Purple Rain: A Rare Spot Diagnosis

Purple rain urine

Case Presentation

A 70-year-old pleasant elderly male was brought in by his son, surprisingly complaining of purple-colored urine. The son got worried once he saw the purple urine bag and rushed his dad to the Emergency Department.

Upon further questioning, he reports a sweet elderly gentleman, known with previous cerebrovascular accidents, dysphasia and neurogenic bladder, that he has a urinary catheter inserted for. He claims that his dad has been having low appetite and passing less stool in the past week. Otherwise, he didn’t notice any other alarming symptoms. Furthermore, he denied noticing any fever, vomiting, behavioral changes indicating any pain, or recent change in his medications or diet. He had no known allergies as well. Upon full review of symptoms, chronic constipation was appreciated, otherwise, it was unremarkable.

Physical Exam

The patient was lying in bed, a bit uncomfortable, with an attached urinary catheter bag. He was afebrile and vitally stable. Proceeding with a focused physical examination, his chest was clear, and abdomen was soft, lax and nontender, furthermore, his skin had no rashes, and limbs were non-edematous. Inspecting the Urine Catheter Collection Bag, it did reveal Purple Urine Sediment.

Purple Urine in the Urinary Catheter Bag
Purple Urine in the Urinary Catheter Bag

Differential Diagnosis and Workup

Thinking of differential diagnoses of discolored urine, a purple urine bag is almost a spot diagnosis in our practice, definitely after ruling out any possible confounders if any.

We reassured the family and explained to them that we would order some blood and urine tests to confirm the diagnosis and start the appropriate treatment plan.

Case Management and Disposition

Laboratory test revealed mild leukocytosis with neutrophilia and mild elevated CRP. Otherwise, his urea, creatinine, liver function tests and electrolytes were reported normal.

Furthermore, a urine dipstick was done in the ED that reported positive for leukocytes, nitrites, and consequently sent to the lab for culture and full analysis which confirmed the diagnosis of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

We informed the son of the workup results, and a diagnosis of a UTI, given his leukocytosis, positive urine dipstick and the presence of a urinary catheter putting him at risk UTI. We reassured him about the urine color and explained the need to start antibiotics to cover the UTI, and changes the urinary catheter, which left us to explain only why was the urine purple unlike usual cases of UTI’s.

Critical Thinking and Take-home Tips

What is PUBS?

  • PUBS stands for Purple Urinary Bag Syndrome, first described in 1978.(1)
  • It is characterized by purple-colored urine collecting in urinary catheterization bags in patients known to prolonged urinary catheters. 
  • It presents asymptomatically and it is associated with urinary tract infections.
  • PUBS presents alarmingly to patients and family members, yet it is a benign phenomenon.

What causes the purplish discoloration of the urine in PUBS?

  • PUBS is associated with alkaline urine with a high bacterial load. 
  • It results due to UTI with certain bacteria producing sulphatases and phosphatases, which lead tryptophan metabolism to produce indigo (blue) and indirubin (red) pigments, a mixture of which becomes purple. (2)
  • Several bacterial species have been reported in association with PUBS including Providencia stuartii, Providencia rettgeri, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus species, Escherichia coli, Enterococcus species, Morganella morganii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. (3)

What are the PUBS risk factors?

  • Female gender
  • Bedridden status or immobility
  • Chronic constipation leading to bacterial overgrowth
  • Renal disease
  • Prolonged urinary catheterization

What is PUBS management?

  • The reassurance of patient and family
  • Regular changing of urinary catheter
  • UTI Antibiotics coverage

What other urine colors should we be aware of?

  • Urine discoloration if a fairly common sign and indicates a certain pathology often that would need your attention as a physician.
  • Most urine discoloration is caused by food intakes, medications, dyes, or specific disease pathologies.
  • Red-colored urine is often related to hematuria, caused by multiple pathologies, including kidney stones, urinary tract injury or infection or cancer, amongst others.
  • Pink colored urine is often related to certain medications or dietary intake, i.e. beetroots and berries.
  • Brown or tea-colored urine indicates hepatobiliary disease or obstruction.
  • Green Urine can result due to medications such as Propofol.

What should I do when I encounter a discolored urine finding in my patient?

