Question Of The Day #95

question of the day

Complete Blood Count

Result

(Reference Range)

WBC Count

16.2

4.0 – 10.5 X 103/mL

Hemoglobin

10.8

13.0 – 18.0 g/dL

Hematocrit

32.4

39.0 – 54.0 %

Platelets

220

140 – 415 x 103/mL

Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis for this patient’s condition?

This patient arrives to the Emergency department with bright red bloody stools and lower abdominal pain.  The exam shows fever, tachycardia, and left-sided abdominal tenderness.  The laboratory results provided show leukocytosis and anemia.  This patient likely has a lower GI bleed based on her signs and symptoms.  Please refer to the chart below for a list of causes of GI bleeding, GI bleeding signs and symptoms, and the initial Emergency Department treatment of GI bleeding. 

All choices provided are causes of lower GI bleeding and are possible in this patient.  However, that patient’s signs, symptoms, and risk profile make certain diagnoses less likely than others.  Diverticulosis (Choice A) is the most common cause of lower GI bleeding.  Diverticulosis often occurs in older patients and should not be associated with pain or fever, which support a diagnosis of an inflammatory or infectious etiology (i.e., diverticulitis, Shigellosis, ulcerative colitis, chron’s disease, etc.).  This patient is young and has fever and leukocytosis, making diverticulosis less likely.  Colon malignancy (Choice B) is also possible but is less likely given the patient’s young age, the presence of fever, and the acute onset of symptoms over 2 days.  Colon malignancy tends to cause slow GI bleeding over a longer period of time, rather than acutely over 2 days.  Ischemic colitis (Choice C), such as mesenteric ischemia, is less likely in a young patient without any cardiac risk factors or recent abdominal surgeries. 

Ulcerative colitis (Choice D) is the most likely diagnosis in this scenario.  Peak incidence for ulcerative colitis occurs in the second and third decades of life, and women are more likely than men to have this diagnosis.  Definitive diagnosis requires a biopsy and colonoscopy, but a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis can show findings consistent with ulcerative colitis for a new diagnosis.  Treatment of an ulcerative colitis flare includes general supportive care, IV steroids, and IV antibiotics if there is concern for a concurrent infectious process.  Intestinal perforation and toxic megacolon also should be evaluated for with CT imaging.    

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #95," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, July 1, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/07/01/question-of-the-day-95/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #94

question of the day

Complete Blood Count

Result

(Reference Range)

WBC Count

4.5

4.0 – 10.5 X 103/mL

Hemoglobin

5.3

13.0 – 18.0 g/dL

Hematocrit

15.9

39.0 – 54.0 %

Platelets

138

140 – 415 x 103/mL

Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management for this patient’s condition?

This patient arrives to the Emergency Department with bright red bloody stools in the setting of warfarin use.  His exam shows hypotension and tachycardia.  The laboratory results show a low hemoglobin and hematocrit, but no INR or other coagulation studies are provided.  This patient is in hemorrhagic shock due to a lower gastrointestinal bleed.  This patient’s condition may be due to coagulopathy from his warfarin (i.e., supratherapeutic INR), diverticulosis, or other conditions.  Initial management of this unstable patient should include management of the airway, breathing, and circulation (“ABCs”).  This includes aggressive and prompt treatment of the patient’s hypotension and tachycardia and reversal of the patient’s anticoagulation.  Please refer to the chart below for a list of causes of GI bleeding, GI bleeding signs and symptoms, and the initial Emergency Department treatment of GI bleeding. 

This patient’s platelet level is just below the lower limit of normal, so administration of a platelet transfusion (Choice A) would not be the next best step.  Platelet administration should be considered if the platelet count is below 50,000-100,000, or if a massive transfusion protocol is initiated to prevent coagulopathy.  No INR value is provided in the question stem, but prompt reversal of warfarin should not be delayed for an INR level (Choice D).  Reversal of warfarin should be promptly initiated when a patient is unstable (i.e., hypotensive GI bleed, traumatic wound hemorrhage, intracranial bleed, etc.).  Medication reversal in these settings includes both IV Vitamin K 10mg and IV Fresh Frozen Plasma 10-20cc/kg.  IV Vitamin K helps reverse the Vitamin K antagonistic effect of Warfarin, but it does not acutely provide new Vitamin K-dependent coagulation factors (Factors X, V, II, VII).  IV Vitamin K gives the liver the ‘materials’ needed to regenerate these coagulation factors, but this process takes time.  Fresh frozen plasma contains ‘ready-to-use’ coagulation factors that will help control the hemorrhage acutely.  For this reason, both Vitamin K and FFP are given together in an unstable patient.  An alternative to fresh frozen plasma (FFP) is prothrombin complex concentrate (PCC), which is a concentrated version of coagulation factors.  PCC is not broadly available in all countries, and is generally more expensive than FFP. 

The management of stable patients with a supratherapeutic INR includes holding warfarin doses and sometimes providing PO Vitamin K, depending on the INR level.  Administration of IV Vitamin K only (Choice C) is not the correct treatment in this scenario.  IV Vitamin K and IV Fresh Frozen Plasma (Choice B) is the best next step to reverse this patient’s anticoagulant. 

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #94," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, June 24, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/06/24/question-of-the-day-94/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #93

question of the day

Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management?

