women were actually pregnant, so it is difficult to tell how big an issue this really is.

Bottom line: Are you checking for pregnancy before giving Advil to ankle sprains in ambulatory care? Should we have quicker point of care testing to make this feasible? Does it matter? 


Non-news of the month: there happen to be some bacteria in your blood post CPR

Coba V et al. The incidence and significance of bacteremia in out of hospital cardiac arrest. Resuscitation. 2014 Feb;85(2):196-202. PMID: 24128800

I ignored this one when it first came around a year ago, but I have heard it repeated so many times, with strange conclusions, that I guess it should be included. This is a prospective observational study of 250 adult out of hospital cardiac arrest patients who they drew blood cultures on in the ED, 38% of whom were found to be bacteremic. But come on, you get bacteremic after brushing your teeth. Are you surprised this happened with crash airways, CPR, and broken ribs? They note that mortality was higher in the bacteremic group, but again, in dead people as mucous membranes break down, I expect more bacteremia. This is a silly surrogate outcome, unless someone can show early antibiotics save lives.

Bottom line: Try to ignore this paper when it is mentioned over and over again in the coming years


Another one with strange conclusions

Schuch S et al. Effect of oximetry on hospitalization in bronchiolitis: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2014;312(7):712-8. PMID: 25138332

This is a double blind RCT from Sick Kids, where they took 213 infants with bronchiolitis and randomized them to either have an accurate pulse ox reading, or one that displayed values that were 3 points higher than the actual value. When higher oxygen sats were shown, admissions went down from 41% to 25%. This is obvious – we admit hypoxic patients. I have heard lots of doctor bashing around this, but what this study didn’t show was that it was safe to discharge home babies with borderline sats. I admit a child with a sat of 89% because they are right at top of the steep part of the oxygen desaturation curve, and I am worried they might get worse. Telling me that the sat is 92% might change my mind – but how do we know those kids didn’t go on to have complications? This study certainly didn’t look for it. (I will admit we probably over-rely on the sat – but until someone proves 89% is safe with no treatment or monitoring, I will keep admitting.)

Bottom line: If you lie to doctors about important clinical parameters, their decisions change


Once again, forget about atypicals in the treatment of community acquired pneumonia

Postma DF et al. Antibiotic treatment strategies for community-acquired pneumonia in adults. NEJM. 2015;372(14):1312-1323. PMID: 25830421

Despite the theory of needing to cover for atypical organisms, this study is another in a long line of papers that all say the same thing. This is a large, multi-centre cluster-randomized trial of 2283 adult patients with community acquired pneumonia who did not require ICU care. They randomized months to to either use beta-lactam monotherapy, a beta-lactam plus a macrolide, or a fluroquiolone. The primary outcome was mortality at 90 days, and was statistically the same in all groups (but actually 1.9% higher in the macrolide group.) Secondary outcomes, like length of stay, were also the same. (The authors do note that during the time of the study, there was a low incidence of atypicals. However, multiple previous studies have show atypicals don’t matter, except maybe legionella.)

Bottom line: We already knew this, but are always taught differently: you don’t need to add a macrolide to beta-lactams to treat community acquired pneumonia. (Empiric evidence trumps petri dishes every day.) 


Dental abscesses are like all abscesses – antibiotics don’t help

Tichter AM and Perry KJ. Are antibiotics beneficial for the treatment of symptomatic dental infections? Ann Emerg Med. 2015;65(3):332-3. PMID: 25477181

This systematic review was able to find 2 RCTs comparing antibiotics (both pen-VK) versus placebo for apical perdiodonitis or abscess. There was no difference in pain, swelling, or infection progression at 24, 48, or 72 hours. All patients were given oral analgesics and ultimately had the definitive management – surgical pulpectomy.

Bottom line: Dental infections are one more diagnosis where we give antibiotics but probably shouldn’t


Was this patient’s DVT caused by an unknown cancer?

