Can you identify the signs of human trafficking in the Emergency Room?

human trafficking

Definition and Importance

Human trafficking is a global problem enclosing the spheres of international law, human rights, organized crime, public health and medicine. It is best defined by the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), human trafficking is considered the third-largest criminal activity in the world. Despite issues regarding data collection, the US State Department was able to report that around 20,000 people per year are trafficked inside the United States. It is also estimated that up to 900,000 people per year are being transported across borders with the intention of slavery and exploitation.

Why should physicians care about it?

A 2014 study showed that 87.8% of human trafficking survivals had access to healthcare services during their trafficking situation and of this, 68.3% went to the emergency room. The data above highlights the importance of healthcare professionals, especially those at the emergency department, when it comes to the identification and help of trafficking victims. It also reinforces the role of the emergency doctors as front-line healthcare providers for those in vulnerable situations and/or who lack proper medical care.

What are the signs that can be marked as "red flags" to identify victims of human trafficking?

According to the guidelines provided by National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) there are some indicators, and they are divided into General Indicators and Health Indicators or consequences of Human Trafficking. They can be physical and/or mental signs. It is important to say that not all the victims will have the same indicators and each sign isolated may not be a trafficking situation. However, if several “red flags” are detected, further assessment may be needed.

GENERAL INDICATORS

  • The patient may tell an inconsistent story or be reluctant to describe details and answer questions about the injury or illness.
  • The accompanying individual does not let the patient have privacy or even speak for themselves.
  • They are unable to provide his/her own address and/or are unaware of the current time and location.
  • The patients` document may not be in his/her possession, and rather held by the accompanying individual.
  • The patient may not have the appropriate clothing for the weather.
  •  The presence of tattoos or any branding form demonstrating possession or serial numbers and bar codes may be found in the patient’s body. 
PHYSICAL INDICATORS
  • Signs of abuse or inexplicable injuries such as bruises, burns, cuts, wounds, blunt force trauma, broken teeth, fractures or any other sign of torture such as restraint marks 
  • Neurological conditions such as unexplained memory loss or traumatic brain injury  
  • Dietary issues such as extreme weight loss or malnutrition
  • Signs of potentially forced substance abuse
  • Issues regarding the reproductive system such as Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), genitourinary problems, forced abortions or several unwanted pregnancies. 
  • Effects of prolonged exposure to unhealthy environments such as extreme temperatures, industrial or agricultural chemicals 
  • Somatization symptoms 
  • Poor dental hygiene 
  • Untreated skin infections 
MENTAL HEALTH INDICATORS
  • Anxiety
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Depression with or without suicide thoughts
  • Nightmares and/or flashbacks
  • Hostile behavior 
  • The patient may present with a feeling of disorientation or an unrealistic perception of his/her surroundings.  
  • Stockholm syndrome
  • Paranoid or extreme fearful behavior 

It is important to keep in mind that the signs presented above are not exclusive to a trafficking situation and many other clinical conditions may cause the appearance of those groups of symptoms. That being said, if after spotting some “red flags” you are still unsure whether or not that patient is a potential victim, there are a few screening questions you can ask that might help to confirm your suspicions, such as: 

  • Are you in possession of your identification documents?
  • How is a normal day at your work? 
  • How is it like at the place where you work?
  • Describe the place where you sleep and eat.
  • Are you free to come and go whenever you please?
  • Do you get paid for your work?
  • Where is your family?
  • Is anyone threatening you?

What to do in case you come in contact with a victim?

Dealing with trafficking victims is a very sensitive matter which requires discretion and an approach centered on the victim. That means once it is confirmed that the situation is indeed about human trafficking, the doctor’s aim is to try to provide a safe environment and inform the person of his/her rights. In order to do that, you should try to meet the patient`s basic needs, always trying to build trust and rapport, avoiding any potential re-traumatization situation.

Some protocols will depend on the specific situation. It is also important to know that legal requirements regarding contacting the authorities will be different in each country. That said, it is your responsibility as an emergency doctor to be informed about the protocol regarding your geographic location.

In the US, there is a National Hotline (1-888-373-7888) that provides the victims with a safe and confidential space to talk and report the trafficking. This line is operational 24/7 and offers access in more than 200 languages.