This patient arrives to the Emergency Department with bright red bloody stools and generalized abdominal pain.  His exam shows hypotension, tachycardia, a diffusely tender abdomen, and pale conjunctiva.  He also takes warfarin daily for anticoagulation.  This patient is in hemorrhagic shock due to a lower gastrointestinal bleed.  This patient’s condition may be due to coagulopathy from his warfarin (i.e., supratherapeutic INR), diverticulosis, ischemic colitis (i.e., mesenteric ischemia), and other conditions.  Initial management of this unstable patient should include management of the airway, breathing, and circulation (“ABCs”).  This includes aggressive and prompt treatment of the patient’s hypotension and tachycardia.  Please refer to the chart below for a list of causes of GI bleeding, GI bleeding signs and symptoms, and the initial Emergency Department treatment of GI bleeding. 

A CT Angiogram of the abdomen and pelvis (Choice A) may be helpful in clarifying the etiology and site of the patient’s bleeding, but this is not the best next step in management.  The patient’s shock state first should be managed prior to any imaging studies.  Gastroenterology consultation for colonoscopy (Choice B) may be important later in this patient’s management, but it is not the best next step in management. His shock state should be treated prior to calling any consultants. An IV Pantoprazole infusion (Choice C) is helpful in upper GI bleeds due to peptic ulcer disease.  Proton pump inhibitor medications, like pantoprazole, help reduce findings of ulcer bleeding during endoscopy.  Proton pump inhibitor use has been controversial in upper GI bleeds as there is no evidence that their use decreases mortality, decreases blood product requirements, or ulcer rebleeding, but these medications are often given due to their generally small risk profile.

 

The best next step for this patient in hemorrhagic shock is administration of packed red blood cells (Choice D).  He also should have reversal of his warfarin with IV Vitamin K and fresh frozen plasma to prevent continued bleeding.

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #93," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, June 17, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/06/17/question-of-the-day-93/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #92

question of the day

Which of the following is the most likely cause of this patient’s condition?

This elderly patient arrives to the Emergency Department with painless hematochezia.  His exam shows borderline hypotension, tachycardia, and a normal abdominal exam.  This patient most likely has a lower gastrointestinal bleed based on his signs and symptoms.  A brisk (fast) upper GI bleed is also possible but is less likely.  Please refer to the chart below for a list of causes of GI bleeding, GI bleeding signs and symptoms, and the initial Emergency Department treatment of GI bleeding. 

All choices listed above are potential causes of bright red bloody stools.  Peptic ulcer disease (Choice C) is the most common cause of upper GI bleeding worldwide, not lower GI bleeding.  However, a profusely bleeding peptic ulcer can cause rapid blood transit through the GI tract to form hematochezia rather than melena.  The patient lacks any risk factors or symptoms of peptic ulcer disease, such as upper abdominal pain, hematemesis, NSAID use, or prior H. pylori infection.  Ischemic colitis, or mesenteric ischemia (Choice A), is often associated with abdominal pain and cardiac risk factors (i.e., atrial fibrillation).  Colon cancer (Choice B) is also possible, but typically colon malignancy causes slow, chronic bleeding, rather than acute large volume bloody stools with signs of shock as in this patient.  The most common cause of lower GI bleeding worldwide is diverticulosis (Choice D).  This is the most likely diagnosis in this patient with painless hematochezia.

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #92," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, June 10, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/06/10/question-of-the-day-92/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #91

question of the day

Which of the following is the most likely cause of this patient’s condition?

This patient arrives to the Emergency Department with upper abdominal pain and hematemesis.  He occasionally takes ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which is a risk factor for GI bleeding. His examination shows tachycardia.  This patient likely has an upper gastrointestinal bleed given his signs and symptoms.  Please refer to the chart below for a list of causes of GI bleeding, GI bleeding signs and symptoms, and the initial Emergency Department treatment of GI bleeding.  

All choices listed above are potential causes of upper GI bleeding, with the exception of GERD (Choice D).  Erosive gastritis and esophagitis can cause an upper GI bleed, but GERD is not a cause of upper GI bleed.  The patient lacks risk factors for esophageal varices (Choice A), such as chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, or alcohol abuse.  Gastric malignancy (Choice B) is possible, but less likely given the patient’s young age and lack of risk factors mentioned in the question stem for gastric malignancy (i.e., prior H. pylori infection, tobacco smoking, chronic gastritis, weight loss, lymphadenopathy, etc.).  The most common worldwide cause of upper GI bleeding is peptic ulcer disease (Choice C).  For this reason, Choice C is the best answer.

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #91," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, June 3, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/06/03/question-of-the-day-91/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #90

question of the day
366 - pneumonia-middle lobe

Which of the following is the most likely cause of this patient’s condition?

Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is a common reason for patients to visit the Emergency Department.  Dyspnea is often caused by a pulmonary or cardiovascular condition, but it is important to remember that dyspnea can be due to endocrine conditions, toxicologic conditions, neurologic conditions, hematologic conditions, musculoskeletal conditions, and psychiatric conditions. 