Robertson L et al. Effect of testing for cancer on cancer- and venous thromboembolism (VTE)-related mortality and morbidity in patients with unprovoked VTE. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 25749503

We know that cancer is a risk factor for VTE, so we frequently ask ourselves should we be searching for a potential cancer in people with an apparently unprovoked VTE? This is a Cochrane review, but they could only identify 2 studies with a total of 396 patients – so interpret with caution. Using a a specific suite of screening tests post VTE diagnosis, they did make more early diagnoses of cancer than in patients with usual care, but they were unable to find any cancer specific mortality benefit. (They didn’t even measure all cause mortality.)

Bottom line: This fits well with most screening data we have, in that we can always find more cancer if we look, but we are not good at changing mortality or quality of life (for the better)


More is not always better

Minotti V et al. A double-blind study comparing two single-dose regimens of ketorolac with diclofenac in paindue to cancer. Pharmacoptherapy. 1998;18(3):504-8. PMID: 9620101

With recent drug shortages, the topic of the appropriate ketorolac dose was raised a number of times around the department. This is a double blind RCT comparing ketorolac 10mg or 30mg or diclofenac 75mg (all IM) in adults with acute cancer pain. All three provided equal and reasonable relief over 6 hours. I just picked one, but this is consistent with multiple other studies showing 10 mg = 30 mg of ketorolac.

Bottom line: Toradol 10mg is probably identical to 30mg


We know we don’t talk to our patients – but apparently we can’t even talk to each other

Venkatesh AK et al. Communication of Vital Signs at Emergency Department Handoff: Opportunities for Improvement. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 2015 (in press). PMID: 25805116

This was a prospective observational study looking at ED handoffs. Out of 1163 total handoffs observed, 117 patients had episodes of hypotension, and they were not mentioned for 66 patients (42%). There were 156 patients with hypoxia, and 116 (74%) were not mentioned. (These numbers seem unbelievable, and if you look closer, attending docs rarely left this info out, it was primarily residents.)

Bottom line: Handoffs are important. Take a minute to review all the information. And we should probably be emphasizing this in resident education


Should H.pylori be an ED problem?

Meltzer AC et al. Treating Gastritis, Peptic Ulcer Disease, and Dyspepsia in the Emergency Department: The Feasibility and Patient-Reported Outcomes of Testing and Treating for Helicobacter pylori Infection.  Annals of Emergency Medicine. 2015 (in press). PMID: 25805114

This is a prospective cohort study on a convenience sample of ultimately 212 patients. The attending doctor was asked if the patients’ symptoms could be attributed to gastritis, PUD, or dyspepsia, and if so they tested for H.pylori and treated if positive. 23% of the patients tested positive for H.pylori. With treatment, they were able to eradicate H. pylori in 41% of those patients. At 3 weeks, the pain scores seemed to have decreased about the same amount no matter what had happened to you. For me, this could go either way. I worry about the false positives and a potential anchoring bias where we say this pain couldn’t be ACS just because the patient is H.pylori positive. However, our patients may benefit from early treatment (though they didn’t in this study).

Bottom line: H. Pylori is probably the cause of a lot of the symptoms we see, but we currently don’t have any good strategy to address that


The “rocket launcher” hip reduction technique

Dan M et al. Rocket launcher: A novel reduction technique for posterior hip dislocations and review of current literature. Emergency Medicine Australasia. 2015 (in press). PMID: 25846901

This is a case report of 6 patients, so I wouldn’t pay any attention to the EBM side of things. They describe a technique for hip reduction I hadn’t heard of, and may be helpful for some, especially if you are to short to make the Captain Morgan easy. Essentially, you adjust the height of the bed so that you can put the patients knee over your shoulder. The foot faces forward, like you might picture someone holding a bazooka or ‘rocket launcher’. This allows you to use you shoulder as a fulcrum, and lift with your legs.

