Saturday, February 05, 2011

Lit Bits: Feb 5, 2011

From the recent medical literature...

1. Updated Recommendations for Pediatric Resuscitation

These updated consensus recommendations are based on a thorough evaluation of the literature.

The 2010 International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation Pediatric Task Force has updated the 2005 treatment recommendations for pediatric resuscitation. Highlights include the following:

• Initiate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if there are no signs of life and a pulse is not palpated within 10 seconds.

• Provide conventional CPR (chest compressions with rescue breathing).

• Compress at least one third of the anterior-posterior dimension of the chest.

• Consider using cuffed tracheal tubes in infants and young children; cuff pressure should not exceed 25 cm H2O. Appropriate sized tubes by age are as follows:

— 3 mm for age 1 year

— 3.5 mm for age 1–2 years

— Age in years/4 + 3.5 mm for age over 2 years

• Modify or discontinue cricoid pressure if it impedes preintubation ventilation or intubation.

• Monitor capnography to confirm endotracheal tube position, recognizing that end-tidal CO2 in infants and children might be below detectable limits for colorimetric devices (85% sensitivity and 100% specificity).

• Consider use of an esophageal detector device in children weighing more than 20 kg.

• Use capnography monitoring to assess effectiveness of chest compressions.

• Avoid excessive ventilation, which can decrease cerebral perfusion pressure, rates of return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC), and survival rates.

• After ROSC, titrate oxygen concentration to limit the risk for toxic oxygen byproducts.

•For pediatric septic shock, include therapy directed at normalizing central venous oxygen saturation to 70%.

• Do not routinely use bicarbonate or calcium for pediatric cardiac arrest: Both agents are associated with decreased survival.

Comment: These consensus recommendations are based on a thorough evaluation of the literature, and emergency physicians should know them.

— Katherine Bakes, MD. Published in Journal Watch Emergency Medicine January 21, 2011
Citation: Kleinman ME et al. Pediatric basic and advanced life support: 2010 International Consensus on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care Science with Treatment Recommendations. Pediatrics 2010 Nov; 126:e1261.

Full-text (free):

2. Psychiatric Patients Often Warehoused in EDs for a Week or More (!)

Reduction in Mental Health Beds Prevents Timely Transfers

Deborah Brauser. January 24, 2011 — A lack of inpatient facilities means mental health patients are often left lingering in hospital emergency departments (EDs) for up to a week or more, according to a nationwide survey of ED administrators.

In fact, 86% of the survey participants report their EDs were "sometimes" or "often" unable to transfer patients to an inpatient facility quickly, and 60% said these delays compromised patient care.

This problem is attributed to both a sharp decrease in beds at mental health facilities and an increased demand for mental health services, William Schumacher, MD, chief executive officer of Schumacher Group, the national ED management firm that conducted the survey and located in Lafayette, Louisiana, said in a release.

The mental health problem in America is being swept under the rug for hospital to deal with. We need a more proactive way to address this challenge. "The mental health problem in America is being swept under the rug for hospital [EDs] to deal with. We need a more proactive way to address this challenge," added Dr. Schumacher.

Anita Sowell, RN, MSN, CPHQ, chief of emergency services at Athens-Limestone Hospital in Athens, Alabama, and a participant in the survey, says the survey findings reflect her experience. "Fortunately, we have not had to board mental health patients for a week, but we have had to board them for quite a while. It is a problem in this rural area as it is everywhere else in the country," said Ms. Sowell.

The survey analyzed data on staffing and operational issues from 603 EDs across the country gathered via a mailed questionnaire. According to background information in the survey, approximately 120 million patients visit US hospital EDs every year.

"By virtue of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, the federal law obliging hospital personnel to see all patients who present to the [ED], hospital [EDs] are the de facto healthcare safety net for millions of patients throughout the country," the survey states.

The results also showed the following:

• More than 70% reported boarding mental/behavioral patients for 24 hours or longer;

• 41% reported boarding times up to 2 days or longer;

• 10% reported boarding times of a week or more; and

• Only 29% reported boarding these patients for 12 hours or less.

