Triads in Medicine – Rapid Review for Medical Students

triads in medicine

One of the most convenient ways of learning and remembering the main components of disease and identifying a medical condition on an exam are Triads, and medical students/interns/residents swear by them.

Be it a question during rounds, a multiple-choice exam question to be solved, or even in medical practice, the famous triads help physicians recall important characteristics and clinical features of a disease or treatment in an instant.

Since exam season is here, this could serve as a rapid review to recall the most common medical conditions.

While there are a vast number of triads/pentads available online, I have listed the most important (high-yy) ones that every student would be asked about at least once in the duration of their course.

1) Lethal Triad also known as The Trauma Triad of Death
Hypothermia + Coagulopathy + Metabolic Acidosis

2) Beck’s Triad of Cardiac Tamponade
Muffled heart sounds + Distended neck veins + Hypotension

3) Virchow’s Triad – Venous Thrombosis
Hypercoagulability + stasis + endothelial damage

4) Charcot’s Triad – Ascending Cholangitis
Fever with rigors + Right upper quadrant pain + Jaundice

5) Cushing’s Triad – Raised Intracranial Pressure
Bradycardia + Irregular respiration + Hypertension

6) Triad of Ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Severe Abdominal/Back Pain + Hypotension + Pulsatile Abdominal mass

7) Reactive Arthritis
Can’t See (Conjunctivitis) + Can’t Pee (Urethritis) + Can’t Climb a Tree (Arthritis)

8) Triad of Opioid Overdose
Pinpoint pupils + Respiratory Depression + CNS Depression

9) Hakims Triad – Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
Gait Disturbance + Dementia + Urinary Incontinence

10) Horner’s Syndrome Triad
Ptosis + Miosis + Anydrosis

11) Mackler’s Triad – Oesophageal Perforation (Boerhaave Syndrome)
Vomiting + Lower Thoracic Pain + Subcutaneous Emphysema

12) Pheochromocytoma
Palpitations + Headache + Perspiration (Diaphoresis)

13) Leriche Syndrome
Buttock claudication + Impotence + Symmetrical Atrophy of bilateral lower extremities

14) Rigler’s Triad – Gallstone ileus
Gallstones + Pneumobilia + Small bowel obstruction

15) Whipple’s Triad – Insulinoma
Hypoglycemic attack + Low glucose + Resolving of the attack on glucose administration

16) Meniere’s Disease
Tinnitus + Vertigo + Hearing loss

17) Wernicke’s Encephalopathy- Thiamine Deficiency
Confusion + Ophthalmoplegia + Ataxia

18) Unhappy Triad – Knee Injury
Injury to Anterior Cruciate Ligament + Medial collateral ligament + Medial or Lateral Meniscus

19) Henoch Schonlein Purpura
Purpura + Abdominal pain + Joint pain

20) Meigs Syndrome
Benign ovarian tumor + pleural effusion + ascites

21) Felty’s Syndrome
Rheumatoid Arthritis + Splenomegaly + Neutropenia

22) Cauda Equina Syndrome
Low back pain + Bowel/Bladder Dysfunction + Saddle Anesthesia

23) Meningitis
Fever + Headache + Neck Stiffness

24) Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome
Delta Waves + Short PR Interval + Wide QRS Complex

25) Neurogenic Shock
Bradycardia + Hypotension + Hypothermia

Further Reading

Cite this article as: Sumaiya Hafiz, UAE, "Triads in Medicine – Rapid Review for Medical Students," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, June 12, 2020,, date accessed: April 1, 2023

Epistaxis on a Flight

Epistaxis On A Flight

A couple of days ago, a friend told me about an incident that had occurred on a plane where a middle-aged man was found to have epistaxis (bleeding from the nose) midway between a 4-hour flight. Although epistaxis has various degrees of severity and only a small percent are life-threatening, the sight of blood, no matter the amount, is a cause of panic and anxiety for everyone. Hence, the cabin crew was called and helped in managing the patient until the flight landed.

Some of the causes of epistaxis on a flight are dryness in the nose due to changes in cabin pressure and air conditioning. Other causes depend on patients’ previous health problems, which may include medications such as warfarin, bleeding disorders, nose-picking.

As important as it is to learn the emergency management of epistaxis in a hospital setting, often you come across a scenario such as this, in your daily life and its essential to know how to manage it, out of the hospital setting or even in the emergency department, while taking history or waiting to be seen.

The following are a few steps you can take for initial conservative management of epistaxis:

If the following measures fail, further medical management may be advised.


Epistaxis is acute hemorrhage from the nose, nostrils, nasopharynx, and can be either anterior or posterior, depending on the source of bleeding. It is one of the most common Otolaryngological Emergencies.

