It’s time for another edition of the articles of the month. I didn’t come across as many papers worth sharing as I usually do, but there are still a few gems in there. The good news is it is a quick read. Once again, I will be discussing these papers with Casey Parker on the BroomeDocs podcast, and we would love to hear feedback about the audio version of these posts. Until next time….
The best emergency medicine articles that I came across in August 2016
Welcome to another edition of my favorite emergency medicine articles of the month. Once again, there will be an accompanying podcast with the talented and insightful Dr. Casey Parker on the BroomeDocs website where we briefly discuss these articles. Continue reading “Articles of the Month (August 2016)”
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.
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
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:
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!
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.
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”:
A basic approach to communicating the news of the death of a family member
A 50 year old man is brought into your emergency department after an unwitnessed cardiac arrest. You follow the simplified approach to PEA, but are unable to identify a reversible cause. Unfortunately, you never regain a pulse and pronounce the patient dead. Your charge nurse tells you, “the family has just arrived – they are waiting for you in the quiet room”…
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