Question Of The Day #65

question of the day
Longitudinal Orientation

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

This patient arrives in the Emergency Department after an assault with penetrating abdominal trauma and is hemodynamically stable on exam.  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. 

The FAST exam is a quick sonographic exam that requires the practitioner to look at 4 anatomical areas for signs of internal injuries.  The 4 areas are the right upper abdominal quadrant, left upper abdominal quadrant, pelvis, and subxiphoid (cardiac) areas.  The addition of views for each lung (1 view for each lung) is known as an E-FAST, or extended FAST exam.  The presence of an anechoic (black) stripe on ultrasound indicates the presence of free fluid.  In the setting of trauma, free fluid is assumed to be blood.  The presence of free fluid on a FAST exam is considered a “positive FAST exam”.   This patient has no free fluid between the right kidney and liver.  There also is no free fluid above the diaphragm to indicate a hemothorax. The question stem notes that all other FAST exam views are nonremarkable.  Therefore, this patient has a negative FAST exam.  See labelling of the FAST exam image below.

An exploratory laparotomy (Choice A) would be indicated in a patient with penetrating or blunt trauma, a positive FAST exam, and hemodynamic instability. This patient has a negative FAST exam and is hemodynamically stable.  Packed red blood cell infusion (Choice B) would be indicated in the setting of hemodynamic instability and trauma, as this is assumed to be hemorrhagic shock.  This patient is not tachycardic or hypotensive. A urinalysis to check for hematuria (Choice D) may be a helpful adjunctive investigation to evaluate for renal or bladder injury, but it is not the most crucial next step in management. Performing a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis (Choice C) is the best next step as the patient is hemodynamically stable with a negative FAST exam and a penetrating abdominal injury.  The CT scan will help further evaluate for any internal injuries that may require operative repair.  See the algorithm below for further detail on an abdominal trauma work flow. Correct Answer: C

undifferentiated trauma patient
undifferentiated trauma patient

References

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #65," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, November 26, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/11/26/question-of-the-day-65/, date accessed: May 29, 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: May 29, 2022