The initial approach to all patients with shortness of breath involves the primary survey, or “ABCs” (Airway, Breathing, Circulation).  This first involves checking the patient for a patent airway.  A simple method to assess the airway is to ask the patient to speak and listen for the voice.  A muffled voice, the presence of stridor, hematemesis, or a lethargic patient are clues that a patent airway may not be present.  Problems with the airway, such as an obstructing foreign body, inflammation (i.e., epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock), or vocal cord dysfunction can certainly cause shortness of breath.  Endotracheal intubation may need to be performed before moving forward.  Breathing is assessed by evaluating the function of the lungs.  Steps include looking at how the patient is breathing (fast or slow), measurement of an SpO2 level, and auscultation of both lungs for wheezing, crackles, rhonchi, or distant or absent sounds.  A low oxygen level should be immediately addressed with supplemental oxygen before moving forward.  The patient’s breathing rate and lung sounds can be very helpful in discovering the diagnosis and guiding treatment.  Lastly, circulation should be assessed.  Check the heart rate, blood pressure, peripheral pulses, skin color and temperature, and evaluate for any sites of hemorrhage.  The presence of hypotension or tachycardia should be addressed appropriately based on the presumed cause.  After the primary assessment (“ABCs”) and initial treatment actions, a more detailed history and physical exam should be conducted. 

Pertinent causes of shortness of breath for the emergency practitioner to know are outlined in the chart below. 

 

Select Causes of Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Pulmonary

 

Tension pneumothorax, pneumonia, empyema, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, asthma, COPD

Cardiovascular

 

Acute coronary syndrome (i.e., STEMI), pulmonary embolism, cardiac tamponade, Decompensated Congestive Heart Failure (acute pulmonary edema)

Endocrine

 

Diabetic ketoacidosis (Kussmaul breathing)

Toxicologic

 

Salicylate overdose, or any ingestion that causes a severe metabolic acidosis

Neurologic

 

Intracranial hemorrhage, Stroke, Spinal cord injury, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis crisis (myasthenic crisis)

Hematologic

 

Severe anemia (i.e., GI bleeding, trauma, miscarriage, post-partum hemorrhage, ruptured ectopic pregnancy)

Musculoskeletal

 

Rib fracture, flail chest

Psychiatric

 

Anxiety, Panic attack

Airway Problem

Foreign body, epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock (laryngeal swelling), expanding neck hematoma

This patient arrives to the Emergency department with shortness of breath, productive cough, and fever for 5 days.  On exam, the patient is febrile, tachycardic, and has a low SpO2 on room air.  The lung exam demonstrates focal rhonchi at the right base.  The chest X-ray demonstrates a consolidation at the right middle lobe that obscures the right heart boarder.  The consolidation is highlighted with a red star in the patient’s X-ray below.

Lung consolidations have multiple causes, including pneumonia, malignancy, heart failure, pulmonary emboli, and septic emboli from endocarditis.  Septic pulmonary emboli (Choice A) can present with cough, fever, and difficulty breathing, but often have multiple foci of consolidations on chest X-ray.  This patient has a single area of consolidation.  This patient also lacks the typical risk factors for septic emboli, like IV drug use, recent dental procedures, structural heart disease, or prosthetic heart valves.  An infected pleural effusion (Choice B), also known as an empyema, is shown as a blunted or hazy right costo-diaphragmatic angle.  This patient’s X-ray shows no fluid in both costo-diaphragmatic recesses to indicate the presence of a pleural effusion.  A pulmonary embolism (Choice D) often presents with clear lungs on auscultation and a normal chest X-ray.  However, if the pulmonary embolism progresses to a pulmonary infarct, a wedge-shaped opacity can be seen on the X-ray.  This patient’s X-ray lacks this finding.  The most likely cause for this patient’s symptoms is a right middle lobe pneumonia (Choice C).  She should receive IV fluids, antipyretics, supplemental oxygen, and IV antibiotics.

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #90," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, May 27, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/05/27/question-of-the-day-90/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #89

question of the day

Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management?

Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is a common reason for patients to visit the Emergency Department.  Dyspnea is often caused by a pulmonary or cardiovascular condition, but it is important to remember that dyspnea can be due to endocrine conditions, toxicologic conditions, neurologic conditions, hematologic conditions, musculoskeletal conditions, and psychiatric conditions. 

The initial approach to all patients with shortness of breath involves the primary survey, or “ABCs” (Airway, Breathing, Circulation).  This first involves checking the patient for a patent airway.  A simple method to assess the airway is to ask the patient to speak and listen for the voice.  A muffled voice, the presence of stridor, hematemesis, or a lethargic patient are clues that a patent airway may not be present.  Problems with the airway, such as an obstructing foreign body, inflammation (i.e., epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock), or vocal cord dysfunction can certainly cause shortness of breath.  Endotracheal intubation may need to be performed before moving forward.  Breathing is assessed by evaluating the function of the lungs.  Steps include looking at how the patient is breathing (fast or slow), measurement of an SpO2 level, and auscultation of both lungs for wheezing, crackles, rhonchi, or distant or absent sounds.  A low oxygen level should be immediately addressed with supplemental oxygen before moving forward.  The patient’s breathing rate and lung sounds can be very helpful in discovering the diagnosis and guiding treatment.  Lastly, circulation should be assessed.  Check the heart rate, blood pressure, peripheral pulses, skin color and temperature, and evaluate for any sites of hemorrhage.  The presence of hypotension or tachycardia should be addressed appropriately based on the presumed cause.  After the primary assessment (“ABCs”) and initial treatment actions, a more detailed history and physical exam should be conducted. 