Anterior bleeds are the most common, and a large proportion is self-limited. The most common site is ‘Little’s area’ also known as Kiesselbach’s plexus (Anastomosis of three primary vessels occurs in this area: the septal branch of the anterior ethmoidal artery; the lateral nasal branch of the sphenopalatine artery; and the septal branch of the superior labial branch of the facial artery).

Posterior bleeds are less common and occur from posterolateral branches of the sphenopalatine artery and can result in significant hemorrhage.

Causes of epistaxis

Nose picking, dryness, allergic or viral rhinitis, foreign body, trauma, medications (anticoagulants), platelet disorders, nasal neoplasms, hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (Osler-Weber-Rendu disease), aspirin.

Assessment and Management

References and Further Reading

Alter Harrison. Approach to the adult epistaxis. [December 24th, 2019] from:

Cite this article as: Sumaiya Hafiz, UAE, "Epistaxis on a Flight," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, December 27, 2019,, date accessed: April 1, 2023

How to stop bleeding!

712 - deep fore arm laceration

A 22-year-old male, aluminum factory worker, was brought by his friend to the ED after he accidentally fell on a sharp glass, 30 minutes ago. The patient presented with moderate bleeding from lacerations in his forearm. He was feeling dizzy and in severe pain.
Co-Morbid Conditions: None
Hand dominance: right-handed
Occupation: Aluminum factory worker
Denies smoking and use of the illicit drug
Last tetanus booster: unknown
Temperature oral: 36.7 C
Peripheral pulse rate: 91 bpm, regular
Respiratory rate: 17 bpm
Blood pressure: 164/75 mmHg
Oxygen saturation, on room air: 100%
GSC: 15/15

This is a deep laceration. Bleeding is one of the critical problems here. Because blood loss is a deadly situation, even with a simple laceration, we should concern about vascular injury. However, in the ED, our role is not the finding the actual problem in the early moments. Our role is to stop the bleeding immediately with some simple maneuvers or applications. Of course, this case should be evaluated for foreign body (direct visualization, x-ray, US may help), tendon and muscle injuries as well as nerve injuries. But, bleeding control is the first priority.

To learn about management, please read the chapter below.

Basics of Bleeding Control by Ana Spehonja and Gregor Prosen

17 years old girl, previously known healthy, vomited blood!

720 - variceal bleeding

17 years old girl, previously known healthy, vomited blood!
This is an extremely serious symptom. Although this patient’s vitals were totally in the normal range, actively vomiting blood should warn physicians to act immediately to protect further deterioration in the patient. This may even include early airway protection because we simply do not want them to aspirate any blood. Having a normal vitals with this picture does not mean anything, and should not create a relaxing environment in the treatment/resuscitation bay. Honestly, this patient should go directly to resuscitation bed from the triage.

Steps are straightforward. Protect the airway if necessary, start oxygen like in any other critically ill patient during/for primary evaluation(survey). Open the two large bore IV line, give fluid bolus, order type, and cross, and be ready for any deterioration in the BP and starting blood (ORh-). Obviously, even starting a transfusion earlier may be appropriate. Activating GI team for emergency endoscopy is necessary. However, some institutions may not have this luxury 24 hours. Therefore, other measures such as mechanical compressions with Sengstaken-Blakemore tube and some medications can be an only option. This patients final diagnosis was Variceal Bleeding. 

To learn more about management please read two GI bleeding chapters below.

Massive Gastrointestinal Bleeding by Dan O’Brien

Gastrointestinal Bleeding by Moira Carrol, Gurpreet Mudan, and Suzanne Bentley

From Experts To Our Students! – GIB

GI Bleeding in 12 min

Gastrointestinal Bleeding​

by Moira Carrol, Gurpreet Mudan, and Suzanne Bentley, USA

A 61-year-old man with a history of liver cirrhosis secondary to chronic EtOH abuse presents to the Emergency Department (ED) with a complaint of vomiting bright red blood that began prior to arrival. He arrives actively vomiting; a significant amount of blood is noted in his emesis basin. He is now complaining of dizziness and appears pale.


Gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB) can be generalized into two categories based on the site of bleeding. Upper GIB (UGIB) is defined as any bleeding that occurs proximal to the ligament of Trietz near the terminal duodenum. Lower GIB (LGIB) is any bleeding that occurs distal to the ligament extending to the rectum. Most GIB seen in the ED is attributed to UGIB with an incidence of 90 per 100,000 population. LGIB, on the other hand, presents with a rate of 20 per 100,000 population. LGIB is more commonly seen in the elderly but has a wide range of presentations and causes. As a result, the approach to LGIB has been less standardized.

In a patient without kidney disease, a BUN to Creatinine ratio is an important parameter to decide UGIB presence.

What is the magic number of BUN/Cr ratio?

Touch Me


In a patient without kidney disease, a BUN to Creatinine ratio that is elevated to greater than or equal to 36 is strongly associated with UGIB.