  • Remember always to have a systematic approach. 
  • Take a full history, including types or changes in medications history, diet changes, past medical history, and a full review of systems.
  • Keep in mind, some patients who are bedridden or elderly, communication and history taking might be limited; hence you will have to do your due diligence in gathering all the information you can get from family members, or available medical charts.
  • Your physical exam is a great asset as well in collecting information that can help you 

References and Further Reading

  1. Khan F, Chaudhry MA, Qureshi N, Cowley B. Purple urine bag syndrome: An Alarming Hue? A Brief Review of the Literature. Int J Nephrol 2011. 2011 419213. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  2. Kalsi DS, Ward J, Lee R, Handa A. Purple Urine Bag Syndrome: A Rare Spot Diagnosis. Dis Markers. 2017;2017:9131872. doi:10.1155/2017/9131872
  3. Dilraj S. Kalsi, Joel Ward, Regent Lee, and Ashok Handa, “Purple Urine Bag Syndrome: A Rare Spot Diagnosis,” Disease Markers, vol. 2017, Article ID 9131872, 6 pages, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/9131872.
  4. Al Montasir A, Al Mustaque A. Purple urine bag syndrome. J Family Med Prim Care. 2013;2(1):104–105. doi:10.4103/2249-4863.109970
  5. Traynor B P, Pomeroy E, Niall D. Purple urine bag syndrome: a case report and review of the literature. Oxford Medical Case Reports, Volume 2017, Issue 11, November 2017, omx059, https://doi.org/10.1093/omcr/omx059
  6. Lin CH, Huang HT, Chien CC, Tzeng DS, Lung FW. Purple urine bag syndrome in nursing homes: Ten elderly case reports and a literature review. Clin Interv Aging. 2008;3:729–34. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
Cite this article as: Shaza Karrar, UAE, "Purple Rain: A Rare Spot Diagnosis," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, September 20, 2019, https://iem-student.org/2019/09/20/purple-rain-a-rare-spot-diagnosis/, date accessed: February 25, 2021

Stabbing LLQ Pain

A 19-year-old female presents to the emergency department (ED) complaining of 48 hours of worsening, stabbing left lower quadrant abdominal pain. The patient notes an intermittent, foul-smelling vaginal discharge for the past week. She also endorses fever, nausea, vomiting, dyspareunia, dysuria, and generalized fatigue. The patient is sexually active with one male partner and uses combination OCPs in conjunction with inconsistent utilization of condoms. She denies vaginal bleeding, fevers, jaundice, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. Her last menstrual period (LMP) ended 16 days ago and was typical of her usual menses. The patient has a history of menarche at 14 and coitarche at 17. She denies any use of tobacco but admits intermittent alcohol and marijuana use. She has no past medical or relevant family history. There are no known drug allergies.

Physical exam reveals a well-developed female in mild discomfort but no acute distress. Her vitals are unremarkable except for a temperature of 38.5 and a heart rate of 102. Her abdominal exam reveals moderate tenderness to palpation, worse in the left lower quadrant, with no rebound tenderness. There is no costovertebral angle tenderness, Rovsing sign or McBurney point tenderness. External genitalia is unremarkable. A pelvic exam demonstrates foul purulent discharge in the vaginal vault emanating from the cervical os with no visible blood products. Cervical motion tenderness and pain on palpation of bilateral adnexa are present. Left adnexa is more tender and has a palpable mass on it.

Want to learn more?

Cite this article as: iEM Education Project Team, "Stabbing LLQ Pain," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, March 15, 2019, https://iem-student.org/2019/03/15/stabbing-llq-pain/, date accessed: February 25, 2021

A 75-year-old male with voiding difficulty

Glenn Canyon Dam

DJ Mitchell, Glenn Canyon Dam, Flickr

Urinary Catheter Placement chapter written by Gul Pamukcu Gunaydin from Turkey is just uploaded to the Website!

A 75-year-old male patient was admitted to the emergency department with difficulty voiding. He had this complaint for over a year, and tonight, although he felt pain and distention in his lower abdomen, he could not urinate at all. On his physical exam, the patient had a palpable mass that was thought to be the distended bladder. He was agitated and tachycardic. He was diagnosed with acute urinary retention, and initial attempt to insert urinary indwelling catheter was failed. The second attempt with a Coude catheter was successful and 2 liters of urine was drained gradually. His rectal exam revealed prostate enlargement. He was discharged with instructions, uneventfully.

Turkey
by Gul Pamukcu Gunaydin from Turkey.