Pertinent causes of shortness of breath for the emergency practitioner to know are outlined in the chart below. 

 

Select Causes of Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Pulmonary

 

Tension pneumothorax, pneumonia, empyema, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, asthma, COPD

Cardiovascular

 

Acute coronary syndrome (i.e., STEMI), pulmonary embolism, cardiac tamponade, Decompensated Congestive Heart Failure (acute pulmonary edema)

Endocrine

 

Diabetic ketoacidosis (Kussmaul breathing)

Toxicologic

 

Salicylate overdose, or any ingestion that causes a severe metabolic acidosis

Neurologic

 

Intracranial hemorrhage, Stroke, Spinal cord injury, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis crisis (myasthenic crisis)

Hematologic

 

Severe anemia (i.e., GI bleeding, trauma, miscarriage, post-partum hemorrhage, ruptured ectopic pregnancy)

Musculoskeletal

 

Rib fracture, flail chest

Psychiatric

 

Anxiety, Panic attack

Airway Problem

Foreign body, epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock (laryngeal swelling), expanding neck hematoma

This patient arrives to the Emergency department with acute shortness of breath, an urticarial rash, hypotension, tachycardia, swelling of the lips and tongue, and wheezing on lung exam.  This patient is in anaphylactic shock and requires prompt treatment with epinephrine.  Anaphylaxis is an IgE-mediated life-threatening allergic reaction that by definition affects two or more body systems (i.e., skin/mucosa, pulmonary, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, etc.).  This patient has involvement of the skin (urticarial rash, mucosal swelling), cardiovascular system (hypotension and tachycardia), and pulmonary system (wheezing).  Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include urticaria, shortness of breath, wheezing, facial or airway swelling, vomiting or diarrhea, and abdominal pain.  Anaphylaxis is a clinical diagnosis and does not require vital signs to be unstable in order to be diagnosed.  Once diagnosed, the most time sensitive and lifesaving treatment is epinephrine.  The recommended initial dose for epinephrine is 0.3-0.5mg intramuscularly in the thigh for adults.  Epinephrine doses can be repeated every 5-15 minutes if there is no improvement after the initial dose. Antihistamines, like Diphenhydramine (Choice D) or famotidine may be helpful as adjunctive treatments, but they are not lifesaving.  Steroids, like Dexamethasone (Choice C), are also routinely given in anaphylaxis with the theory that they can prevent “rebound” allergic reactions.  Again, steroids are not acutely lifesaving and should be given after IM epinephrine.  IV epinephrine can be given in a patient unresponsive to IM epinephrine at a dose of 1-5mcg/min.  A dose of IV Epinephrine 1mg (1000mcg) (Choice A) is the dose of Epinephrine used during cardiac arrest and is too high of a dose to use in anaphylaxis.  The best initial step in management is IM Epinephrine 0.3mg (Choice B).  

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #89," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, May 20, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/05/20/question-of-the-day-89/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #88

question of the day
Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management?

Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is a common reason for patients to visit the Emergency Department.  Dyspnea is often caused by a pulmonary or cardiovascular condition, but it is important to remember that dyspnea can be due to endocrine conditions, toxicologic conditions, neurologic conditions, hematologic conditions, musculoskeletal conditions, and psychiatric conditions. 

The initial approach to all patients with shortness of breath involves the primary survey, or “ABCs” (Airway, Breathing, Circulation).  This first involves checking the patient for a patent airway.  A simple method to assess the airway is to ask the patient to speak and listen for the voice.  A muffled voice, the presence of stridor, hematemesis, or a lethargic patient are clues that a patent airway may not be present.  Problems with the airway, such as an obstructing foreign body, inflammation (i.e., epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock), or vocal cord dysfunction can certainly cause shortness of breath.  Endotracheal intubation may need to be performed before moving forward.  Breathing is assessed by evaluating the function of the lungs.  Steps include looking at how the patient is breathing (fast or slow), measurement of an SpO2 level, and auscultation of both lungs for wheezing, crackles, rhonchi, or distant or absent sounds.  A low oxygen level should be immediately addressed with supplemental oxygen before moving forward.  The patient’s breathing rate and lung sounds can be very helpful in discovering the diagnosis and guiding treatment.  Lastly, circulation should be assessed.  Check the heart rate, blood pressure, peripheral pulses, skin color and temperature, and evaluate for any sites of hemorrhage.  The presence of hypotension or tachycardia should be addressed appropriately based on the presumed cause.  After the primary assessment (“ABCs”) and initial treatment actions, a more detailed history and physical exam should be conducted. 

Pertinent causes of shortness of breath for the emergency practitioner to know are outlined in the chart below. 