In conclusion, doctors have a privileged position when it comes to recognizing and helping human trafficking victims. That is why it is very important to be attentive to spot possible “red flags” and be informed of the right protocols to follow in case you need to assist a victim.

References and Further Reading

Cite this article as: Brenda Feres, Brazil, "Can you identify the signs of human trafficking in the Emergency Room?," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, December 20, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/12/20/human-trafficking-signs/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #63

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

This patient presents to the Emergency Department after a high-speed motor vehicle accident in the setting of alcohol intoxication.  On examination, he is intoxicated with a GCS of 14 (normal GCS is 15).  The first step in evaluating any trauma patient involves the primary survey.  The primary survey is also known as the “ABCDEFs” of trauma.  This stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure, and FAST exam (Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma).  Each letter should be assessed in alphabetical order to avoid missing a time sensitive life-threatening condition.  The primary survey should be conducted prior to taking a full history.

After the primary survey, a more detailed physical exam (secondary survey) is conducted, followed by interventions and a focused patient history.  This patient is intoxicated but is awake with a patent airway. Endotracheal intubation (Choice C) is not indicated.  Neurosurgical consultation (Choice D) is also not indicated at this stage as there is no concrete information to indicate a surgical emergency.  CT imaging may demonstrate a cervical spine fracture or intracerebral bleeding, but these results are not provided by the question stem.  A CT scan of the head without contrast (Choice B) is a reasonable test for this patient given his significant mechanism of injury and intoxication on exam.  However, both a CT scan of the head and cervical spine (Choice A) should be ordered due to the patient’s intoxication creating an unreliable physical exam.  Alcohol intoxication or drug use can alter a patient’s ability to sense pain and provide accurate information.  The presence of intoxication should always raise awareness for possible occult injuries. 

Of note, intoxication and altered mental status are indications to perform a CT scan of the cervical spine based on a well-validated decision-making tool known as the NEXUS criteria (National Emergency X-Radiography Utilization Study).  Other criteria on the NEXUS tool that support CT cervical spine imaging are midline spinal tenderness, the presence of a focal neurologic deficit, or the presence of a distracting injury (i.e., femur fracture). The Canadian C-Spine Rule and Canadian CT Head Rule are other validated decision-making tools to help a clinician decide on whether or not to order CT head or cervical spine imaging. Correct Answer: A

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #63," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, November 12, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/11/12/question-of-the-day-63/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #60

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

This first-trimester pregnant patient presents with generalized weakness, nausea, and vomiting.  She is hypotensive and tachycardic with no sign of urinary infection on the urinalysis.  The many ketones in the urine indicate the patient has inadequate oral nutrition and is breaking down muscle and adipose tissue for energy.  This is likely related to the persistent vomiting the patient is experiencing.  This patient has hyperemesis, a common condition in the first trimester of pregnancy that is caused by rising levels of beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (BHCG).  Treatment for this patient should include IV hydration and antiemetics.  Admission criteria for these patients includes intractable vomiting despite antiemetic administration, over 10% maternal weight loss, persistent ketone or electrolyte abnormalities despite rehydration, or uncertainty in the diagnosis. 

The fluid losses caused by vomiting in this condition result in hypovolemic shock (Choice B).  Distributive shock (Choice C) is caused by other conditions, like sepsis, anaphylaxis, and neurogenic shock.  A ureteral stone (Choice D) is unlikely as the patient does not report any abdominal, back, or flank pain.  The urinalysis also does not show any hematuria, which is a common sign of a ureteral stone.  Pyelonephritis (Choice A) can cause vomiting and septic shock which can result in hypotension and tachycardia.  However, there is no sign of infection in the urinalysis provided, no fever, and no back or flank pain.  The best answer is choice B.  

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #60," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, October 22, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/10/22/question-of-the-day-60/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #59

question of the day
38 - atrial fibrillation

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

This patient presents to the Emergency Department with palpitations, generalized weakness, and shortness of breath after discontinuing all her home medications.  She has hypotension, marked tachycardia, and pulmonary edema (crackles on lung auscultation).  The 12-lead EKG demonstrates atrial fibrillation with a rapid ventricular rate.  This patient is in a state of cardiogenic shock and requires prompt oxygen support, blood pressure support, and heart rate control. 

