Hypertonic saline for elevated ICP (Articles of the Month special edition)

In the June edition of the articles of the month, I included a paper on hypertonic saline for the treatment of traumatic brain injury. My conclusion (and that of the paper’s authors) was that hypertonic saline did not seem to provide any benefit, either in terms of mortality, or even in terms of lowering intracranial pressure. My friend Scott Weingart pointed out that the paper might not actually support that conclusion. The problem was with the studies they included in the review (which I hadn’t read myself). This is probably an excellent lesson: reviews are nice as an introduction to a topic, but expert clinical practice really requires a familiarity with the original literature. For example, there are many reviews that conclude that tPa is excellent for ischemic stroke, but… well I guess I won’t get into that here. Anyhow, I promised to read the studies on hypertonic saline in a little more depth and post an update, so that is what follows.

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VP shunt malfunction

A simplified approach to the initial assessment and management of sick patients with VP shunts in the emergency department

Case

A 4 year old presented to the ED with a mild headache, nausea, and vomiting, and was triaged to the sub-acute area of the department. You are called to the room stat, as the child is now unresponsive with a HR of 55, a BP of 167/65, and a sat of 96% on room air. His mom mentions that he had a VP shunt placed when he was younger, but now has no medical problems. The closest neurosurgeon is 45 minutes away, if everything goes perfectly…


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