Bottom line: Captain Morgan is still my go to, but its nice to have this as a backup


Another reduction technique: syringe rolling for mandible reduction

Gorchynski J et al. The “syringe” technique: a hands-free approach for the reduction of acute nontraumatic temporomandibular dislocations in the emergency department. J Emerg Med. 2014;47(6):676-81. PMID: 25278137

This technique involves placing a syringe (5 or 10cc) between the posterior molars, and then turning the syringe in the direction that would push the mandible backwards (as if a wheel were rolling forward along the bottom teeth). In this prospective, convenience sample, they were successful in 30/31 attempts, with 24 of those attempts taking less than a minute. You can do this without sedation. In fact, patients can do this for themselves.

Bottom line: I haven’t tried it yet – let me know if you do


Angioedema of the bowel: I’ve probably seen it, but I’ve never diagnosed it

Bloom AS and Schranz C. Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitor–Induced Angioedema of the Small Bowel—A Surgical Abdomen Mimic. Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2015 (In Press). PMID: 25886983

Just a case report, but I include it because we probably see this, but I had never really heard of it. We won’t necessarily rule it in, but in recurrent abdo pain, I might consider stopping an ace inhibitor as a trial. They note that CT findings, if you happen to get one, include ascites, small bowel thickening and straightening, and dilatation without obstruction.

Bottom line: Medication side effects should be part of the differential diagnosis for every chief complaint


Old people have high D-dimers – don’t send them if you can avoid it, but if you have to…

Righini M et al. Age-adjusted D-dimer cutoff levels to rule out pulmonary embolism: the ADJUST-PE study. JAMA 2014;311(11):1117-1124. PMID: 24643601

This is a prospective observational study of 3346 patients with suspected PE (the total rule in rate was 19%), of which a total of 331 had D-dimers greater than 500, but less than age x 10. Using the adjusted D-dimer level of age x 10, they would have missed 1 PE out of 331 patients (0.3%). Unfortunately, not everyone got the gold standard test (CTPA), so it is possible they missed a few more that we don’t know about. However, if the test threshold for PE generally is 2%, and the elderly are particularly prone to renal problems from CT contrast, avoiding 331 CTPAs at the cost of one missed diagnoses might be worth it. The other major problem is that D-dimers are not standardized and there are multiple different assays.

Bottom line: If the D-dimer is less than age x 10, the risk is probably low enough to stop further testing. I use this to (and this is crazy, I know) talk to my patients about whether or not to scan


Clowns cause pregnancy; AKA completely irrelevant paper of the month 

Friedler S et al. The effect of medical clowning on pregnancy rates after in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. Fertility and Sterility. 2011;95(6):2127-2130. PMID: 21211796

This is just too good not to include. Give women IVF, and then let them play with a clown and 36.4% become pregnant. Remove the clown: only 20.2%.

Bottom line: What exactly are they doing with that clown? 


#FOAMed suggestion of the month

If you haven’t come across it yet, Scott Weingart and Steve Smith put together a list of all the reasons for cath lab activation, including the very subtle details. There are 2 podcasts summarizing, and one very handy pdf. Also, Steve Smith is just giving away his amazing ECG textbook. All can be found at:

Cheesy Joke of the Month

Why don’t you ever see Hippos hiding in trees?
Because they are really f***ing good at it.

Articles of the month (March 2015)

A monthly collection of the most interesting emergency medical literature I have encountered

Magnesium the wonder drug, now for migraines

Shahrami A et al. Comparison of therapeutic effects of magnesium sulfate vs. dexamethasone/metoclopramide on alleviating acute migraine headache. J Emerg Med 2015; 48(1): 69-76. PMID 25278139

In this RCT, they compared IV magnesium (1 gram) to the combination of metoclopramide 10mg IV and dexamethasome 8mg IV. Magnesium was more effective at 20min, 1 and 2 hours. I would note, that although metoclopramide is what we generally have to use now because of drug shortages or silly rules, prochlorperazine (Stemetil) and droperidol are both better for migraine. Also, previous studies of metoclopramide in migraine have used a 20mg dose, although 10mg is what tends to be ordered.