Pulmonary embolism (Choice A) can sometimes manifest as new atrial fibrillation with shortness of breath and tachycardia, but pulmonary embolism initially causes obstructive shock.  If a pulmonary embolism goes untreated, it can progress to right ventricular failure, pulmonary edema, and cardiogenic shock.  This patient has known atrial fibrillation and stopped all her home medications.  The abrupt medication change is a more likely cause of the patient’s cardiogenic shock.  Dehydration (Choice D) and systemic infection (Choice D) are less likely given the above history of abruptly stopping home maintenance medications.  Untreated cardiac arrythmia (Choice B) is the most likely cause for this patient’s pulmonary edema and cardiogenic shock. 

The chart below details the categories of shock, each category’s hemodynamics, potential causes, and treatments.  

 

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #59," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, October 15, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/10/15/question-of-the-day-59/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #58

question of the day
720 - variceal bleeding

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

This cirrhotic patient presents to the Emergency Department with epigastric pain after an episode of hematemesis at home.  His initial vital signs are within normal limits.  While waiting in the Emergency Department, his clinical status changes.  The patient has a large volume of hematemesis with hypotension and tachycardia.  This patient is now in hemorrhagic shock from an upper gastrointestinal bleed and requires immediate volume resuscitation.  The most common cause of upper gastrointestinal bleeding is peptic ulcer disease, but this patient’s cirrhosis history and large volume of hematemesis should raise concern for an esophageal variceal bleed.  IV Pantoprazole (Choice D) is a proton pump inhibitor that helps reduce bleeding in peptic ulcers, but it does not provide benefit in esophageal varices.  Volume repletion is also a more important initial step than giving pantoprazole.  IV Ceftriaxone (Choice C) helps reduce the likelihood of infectious complications in variceal bleed patients.  This has a mortality benefit and is a recommended adjunctive treatment.  However, rapid volume resuscitation is a more important initial step.  IV crystalloid fluids, like normal saline (Choice A), are helpful in patients with hypovolemic shock (i.e., dehydration, vomiting), distributive shock (i.e., sepsis, anaphylaxis), and obstructive shock (i.e., tension pneumothorax, etc.).  Hypovolemic shock due to severe hemorrhage (hemorrhagic shock) requires blood products, not crystalloid fluids which can further dilute blood and cause coagulopathy.  Administration of packed red blood cells (Choice B) is the best next step in management in this case.

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #58," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, October 8, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/10/08/question-of-the-day-58/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Cryptic Shock – Identifying the Unseen (PART 1)

Case Presentation

A 68-year-old man presented to the Emergency Department with complaints of breathing difficulty and fever for three days. The patient is a known diabetic and hypertensive.

After detailed history taking, clinical examination, and radiological workup, the patient was diagnosed with right-sided lobar pneumonia (Community-acquired) and immediately started on intravenous antibiotics. In addition, necessary cultures and blood samples were taken for evaluation.

At the time of presentation, his vitals were HR – 92/min, BP – 130/70mmHg, RR – 30/min, SpO2 – 90% with RA à 96% with 2L O2. He underwent bladder catheterization.

During the 1st hour in the ER, the patient had a very low urine output, which continued for the next few hours. Lactate levels were more than 4mmol/L.

Based on the symptoms, oliguria, and hyperlactatemia, the patient was diagnosed to have sepsis and was initiated on fluid resuscitation. After 2 hours, the patient remained oliguric still, and his BP declined to 120/70mmHg.

After 6 hours, the patient’s BP became 110/60mmHg (MAP – 77). He became anuric and developed altered sensorium. Since he did not meet the criteria of septic shock, he was continued on IV fluids and antibiotics.

After 12 hours, the BP became 80/40mmHg (MAP – 63mmHg) à developed Multiorgan Dysfunction Syndrome. He was then started on vasopressors and mechanical ventilation.

By day 3, the patient further deteriorated and went into cardiac arrest. ROSC was not achieved.