A 19-year-old female

Tubo-Ovarian Abscess chapter written by Matthew Lisankie, Charlotte Derr, Tomislav Jelic from Canada is just uploaded to the Website!

A 19-year-old female presents to the emergency department complaining of 48 hours of worsening, stabbing left lower quadrant abdominal pain. The patient notes an intermittent, foul-smelling vaginal discharge for the past week. She also endorses fever, nausea, vomiting, dyspareunia, dysuria, and generalized fatigue. The patient is sexually active with one male partner and uses combination OCPs in conjunction with inconsistent utilization of condoms. She denies vaginal bleeding, fevers, jaundice, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. Her last menstrual period (LMP) ended 16 days ago and was typical of her usual menses. The patient has a history of menarche at 14 and coitarche at 17. She denies any use of tobacco but admits intermittent alcohol and marijuana use. She has no past medical or relevant family history. There are no known drug allergies.

Physical exam reveals a well-developed female in mild discomfort but no acute distress. Her vitals are unremarkable except for a temperature of 38.5 and a heart rate of 102. Her abdominal exam reveals moderate tenderness to palpation, worse in the left lower quadrant, with no rebound tenderness. There is no costovertebral angle tenderness, Rovsing sign or McBurney point tenderness. External genitalia is unremarkable. A pelvic exam demonstrates foul purulent discharge in the vaginal vault emanating from the cervical os with no visible blood products. Cervical motion tenderness and pain on palpation of bilateral adnexa are present. Left adnexa is more tender and has a palpable mass on it.

by Matthew Lisankie, Charlotte Derr, Tomislav Jelic from Canada.

A boy with scrotal pain

Testicular Torsion chapter written by Sujata Sheth Kirtikant from Singapore is just uploaded to the Website!

422 - Right testicular torsion

A 16-year-old male was sleeping when he suddenly started to feel left sided lower abdominal pain. He continued to bear through the pain for another 30 minutes until he started to vomit. At this time he decided to go to the nearest hospital, which is about 15 minutes away. When he reached the hospital his vital signs were as follows: blood pressure: 120 over 60 mmHg, heart rate: 120 bpm, respiratory rate: 20 bpm, Temperature 36.5, Pain score is 10 out of 10 and SP O2 was 100% on room air. Physical shows a swollen right scrotum with significant tenderness. What is the next step?

by Sujata Sheth Kirtikant from Singapore.

A 13-year-old with testicular pain

In case you didn’t encounter a patient with testicular pain today!

422 - Right testicular torsion

iEM Education Project Team uploads many clinical picture and videos to the Flickr and YouTube. These images are free to use in education. You can also support this global EM education initiative by providing your resources. Sharing is caring!

A 24-year-old female with pelvic pain

How ectopic pregnancy should be delivered to the students/interns. 

Clear, to the point! 

Ectopic Pregnancy

by Dan O’Brien, USA

A 24-year-old woman presents to the emergency department with the complaint of lower abdominal pain and vaginal spotting. She has never been pregnant. Her last normal menstrual period was two months ago. She had light spotting last month and states that her period this month is late. Her history is notable for one episode of lower abdominal pain two years ago thought to be the pelvic inflammatory disease that responded to a two-week course of oral antibiotics. She has no medical allergies and is not on any medications. 

Can you show uterus and ectopic pregnancy in the ultrasound?

Review of systems and family history are unremarkable. Her social history is significant in that she is in a monogamous relationship and is not using birth control. Her general appearance is that of a well-developed female with a temperature of 37ºC, a blood pressure of 110/70 mm Hg and a pulse of 90 bpm. An examination of her abdomen reveals normal bowel sounds, no masses, distension, organomegaly or rebound tenderness. She is mildly tender to palpation in the left lower quadrant. Pelvic exam reveals left adnexal tenderness without palpable masses. The rectal exam is normal with hemoccult negative stool. Pertinent lab values: urine dip pregnancy testing is positive, quantitative serum B-hCG is 2000 mIU/mL, hemoglobin 13 gr/dL, hematocrit 40%. She is Rh-positive. A transvaginal ultrasound performed by the emergency physician during the pelvic exam fails to demonstrate an intrauterine pregnancy. There is a small amount of fluid in the rectouterine cul-de-sac. 2 cm ectopic pregnancy was identified. Two large-bore IV’s were started, the patient was crossmatched for blood and OB-GYN was consulted. Treatment options were discussed.