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.  



Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #57," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, October 1, 2021,, date accessed: September 27, 2023

Question Of The Day #39

question of the day
Abnormal Right Upper Quadrant

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

This female patient presents to the Emergency department with atraumatic right shoulder pain, generalized abdominal discomfort, and vaginal bleeding.  She is found to have a positive urine pregnancy test and signs of shock on physical exam (hypotension and tachycardia).  The FAST exam (Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma) demonstrates free fluid around the liver.  This quick bedside sonographic exam evaluates the right upper quadrant (liver, right kidney, right lung base), left upper quadrant (spleen, left kidney, left lung base), suprapubic area (bladder), and subxiphoid area (view of heart).  The FAST exam is typically used in the setting of trauma to assess for intra-abdominal bleeding, or “free fluid”.  Fluid on ultrasound appears black, or anechoic.  In the setting of trauma or presumed hemorrhagic shock, free fluid is assumed to be blood.  The hepato-renal recess, also known as Morrison’s pouch, is the most common site for fluid to be seen on a FAST exam.  For this reason, the right upper quadrant should always be viewed first during a FAST exam if there is concern for hemorrhagic shock.  The patient’s right upper quadrant FAST view is annotated below.

This patient is in shock with free fluid in her right upper quadrant FAST view.  In the setting of a pregnancy of unknown origin, shock, and abdominal free fluid, a ruptured ectopic pregnancy is assumed to be the diagnosis.  A cystic adnexal structure and a uterus without a gestational sac can also be noted on ultrasound.  Ectopic pregnancy can present with mild symptoms ranging from abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding to signs of shock with hemoperitoneum as in this patient.  Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include prior ectopic pregnancies, prior tubal surgeries, prior sexually transmitted infections, tobacco smoking, and use of an intrauterine device (IUD).  Initial Emergency department treatment should include volume resuscitation with blood products, pre-operative laboratory testing, and prompt OB/GYN consultation (Choice C).  Patients who are unstable, show signs of shock, or have large ectopic pregnancies are treated operatively.  Patients with stable vital signs, small ectopic pregnancies, and minimal symptoms are treated medically with Methotrexate (Choice A).   This patient’s hemodynamic instability makes Methotrexate contraindicated in her treatment course.  The patient’s atraumatic shoulder pain is likely from free fluid in the right upper quadrant, causing referred pain to the shoulder from diaphragmatic irritation.  A shoulder X-ray (Choice B) is not indicated in this patient.  Rho(D) immune globulin (RhoGAM) (Choice D) is an important treatment to provide in Rh-negative mothers with ectopic pregnancy.  RhoGAM is indicated in maternal-fetal hemorrhage in order to prevent the maternal immune system from attacking fetal Rh-positive cells in future pregnancies.  RhoGAM is indicated in Rh-negative mothers, not Rh-positive mothers.  The question does not indicate the mother’s blood type or Rh status, however, RhoGAM is not the best initial treatment.  Treatment of the hemorrhagic shock and OB/GYN consultation are the best next steps.  Correct Answer: C


Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #39," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, May 14, 2021,, date accessed: September 27, 2023