Case Analysis

The treatment initiated was based on protocols like Surviving Sepsis Guidelines and Septic Shock management. So how did the process fail in order to adequately resuscitate this patient? Could something have been done more differently?

The case you read above is a very common scenario. Approximately 30% of the people coming to the ER are hypertensive, and around 10% have diabetes mellitus. They form a huge population, among whom the incidence of any other disease increases their morbidity and early mortality.

Before we delve into the pathology in these patients, let us look at the basic definitions of shock/hypotension.

  • SBP < 90mmHg
  • MAP < 65 mmHg
  • Decrease in SBP > 40mmHg
  • Organ Dysfunction
  • Hyperlactatemia
  • Shock: A state of circulatory insufficiency that creates an imbalance between tissue oxygen supply (delivery) and demand (consumption), resulting in end-organ dysfunction.
  • Septic Shock: Adult patients can be identified using the clinical criteria of hypotension requiring the use of vasopressors to maintain MAP of 65mmHg or greater and having a serum lactate level greater than 2 mmol/L persisting after adequate fluids resuscitation.
  • Cryptic Shock: Presence of hyperlactatemia (or systemic hypoperfusion) in a case of sepsis with normotension.

Based on all the information given above;

  1. what do you think was wrong with our patient?
  2. What kind of shock did he have?
  3. Could we have managed him any other way?
  4. When should we have started inotropes?
  5. Did the fact that he was hypertensive and diabetic have to do with his early deterioration? If so, how?
  6. When did the patient-first develop signs of shock?
  7. What are the different signs and symptoms of shock, and how are they recognized in the ER?

Keep your answers ready… 

Part 2 of Cryptic Shock Series – Vascular Pathology and What is considered ‘Shock’ in Hypertensive patients

Part 3 of Cryptic Shock Series – Individualised BP management

Part 4 of Cryptic Shock Series – Latest Trends

References and Further Reading

  1. Ranzani OT, Monteiro MB, Ferreira EM, Santos SR, Machado FR, Noritomi DT; Grupo de Cuidados Críticos Amil. Reclassifying the spectrum of septic patients using lactate: severe sepsis, cryptic shock, vasoplegic shock and dysoxic shock. Rev Bras Ter Intensiva. 2013 Oct-Dec;25(4):270-8. doi: 10.5935/0103-507X.20130047.
  2. Singer M, Deutschman CS, Seymour CW, Shankar-Hari M, Annane D, Bauer M, Bellomo R, Bernard GR, Chiche JD, Coopersmith CM, Hotchkiss RS, Levy MM, Marshall JC, Martin GS, Opal SM, Rubenfeld GD, van der Poll T, Vincent JL, Angus DC. The Third International Consensus Definitions for Sepsis and Septic Shock (Sepsis-3). JAMA. 2016 Feb 23;315(8):801-10. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.0287.
  3. Shankar-Hari M, Phillips GS, Levy ML, Seymour CW, Liu VX, Deutschman CS, Angus DC, Rubenfeld GD, Singer M; Sepsis Definitions Task Force. Developing a New Definition and Assessing New Clinical Criteria for Septic Shock: For the Third International Consensus Definitions for Sepsis and Septic Shock (Sepsis-3). JAMA. 2016 Feb 23;315(8):775-87. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.0289.
  4. Education Resources – Sepsis Trust
  5. The Research of Predicting Septic Shock – International Emergency Medicine Education Project (iem-student.org)
  6. Sepsis – International Emergency Medicine Education Project (iem-student.org)
  7. Empiric Antibiotics for Sepsis in the ED Infographics – International Emergency Medicine Education Project (iem-student.org)
  8. Sepsis – An Overview and Update – International Emergency Medicine Education Project (iem-student.org)
Cite this article as: Gayatri Lekshmi Madhavan, India, "Cryptic Shock – Identifying the Unseen (PART 1)," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, October 4, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/10/04/cryptic-shock/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #57

question of the day

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

This young female presents with dizziness, fatigue, nausea, generalized abdominal pain, hypotension, tachycardia, and a positive urine pregnancy test.  The anechoic (black) areas on the bedside ultrasound indicate free fluid (blood) in the peritoneal space.  See the image below for clarification. Yellow arrows indicates free fluids.