 

Select Causes of Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Pulmonary

 

Tension pneumothorax, pneumonia, empyema, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, asthma, COPD

Cardiovascular

 

Acute coronary syndrome (i.e., STEMI), pulmonary embolism, cardiac tamponade, Decompensated Congestive Heart Failure (acute pulmonary edema)

Endocrine

 

Diabetic ketoacidosis (Kussmaul breathing)

Toxicologic

 

Salicylate overdose, or any ingestion that causes a severe metabolic acidosis

Neurologic

 

Intracranial hemorrhage, Stroke, Spinal cord injury, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis crisis (myasthenic crisis)

Hematologic

 

Severe anemia (i.e., GI bleeding, trauma, miscarriage, post-partum hemorrhage, ruptured ectopic pregnancy)

Musculoskeletal

 

Rib fracture, flail chest

Psychiatric

 

Anxiety, Panic attack

Airway Problem

Foreign body, epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock (laryngeal swelling), expanding neck hematoma

This patient arrives to the Emergency department with shortness of breath and abdominal discomfort for 1 day.  On exam, she is hypotensive, tachycardic, and tachypneic.  Her lungs are clear, the abdomen is tender and distended, and the pregnancy test is positive.  This patient has a ruptured ectopic pregnancy until proven otherwise and requires prompt surgical management.  Once diagnosed by the Emergency clinician, ectopic pregnancy can be managed medically or surgically.  See the chart below for more details.

Treatment options for ectopic pregnancy

 

Medical Management (Methotrexate) Indicated:

Surgical Management

Indicated:

Patient hemodynamically stable

Patient hemodynamically unstable

HCG <5,000

HCG >5,000

Able to comply with Methotrexate treatment and follow up

Unable to comply with Methotrexate treatment and/or follow up

No fetal cardiac activity on ultrasound

Fetal cardiac activity present on ultrasound

   

This patient has an assumed ectopic pregnancy due to the positive pregnancy test and presence of hemodynamic instability.  A transvaginal ultrasound (Choice C) would help definitively diagnose the patient with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, but this should not delay consultation with the OBGYN team for definitive surgical management.  Methotrexate (Choice A) is a medical treatment for ectopic pregnancy, but Methotrexate is contraindicated in ruptured ectopic due to the need for surgical treatment and intra-abdominal hemorrhage control.  IV antibiotics (Choice B) are often given preoperatively for infection prophylaxis (prevention), but this is not a crucial next step.  This patient is in shock and needs operative management. The best next step is OBGYN consultation for operative management (Choice D).

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #88," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, May 13, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/05/13/question-of-the-day-88/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #87

question of the day

 

Test Value

Reference Range

BUN

14

6 – 24 mg/dL

Creatinine

0.87

0.59 – 1.04 mg/dL

Hemoglobin

5.5

12.0 – 15.0 g/dL

WBC count

5.2

4.5 to 11.0 × 109/L

HCG quantitative

0

<5 mIU/mL

Which of the following is the most like cause for this patient’s condition?

Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is a common reason for patients to visit the Emergency Department.  Dyspnea is often caused by a pulmonary or cardiovascular condition, but it is important to remember that dyspnea can be due to endocrine conditions, toxicologic conditions, neurologic conditions, hematologic conditions, musculoskeletal conditions, and psychiatric conditions. 

The initial approach to all patients with shortness of breath involves the primary survey, or “ABCs” (Airway, Breathing, Circulation).  This first involves checking the patient for a patent airway.  A simple method to assess the airway is to ask the patient to speak and listen for the voice.  A muffled voice, the presence of stridor, hematemesis, or a lethargic patient are clues that a patent airway may not be present.  Problems with the airway, such as an obstructing foreign body, inflammation (i.e., epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock), or vocal cord dysfunction can certainly cause shortness of breath.  Endotracheal intubation may need to be performed before moving forward.  Breathing is assessed by evaluating the function of the lungs.  Steps include looking at how the patient is breathing (fast or slow), measurement of an SpO2 level, and auscultation of both lungs for wheezing, crackles, rhonchi, or distant or absent sounds.  A low oxygen level should be immediately addressed with supplemental oxygen before moving forward.  The patient’s breathing rate and lung sounds can be very helpful in discovering the diagnosis and guiding treatment.  Lastly, circulation should be assessed.  Check the heart rate, blood pressure, peripheral pulses, skin color and temperature, and evaluate for any sites of hemorrhage.  The presence of hypotension or tachycardia should be addressed appropriately based on the presumed cause.  After the primary assessment (“ABCs”) and initial treatment actions, a more detailed history and physical exam should be conducted. 

Pertinent causes of shortness of breath for the emergency practitioner to know are outlined in the chart below. 

 

Select Causes of Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Pulmonary

 

Tension pneumothorax, pneumonia, empyema, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, asthma, COPD

Cardiovascular

 

Acute coronary syndrome (i.e., STEMI), pulmonary embolism, cardiac tamponade, Decompensated Congestive Heart Failure (acute pulmonary edema)

Endocrine

 

Diabetic ketoacidosis (Kussmaul breathing)

Toxicologic

 

Salicylate overdose, or any ingestion that causes a severe metabolic acidosis

Neurologic

 

Intracranial hemorrhage, Stroke, Spinal cord injury, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis crisis (myasthenic crisis)

Hematologic

 

Severe anemia (i.e., GI bleeding, trauma, miscarriage, post-partum hemorrhage, ruptured ectopic pregnancy)

Musculoskeletal

 

Rib fracture, flail chest

Psychiatric

 

Anxiety, Panic attack

Airway Problem

Foreign body, epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock (laryngeal swelling), expanding neck hematoma

This patient arrives to the Emergency department with shortness of breath with deceased exercise tolerance or 5 days.  Her vital signs are normal and lungs are clear, but she appears pale.  The laboratory test provided shows normal kidney function, a negative serum pregnancy test, and a markedly low hemoglobin level.  A ruptured ectopic pregnancy (Choice B) can cause shortness of breath due to anemia and hemorrhagic shock, but this patient has a negative pregnancy test.  Asthma (Choice A) is unlikely given the patient’s normal lung exam without wheezing and no mention of cough.  A pulmonary embolism (Choice D) is possible due to the tachycardia, but the patient lacks other risk factors as stated in the question stem.  A D-Dimer test could help further evaluate if this patient has a pulmonary embolism, but the low hemoglobin likely explains the patient’s symptoms.  The patient’s history of menorrhagia, also known as heavy menses (Choice C), is a common cause of anemia in women of childbearing age.  Even though this patient is not currently menstruating, her heavy menses are the most likely cause for her shortness of breath.  Choice C is the best answer.