Bottom line: Intravenous magnesium might be a useful tool in the treatment of migraines

 

This PROMISEs to be the biggest paper of the month

The ProMISe trial. Mouncey et al. Trial of Early, Goal-Directed Resuscitation for Septic Shock. NEJM. 2015 (Ahead of print). PMID: 25776532

This is the third and final large trial of early goal directed therapy for septic shock, and shockingly it tells us pretty much the same thing the first two did: EGDT adds nothing to usual care. This is an open label, multi-center RCT from the UK with a total of 1260 patients. Patients were randomized to receive the classic EGDT protocol or ‘usual care’. There was no difference in mortality, (29% at 90 days). Of course, ‘usual care’ may look a lot more like EGDT than it used to.

Bottom line: Septic patients need antibiotics, fluids, and most importantly someone to care about them. Ditch the high tech stuff.

 

Emergency doctors are ECG experts, we don’t need a second opinion next week

Proano L et al. Cardiology electrocardiogram overreads rarely influence patient care outcome. Am Jour Emerg Med 2014;32(11):1311-14. PMID: 25200503

This is a retrospective review at a single teaching hospital over 21 months, with 38,490 ECGs reviewed. Of the 16,011 patients that were discharged, 22 patients required follow up for discordant readings (0.1%). Of those 22, after review only 2 were determined to require a change in management. The remainder were considered ‘non specific’ or the ED doc turned out to be right. Of the 2 with changed management, one was for ‘possible ACS’ who ultimately had a completely negative workup. The other was a missed atrial flutter, but nothing changed about their management except also getting a negative workup.

Bottom line: Having cardiology over read ED ECGs results in a change of management in somewhere between 0 and 0.01% of patients (and adds a bunch of false positives).

 

We don’t listen to our own literature (ACLS still doesn’t work)

Sanghavi BS et al. Outcomes After Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Treated by Basic vs Advanced Life Support. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(2):196-204. PMID: 25419698

We already know this, because it has been over a decade since OPALS (in Ontario) proved that ACLS doesn’t work. This is an observational cohort study of American medicare patients with out of hospital cardiac arrest, based on whether they were treated by an ACLS or BLS crew. Survival to hospital discharge was better with BLS (13.1% vs 9.2%). Survival at 90 days was better with BLS (8.0% vs 5.4%).

Bottom line: ACLS doesn’t work. Stop wasting time with IVs and drugs. And most importantly, can we please remove any kind of ACLS training from my hospital credentialing requirements?

 

Related: Less is also more for airway management in cardiac arrest

McMullan J et al. Airway management and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest outcome in the CARES registry. Resuscitation 2014, 85(5):617-622. PMID: 24561079

This is a retrospective registry review of 10,691 out of hospital cardiac arrests that demonstrated that patients that did not have advanced airways placed during the initial resuscitation were more likely to survive to hospital discharge with good neurological outcomes (OR 4.24 95% CI 3.26-5.20). The use of supraglottic airways was associated with worse outcomes than endotracheal intubation. Of course, these are just associations in a very complex scenario with multiple confounders.

Bottom line: Use good technique and provide slow ventilations with a bag valve mask, unless you believe there is a good reason to do something more advanced.

 

Patients don’t understand us

Shif Y et al. What CPR means to surrogate decision makers of ICU patients. Resuscitation 2015 (In print). PMID: 25711518

This is qualitative research on communication and understanding of CPR by surrogate decision makers in the ICU. (I love this stuff, but probably mostly because my master’s was based in qualitative research and communication. Realistically, this study probably just states the obvious.) Less than half of surrogate decision makers identified cardiac arrest as the indication for CPR. Only 8% could identify the major components of CPR (although the technical details probably don’t matter that much.) Mostly importantly, 72% thought that the survival rate post CPR is greater than 75%.