This patient is in a state of physiologic shock.  Shock is an emergency medical state characterized by cardiovascular or circulatory failure.  Shock prevents peripheral tissues from receiving adequate perfusion, resulting in organ dysfunction and failure.  Shock can be categorized as hypovolemic, distributive, obstructive, or cardiogenic.  The different categories of shock are defined by their underlying cause (i.e., sepsis, hemorrhage, pulmonary embolism, etc.) and their hemodynamics which sometimes overlap.  The diagnosis of shock is largely clinical and supported by the history, vital signs, and physical exam.  Additional studies, such as laboratory investigations, bedside ultrasound, and imaging tests help narrow down the type of shock, potential triggers, and guide management. 

This patient’s condition is caused by a presumed ruptured ectopic pregnancy and intraperitoneal bleeding.  This is considered hypovolemic/hemorrhagic shock (Choice A). The other types of shock in Choices B, C, and D are less likely given the clinical and diagnostic information in the case.  The chart below details the categories of shock, each category’s hemodynamics, potential causes, and treatments.  

 

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #57," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, October 1, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/10/01/question-of-the-day-57/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #56

question of the day

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

This trauma patient arrives with hypotension, tachycardia, absent unilateral lung sounds, and distended neck veins. This should raise high concern for tension pneumothorax, which is a type of obstructive shock (Choice C). This diagnosis should be made clinically without X-ray imaging. Bedside ultrasound can assist in making the diagnosis by looking for bilateral lung sliding, if available. Treatment of tension pneumothorax should be prompt and includes needle decompression followed by tube thoracostomy. Other types of shock outlined in Choices A, B, and D do not fit the clinical scenario with information that is given.

Recall that shock is an emergency medical state characterized by cardiovascular or circulatory failure. Shock prevents peripheral tissues from receiving adequate perfusion, resulting in organ dysfunction and failure. Shock can be categorized as hypovolemic, distributive, obstructive, or cardiogenic. The different categories of shock are defined by their underlying cause (i.e., sepsis, hemorrhage, pulmonary embolism, etc.) and their hemodynamics which sometimes overlap. The diagnosis of shock is largely clinical and supported by the history, vital signs, and physical exam. Additional studies, such as laboratory investigations, bedside ultrasound, and imaging tests help narrow down the type of shock, potential triggers, and guide management. The chart below details the categories of shock, each category’s hemodynamics, potential causes, and treatments.

 

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #56," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, September 24, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/09/24/question-of-the-day-56/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #55

question of the day
738.2 - STEMI
Which of the following is the most likely cause for this patient’s condition?  

This patient presents with chest pressure at rest and an anterior ST segment elevation myocardial infraction (STEMI) seen on 12-lead EKG.  This patient should be given aspirin, IV fluids to increase the preload status, and receive immediate coronary reperfusion therapy.  This patient’s hypotension is likely due to infarction of the left ventricle causing poor cardiac output (Choice D).  This is known as cardiogenic shock.  The patient has been vomiting, but the acute onset of symptoms and STEMI on EKG make poor cardiac output (Choice D) more likely than hypovolemia (Choice A) as the cause for the patient’s condition.  Systemic infection (Choice B) and pulmonary embolism (Choice C) are also less likely given the clinical information in the case and the STEMI on EKG.  The best answer is Choice D.  Please see the chart below for further detailing of the different types of shock.   

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #55," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, September 17, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/09/17/question-of-the-day-55/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #54

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

This patient sustained significant blunt trauma to the chest, presents to the Emergency Department with hypotension, tachycardia, a large chest ecchymosis, and palpable sternal crepitus.  The ultrasound image provided shows a subxiphoid view of the heart with a large pericardial effusion.  In the setting of trauma, this should be assumed to be a hemopericardium.  This patient has cardiac tamponade, which is considered a type of obstructive shock (Choice C).  Treatment includes IV hydration to increase preload, bedside pericardiocentesis, and ultimately, a surgical cardiac window performed by cardiothoracic surgery.  The other shock types (Choices A, B, D) do not describe this patient’s presentation.  Please see the chart below for further description of the different shock types and therapies.