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #87," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, May 6, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/05/06/question-of-the-day-87/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #86

question of the day
420 - right pneumothorax1
Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management for this patient’s condition?

Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is a common reason for patients to visit the Emergency Department.  Dyspnea is often caused by a pulmonary or cardiovascular condition, but it is important to remember that dyspnea can be due to endocrine conditions, toxicologic conditions, neurologic conditions, hematologic conditions, musculoskeletal conditions, and psychiatric conditions. 

The initial approach to all patients with shortness of breath involves the primary survey, or “ABCs” (Airway, Breathing, Circulation).  This first involves checking the patient for a patent airway.  A simple method to assess the airway is to ask the patient to speak and listen for the voice.  A muffled voice, the presence of stridor, hematemesis, or a lethargic patient are clues that a patent airway may not be present.  Problems with the airway, such as an obstructing foreign body, inflammation (i.e., epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock), or vocal cord dysfunction can certainly cause shortness of breath.  Endotracheal intubation may need to be performed before moving forward.  Breathing is assessed by evaluating the function of the lungs.  Steps include looking at how the patient is breathing (fast or slow), measurement of an SpO2 level, and auscultation of both lungs for wheezing, crackles, rhonchi, or distant or absent sounds.  A low oxygen level should be immediately addressed with supplemental oxygen before moving forward.  The patient’s breathing rate and lung sounds can be very helpful in discovering the diagnosis and guiding treatment.  Lastly, circulation should be assessed.  Check the heart rate, blood pressure, peripheral pulses, skin color and temperature, and evaluate for any sites of hemorrhage.  The presence of hypotension or tachycardia should be addressed appropriately based on the presumed cause.  After the primary assessment (“ABCs”) and initial treatment actions, a more detailed history and physical exam should be conducted. 

Pertinent causes of shortness of breath for the emergency practitioner to know are outlined in the chart below. 

 

Select Causes of Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Pulmonary

 

Tension pneumothorax, pneumonia, empyema, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, asthma, COPD

Cardiovascular

 

Acute coronary syndrome (i.e., STEMI), pulmonary embolism, cardiac tamponade, Decompensated Congestive Heart Failure (acute pulmonary edema)

Endocrine

 

Diabetic ketoacidosis (Kussmaul breathing)

Toxicologic

 

Salicylate overdose, or any ingestion that causes a severe metabolic acidosis

Neurologic

 

Intracranial hemorrhage, Stroke, Spinal cord injury, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis crisis (myasthenic crisis)

Hematologic

 

Severe anemia (i.e., GI bleeding, trauma, miscarriage, post-partum hemorrhage, ruptured ectopic pregnancy)

Musculoskeletal

 

Rib fracture, flail chest

Psychiatric

 

Anxiety, Panic attack

Airway Problem

Foreign body, epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock (laryngeal swelling), expanding neck hematoma

This patient arrives to the Emergency department with acute onset shortness of breath with pleuritic right sided chest pain.  On exam, there is mild tachypnea and a borderline low SpO2 of 95% on room air.  The chest X-ray demonstrates a small right sided pneumothorax (see location of red stars below).

Needle decompression to the right chest (Choice C) would be the right choice if the patient had a right sided tension pneumothorax.  Signs of a tension pneumothorax are hypotension, tachycardia, tracheal deviation, and mediastinal shift on Chest X-ray.  Tension pneumothorax should be diagnosed clinically without a chest X-ray and promptly treated with needle decompression with a 14-16 gauge needle at the 2nd intercostal space in the mid clavicular line.  Needle decompression can also be performed at the 4th or 5th intercostal space in the anterior axillary line. Needle decompression is always followed by placement of a formal chest tube.  This patient does not have the hemodynamic instability or chest X-ray findings of a classic tension pneumothorax. IV Azithromycin (Choice D) would be appropriate for a COPD exacerbation or for community-acquired pneumonia.  This patient does have a cough, but lacks fever, sputum production, and also has a pneumothorax on X-ray that can explain his symptoms.  An IV Heparin bolus and infusion (Choice A) would be the ideal treatment for a pulmonary embolism or acute coronary syndrome.  Again, the Chest X-ray provided shows support for an alternative cause for the patient’s symptoms.  The best next step is supplemental oxygen (Choice B).  100% supplemental oxygen helps decrease the time to lung expansion in patients with pneumothoraces.   A nonrebreather mask at 15L/min is the ideal method to providing this level of oxygen.