Bottom line: It takes a lot of time, but we really do need to teach our patients about medicine.

 

Ketamine will not make your head explode (although, if my head did explode, I would probably be grateful to be in the K-hole)

Cohen L et al. The effect of ketamine on intracranial and cerebral perfusion pressure and health outcomes: a systematic review. Annals of Emergency Medicine 2015; 65(1):45-51. PMID: 25064742

This systematic review found a total of 10 studies, all in the ICU or OR as they were actually measuring ICPs. Mostly ketamine didn’t change ICP or CPP. In two studies, ICP actually decreased with ketamine. In two studies it did go up, but by 2-4 mmHg, so clinically meaningless. There were no changes in neurological outcomes, ICU length of stay, or mortality.

Bottom line: Ketamine is a wonder drug that can do anything, possibly even solve our boarding crisis, so go ahead and use it whenever you want.

 

Also, tetracaine is not going to melt your eyeballs

Waldman N et al. Topical tetracaine used for 24 h is safe and rated highly effective by patients for the treatment of pain caused by corneal abrasions: a double-blind, randomized clinical trial. Acad Emerg Med 2014; 21:374-382. PMID: 24730399

This is a prospective double blind RCT in which patients with corneal abrasions were allowed to use tetracaine 1% q30min PRN for pain after simple corneal abrasions (versus saline placebo). This is not the first study to look at this, and the dogma is based on a handful of ridiculous case reports. There were no complications (to be fair 116 patient trial is not big enough to be sure it is safe.) It is a weird trial, because pain scores didn’t go down, but patients were more satisfied with their care if they were given tetracaine.

Bottom line: Patients with painful conditions deserve good pain control. If I had a corneal abrasion, you can be sure I would be using a topical anesthetic.

 

One day we may not radiate our patients at all – apparently you can use ultrasound to look for bowel obstruction?

Jang TB etl al. Bedside ultrasonography for the detection of small bowel obstruction in the emergency department. Emerg Med J. 2011;28(8):676-8. PMID: 20732861

A prospective study of 76 patients with suspected SBO, all of who had a CT scan done. Residents were given a 10 training session on using bedside ultrasound to assess for bowel obstruction. The bedside ultrasound had a sensitivity of 91% and a specificity of 84% compared to the CT gold standard. Compare that to abdominal plain films, which had a sensitivity of 46% and a specificity of 67%.

Bottom line: Ultrasound is much better than plain films for the assessment of SBO.

 

Yet another reason not to order urine tox screens

Felton at al. 13-Year-Old Girl With Recurrent, Episodic, Persistent Vomiting: Out of the Pot and Into the Fire. Pediatrics 2015 (Ahead of print). PMID: 25733759

OK, this is only a case report and only gets in because I have an axe to grind. I hate urine toxicology screens and believe they should never be ordered in the ED. But it does raise an interesting tidbit to keep in mind: apparently pantoprozole can cause a false positive urine tox screen for marijuana.

Bottom line: Never rely on a urine tox screen.

 

NPO time irrelevant for procedural sedation

Godwin SA et al. Clinical policy: procedural sedation and analgesia in the emergency department. Ann Emerg Med. 2014;63(2):247-58. PMID: 24438649

As part of the ACEP clinical policy process, they did a systematic review. They found 5 studies that cover thousands of patients, and found no evidence that fasting decreased aspiration or other adverse events. The official policy is “Level B: Do not delay procedural sedation in adults or pediatrics in the ED based on fasting time. Preprocedural fasting for any duration has not demonstrated a reduction in the risk of emesis or aspiration when administering procedural sedation and analgesia.”

Bottom line: Just make sure they actually take the Doritos out of their mouth before starting.