 

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #54," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, September 10, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/09/10/question-of-the-day-54/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #53

question of the day

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

This patient endured a high-speed motor vehicle accident, arrives with hypotension and bradycardia, and has a C6 vertebral body fracture on imaging.  These details support a diagnosis of neurogenic shock, a type of distributive shock.

Shock is an emergency medical state characterized by cardiovascular or circulatory failure.  Shock prevents peripheral tissues from receiving adequate perfusion, resulting in organ dysfunction and failure.  Shock can be categorized as hypovolemic, distributive, obstructive, or cardiogenic.  The different categories of shock are defined by their underlying cause (i.e., sepsis, hemorrhage, pulmonary embolism, etc.) and their hemodynamics which sometimes overlap.  The diagnosis of shock is largely clinical and supported by the history, vital signs, and physical exam.  Additional studies, such as laboratory investigations, bedside ultrasound, and imaging tests help narrow down the type of shock, potential triggers, and guide management.  The chart below details the categories of shock, each category’s hemodynamics, potential causes, and treatments.  

Neurogenic shock is caused by spinal cord damage above the T6 level.  Unlike other types of shock, neurogenic shock is characterized by hypotension and bradycardia (not tachycardia).  These vital sign abnormalities are caused by damage to sympathetic nervous system (Choice C).  Neurogenic shock has decreased systemic vascular resistance (warm extremities), not increased systemic vascular resistance (cool extremities) (Choice A).  Occult hemorrhage (Choice B) is always a concern in a trauma patient.  However, this would present with findings of hypovolemic/hemorrhagic shock (tachycardia, hypotension, cool extremities).  Tension pneumothorax (Choice D) is also unlikely as the patient has clear bilateral lung sounds on exam.  The best answer is Choice C.

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #53," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, September 3, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/09/03/question-of-the-day-53/, date accessed: October 6, 2022

Question Of The Day #52

question of the day

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

This patient has anaphylactic shock, which falls under the category of distributive shock.  Anaphylactic shock is an acutely life-threatening type of allergic reaction that if left untreated, can progress to airway edema, asphyxiation, and death.  Exposure to a known or unknown allergen is the trigger for anaphylaxis.  Diagnosis of this condition requires the below criteria to be met:

  1. Acute onset of skin or mucosal changes (i.e., urticaria, tongue or lip swelling) AND hypotension or respiratory compromise (i.e., wheezing).

OR

  1. Dysfunction of two or more body systems after exposure to a presumed allergen:
    1. Skin/mucosa (i.e., urticaria, swelling of tongue or lips)
    2. Pulmonary (i.e., wheezing)
    3. Cardiovascular (i.e., hypotension)
    4. Gastrointestinal (i.e., vomiting or diarrhea)
    5. End-organ dysfunction

Management of anaphylaxis requires proper evaluation of the patient’s airway, respiratory status, and hemodynamics (“ABCs”).  Mainstays of therapy are intramuscular epinephrine (0.3mg in adults) and IV hydration.  Administration of epinephrine is a time sensitive and life-saving intervention.  Antihistamines, nebulized albuterol or salbutamol, and steroids are additional therapies that are commonly given.  Steroids are thought to prevent recurrent anaphylactic reactions, however, there is little data to support this.  Patients are typically monitored for 4-6 hours after administration of epinephrine to observe for changes in clinical status or the need for additional doses of epinephrine.  Patients who remain stable or improve after this observation period are able to be discharged home with a prescription for an epinephrine injector in the event of future anaphylaxis episodes. 

Intravenous normal saline (Choice A) and diphenhydramine (Choice B) are important therapies to administer in this patient, but intramuscular epinephrine (Choice C) is the most time-sensitive initial therapy to administer.  Without treatment, airway edema may progress and require endotracheal intubation (Choice D).  The patient’s clear voice and lack of stridor indicate that the patient does not need immediate intubation. 

Correct Answer: C

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #52," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, August 27, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/08/27/question-of-the-day-52/, date accessed: October 6, 2022