This patient has a small pneumothorax (<3cm between lung margin and chest wall).  Small primary pneumothoraces have two treatment options.  The first option is to administer 100% oxygen and place a pigtail catheter for rapid lung re-expansion.  The second option is to only administer 100% oxygen administration for a period of 4-6 hours followed by a repeat chest X-ray to evaluate for improvement of the pneumothorax.   If the pneumothorax is improving and symptoms are improving (less shortness of breath and chest pain), the patient can be discharged home with close outpatient follow up and no chest tube placement.  Deciding which treatment option is best should depend on the patient’s ability to follow up with a doctor, patient reliability, and resource availability.  This patient does have a small pneumothorax by measurement, but he likely has a secondary pneumothorax from his COPD.  Secondary pneumothoraces have a higher rate of recurrence and almost always require chest tube placement.  Regardless, the best initial step in treatment is supplemental oxygen (Choice B).

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #86," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, April 29, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/04/29/question-of-the-day-86/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #85

question of the day
SS Video 3  Pericardial Tamponade
Which of the following is the most likely cause for this patient’s condition?

Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is a common reason for patients to visit the Emergency Department.  Dyspnea is often caused by a pulmonary or cardiovascular condition, but it is important to remember that dyspnea can be due to endocrine conditions, toxicologic conditions, neurologic conditions, hematologic conditions, musculoskeletal conditions, and psychiatric conditions. 

The initial approach to all patients with shortness of breath involves the primary survey, or “ABCs” (Airway, Breathing, Circulation).  This first involves checking the patient for a patent airway.  A simple method to assess the airway is to ask the patient to speak and listen for the voice.  A muffled voice, the presence of stridor, hematemesis, or a lethargic patient are clues that a patent airway may not be present.  Problems with the airway, such as an obstructing foreign body, inflammation (i.e., epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock), or vocal cord dysfunction can certainly cause shortness of breath.  Endotracheal intubation may need to be performed before moving forward.  Breathing is assessed by evaluating the function of the lungs.  Steps include looking at how the patient is breathing (fast or slow), measurement of an SpO2 level, and auscultation of both lungs for wheezing, crackles, rhonchi, or distant or absent sounds.  A low oxygen level should be immediately addressed with supplemental oxygen before moving forward.  The patient’s breathing rate and lung sounds can be very helpful in discovering the diagnosis and guiding treatment.  Lastly, circulation should be assessed.  Check the heart rate, blood pressure, peripheral pulses, skin color and temperature, and evaluate for any sites of hemorrhage.  The presence of hypotension or tachycardia should be addressed appropriately based on the presumed cause.  After the primary assessment (“ABCs”) and initial treatment actions, a more detailed history and physical exam should be conducted. 

Pertinent causes of shortness of breath for the emergency practitioner to know are outlined in the chart below. 

 

Select Causes of Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Pulmonary

 

Tension pneumothorax, pneumonia, empyema, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, asthma, COPD

Cardiovascular

 

Acute coronary syndrome (i.e., STEMI), pulmonary embolism, cardiac tamponade, Decompensated Congestive Heart Failure (acute pulmonary edema)

Endocrine

 

Diabetic ketoacidosis (Kussmaul breathing)

Toxicologic

 

Salicylate overdose, or any ingestion that causes a severe metabolic acidosis

Neurologic

 

Intracranial hemorrhage, Stroke, Spinal cord injury, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis crisis (myasthenic crisis)

Hematologic

 

Severe anemia (i.e., GI bleeding, trauma, miscarriage, post-partum hemorrhage, ruptured ectopic pregnancy)

Musculoskeletal

 

Rib fracture, flail chest

Psychiatric

 

Anxiety, Panic attack

Airway Problem

Foreign body, epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock (laryngeal swelling), expanding neck hematoma

This patient presented to the Emergency department with 2 days of shortness of breath without chest pain, cough, or fevers.  The exam shows tachycardia, hypotension, mild tachypnea, clear lungs, and distant heart sounds.  Tension pneumothorax (Choice B) can cause hypotension and tachycardia and COPD is a risk factor for pulmonary bleb formation and rupture.  However, the lungs are equal and clear bilaterally, so this diagnosis is not likely.  Septic shock due to pneumonia (Choice C) is also less likely as there is no fever, the lungs are clear, and the patient lacks a cough.  The ultrasound image given also provides a clear explanation for the patient’s symptoms.  This patient is at risk for pulmonary embolism (Choice A) given his cancer history which can cause a hypercoagulable state and predispose him to clot formation.  Again, an understanding of the ultrasound image will provide the diagnosis.

The ultrasound image is a subxiphoid view of the heart demonstrating a pericardial effusion (red stars) with compression of the right ventricle (yellow arrow). 

This presentation is consistent with cardiac tamponade (Choice D).  Cardiac tamponade is a condition defined by the accumulation of fluid in the pericardial sac to the point of right ventricular collapse and obstructive shock.  Common presenting symptoms of cardiac tamponade include shortness of breath, chest pain, or nonspecific symptoms.  Risk factors for this diagnosis are penetrating chest trauma (hemopericardium), cancer (malignant effusion), lupus, end stage renal disease, uremia, HIV, Tuberculosis, or history of chest radiation.  The presence of hemodynamic instability (hypotension and tachycardia) is a hallmark of this condition, although early stages of tamponade can be seen on cardiac ultrasound before vital signs decompensate.  The patient may have Beck’s triad of muffled distant heart sounds, jugular venous distension, and hypotension, although the majority of patients with cardiac tamponade do not have all three of these signs together.  Treatment involves IV fluids, bedside pericardiocentesis (ultrasound guided preferred), and surgical pericardiotomy (“pericardial window”).