 

GCS 8, just wait

Duncan R and Thakore S. Decreased Glasgow Coma Scale does not mandate endotracheal intubation in the emergency department. J Emerg Med 2009;37(4):451-5. PMID: 19272743

An older paper that came across my desk that I think is worth including because I know practice varies wildly in this regard, and I have debated this point with multiple folks. This is a prospective study of 73 overdose patients with decreased LOC who were watched, not intubated (GCS ranged from 3 to 14). No patient with a GCS under 8 worsened, required intubation, or aspirated.

Bottom line: GCS under 8 shouldn’t be an automatic intubation in tox patients

 

Best way to avoid the pain of an ABG – don’t do one. Second best way: use an insulin needle?

Ibrahim I et al. Arterial Puncture Using Insulin Needle Is Less Painful Than With Standard Needle: A Randomized Crossover Study. Acad Emerg Med 2015 (Ahead of print). PMID: 25731215

Although I don’t think ABGs are very helpful most of the time, you might want to calculate an A-a gradient or something some day. This was a randomized study of healthy volunteers comparing a standard 23 gauge to an insulin needle for arterial stabs. Not surprisingly, both pain and complications were lower with the smaller needle. However, hemolysis went up, so not great if you really want a K – but why do you want to know the arterial K?

Bottom line: If you really feel like doing an ABG, use a smaller needle.

 

Infomercials in the Lancet?

Goldstein JN et al. Four-factor prothrombin complex concentrate versus plasma for rapid vitamin K antagonist reversal in patients needing urgent surgical or invasive interventions: a phase 3b, open-label, non-inferiority, randomised trial. Lancet 2015 (ahead of print). PMID: 25728933

This is an open label RCT of 181 patients comparing PCC (Beriplex) to FFP before an ‘urgent surgery or procedure’. Based on rated ‘effective hemostasis’ being achieved in 90% of the PCC group and 75% of the FFP group, the authors conclude that PCC is superior to FFP. Sadly, this article appears to have been written directly by the drug company (if you read the funding statement), had protocol changes as it went, and relies on reporting of a surrogate end point. Despite all that, the treatments were actually identical. Difference in surgical blood loss between the two groups: 12 ml. Total number of units of blood transfused – identical in both groups.

Bottom line: This trial will be used to push an expensive medication, but it should be interpreted as the opposite: never use PCC just to get someone to surgery.

 

Hepatic encephalopathy is treated with diarrhea (lactulose is not special)

Rahimi RS et al. Lactulose vs polyethylene glycol 3350-electrolyte solution for treatment of overt hepatic encephalopathy: the HELP randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med 2014; 174(11):1727-1733. PMID: 25243839

This is a small RCT comparing PEG 3350 to lactulose for patients with hepatic encephalopathy. PEG 3350 resulted in more rapid resolution of symptoms than lactulose.

Bottom line: PEG 3350 might be better, but certainly isn’t worse than lactulose for the treatment of hepatic encephalpathy.

 

Your kid is allergy prone? Feed him peanuts

Du Toit et al. Randomized trial of peanut consumption in infants at risk for peanut allergy. NEJM 2015; 372:802-813. PMID: 25705822

This is the RCT to show anyone who ever tells you that there some are things we just can’t study. They took 640 children at risk of developing peanut allergy because they already had an egg allergy or severe eczema and randomized them to either eat or not a peanut based snack. The results are relatively astounding. If you didn’t have a positive skin test at the beginning of the study, being exposed to peanuts decreased your chance of developing a peanut allergy by 12% (NNT = 8). If you had a positive skin test at the outset, being exposed to peanut protein decreased your allergy rate by 25% (NNT =4)!

Bottom line: More of a general interest than emergency medicine specific paper. This is strong support for the cleanliness hypothesis of increasing allergies – if you want to avoid allergy, increase antigen exposure in kids.

Cheesy Joke of the Month

I went to a zoo recently, and the only animal there was a dog…

It was a shitzu