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #85," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, April 22, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/04/22/question-of-the-day-85/, date accessed: July 7, 2022

Question Of The Day #84

question of the day
475.3 xray abdomen series normal chest
Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management for this patient’s condition?

Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is a common reason for patients to visit the Emergency Department.  Dyspnea is often caused by a pulmonary or cardiovascular condition, but it is important to remember that dyspnea can be due to endocrine conditions, toxicologic conditions, neurologic conditions, hematologic conditions, musculoskeletal conditions, and psychiatric conditions. 

The initial approach to all patients with shortness of breath involves the primary survey, or “ABCs” (Airway, Breathing, Circulation).  This first involves checking the patient for a patent airway.  A simple method to assess the airway is to ask the patient to speak and listen for the voice.  A muffled voice, the presence of stridor, hematemesis, or a lethargic patient are clues that a patent airway may not be present.  Problems with the airway, such as an obstructing foreign body, inflammation (i.e., epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock), or vocal cord dysfunction can certainly cause shortness of breath.  Endotracheal intubation may need to be performed before moving forward.  Breathing is assessed by evaluating the function of the lungs.  Steps include looking at how the patient is breathing (fast or slow), measurement of an SpO2 level, and auscultation of both lungs for wheezing, crackles, rhonchi, or distant or absent sounds.  A low oxygen level should be immediately addressed with supplemental oxygen before moving forward.  The patient’s breathing rate and lung sounds can be very helpful in discovering the diagnosis and guiding treatment.  Lastly, circulation should be assessed.  Check the heart rate, blood pressure, peripheral pulses, skin color and temperature, and evaluate for any sites of hemorrhage.  The presence of hypotension or tachycardia should be addressed appropriately based on the presumed cause.  After the primary assessment (“ABCs”) and initial treatment actions, a more detailed history and physical exam should be conducted. 

Pertinent causes of shortness of breath for the emergency practitioner to know are outlined in the chart below. 

 

 

Select Causes of Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Pulmonary

 

Tension pneumothorax, pneumonia, empyema, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, asthma, COPD

Cardiovascular

 

Acute coronary syndrome (i.e., STEMI), pulmonary embolism, cardiac tamponade, Decompensated Congestive Heart Failure (acute pulmonary edema)

Endocrine

 

Diabetic ketoacidosis (Kussmaul breathing)

Toxicologic

 

Salicylate overdose, or any ingestion that causes a severe metabolic acidosis

Neurologic

 

Intracranial hemorrhage, Stroke, Spinal cord injury, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis crisis (myasthenic crisis)

Hematologic

 

Severe anemia (i.e., GI bleeding, trauma, miscarriage, post-partum hemorrhage, ruptured ectopic pregnancy)

Musculoskeletal

 

Rib fracture, flail chest

Psychiatric

 

Anxiety, Panic attack

Airway Problem

Foreign body, epiglottitis, anaphylactic shock (laryngeal swelling), expanding neck hematoma

 

This patient arrives to the Emergency Department with shortness of breath and generalized weakness or 3 days.  On physical exam, there is tachycardia, tachypnea, normal oxygen saturation, and a markedly elevated glucose.  The Chest X-ray provided is normal; there are no lung infiltrates or pleural effusions. 

This patient has diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).  DKA is a serious condition of insulin deficiency characterized by hyperglycemia, metabolic acidosis, and ketosis.  Presenting symptoms include weakness, increased thirst (polydipsia), increased hunger (polyphagia), increased urination (polyuria), abdominal pain, or vomiting.  Shortness of breath can also be seen in DKA as the metabolic ketoacidosis triggers an increased respiratory rate to drive more exhaled carbon dioxide out of the body.  This deep rapid breathing seen in severe DKA is known as Kussmaul breathing.  The treatment of DKA involves IV fluids for hydration, insulin infusion, and close monitoring for electrolyte derangements (potassium abnormalities are common).  DKA patients are severely dehydrated due to osmotic diuresis from their hyperglycemic state.  For this reason, IV fluid resuscitation is the first step to DKA management.  Either normal saline or lactated ringers (Choice B) can be used, although large volumes of normal saline can worsen the acidotic state by causing a hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis.  Intravenous fluids should be started with a 20-30cc/kg bolus.  IV insulin infusion (Choice A) should never be started without a potassium level, and no potassium level is provided in the question stem.  Insulin lowers potassium, and administration of insulin without a potassium level can result in hypokalemia, arrythmia, and death.  Endotracheal intubation (Choice D) should be avoided in DKA whenever possible as the patient’s respiratory status serves as a compensation for the metabolic acidosis.  This patient is tachypneic and mildly confused, but he is not somnolent and does not require immediate intubation.  Intubated DKA patients need carefully monitored ventilator settings in combination with blood gas measurements to avoid worsening acidosis and cardiac arrest.  Nebulized beta-2 agonist (i.e., albuterol, salbutamol) is helpful in asthma, however this patient has DKA and not an asthma exacerbation.  IV lactated ringers solution (Choice B) is the best next step.

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #84," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, April 15, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/04/15/question-of-the-day-84/, date accessed: July 7, 2022