"This poses risks to patients and underlines a growing crisis in mental healthcare in which hospital [EDs] must 'house' mental health patients who have few or no inpatient options. Long boarding times can lead to ED crowding, extended wait times, and hospital admission times for all patients," the survey authors write.

The remainder of the article:

The Emergency Department Challenges and Trends: 2010 Survey is available online.

3. Short-Acting Neuromuscular Blocking Agents Don't Impair Pupillary Response to Light

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jan 26 - The short-acting neuromuscular blocking agents succinylcholine and rocuronium don't inhibit pupillary response to light in most patients, according to a report in the January 8th online Annals of Emergency Medicine.

These agents could theoretically impair pupillary response, because pupillary response is mediated by ganglionic nicotinic receptors which are subject to inhibition by depolarizing and nondepolarizing neuromuscular blockers.

Sixty-one of 67 (91%) patients in the study receiving succinylcholine and all 27 patients receiving rocuronium had preserved pupillary responses to light after neuromuscular blockade.

Dr. David A. Caro and colleagues from University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Florida investigated whether succinylcholine or rocuronium affected pupillary response to light in 94 patients undergoing rapid sequence intubation.

Four succinylcholine patients didn't retain pupillary responsiveness, and rating physicians disagreed about pupillary response in the remaining two succinylcholine patients.

Study limitations noted by the authors included the lack of sample size or study design to investigate differences between the two neuromuscular blocking agents, the lack of randomization, and the lack of physician blinding to the medication used.

"Although replication of our study with a larger series may result in different inferences, the time-sensitive nature of the protocol and the short duration of succinylcholine pose logistic challenges to any evaluation" the investigators note.

"Our study supports the clinical utility of pupillary response after neuromuscular blockade with succinylcholine or rocuronium," the researchers conclude.

"Clinicians should verify the presence of pupillary response after rapid sequence intubation. The absence of pupillary response may indicate the presence of a significant neurologic lesion."

Caro DA, et al. Ann Emerg Med. Posted online January 8, 2011.


4. Effect of CPR with chest compression only not as good as conventional CPR for cardiopulmonary arrest out of hospital

Ogawa T, et al. BMJ 2011;342:c7106

In this large, nationwide, population based, observational study from Japan, conventional cardiopulmonary resuscitation was associated with better rates of overall survival and neurologically favourable survival at one month than chest compression only CPR in people who had an out of hospital cardiac arrest witnessed by a bystander. For non-cardiac cases and all cases combined, they found a significantly greater benefit of conventional CPR in younger people with non-cardiac events and in people in whom the start of CPR was delayed by up to 10 minutes after the event was witnessed. These findings could be important for developing new guidelines for bystander CPR, say the authors. Editorialist Ian G Jacobs points out that definitive evidence is lacking but either method is better than no CPR.

Full-text (free):

5. Updated Guidelines Support Expansion of Ketamine Use in ED Setting

Emma Hitt, PhD. January 20, 2011 — Guidelines for use of ketamine in emergency department (ED) procedural sedation have been updated for the first time since 2004; the use of ketamine has been expanded to include adults and babies between 3 and 12 months of age, according to a new report.

The updated guidelines were published online January 20 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Accompanying the guidelines was a report conveying the results of the first randomized, controlled trial of ketamine plus propofol vs propofol alone in the ED setting. Study authors Henry David, MD, and Joseph Shipp, PAC, from the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that the use of ketamine plus propofol improved outcomes compared with ketamine alone.

The randomized trial included healthy children and adults undergoing procedural sedation who were pretreated with intravenous fentanyl and then randomly assigned to receive intravenous ketamine, 0.5 mg/kg (n = 97), or placebo (n = 96). Both groups then immediately received intravenous propofol, 1 mg/kg, with additional doses of 0.5 mg/kg given as needed to achieve and maintain sedation.

The trial found that the incidence of respiratory depression was similar in the ketamine/propofol group (22%) and the propofol-alone group (28%). In addition, compared with propofol alone, for the group receiving ketamine/propofol, clinicians were more satisfied, less propofol was administered, and there appeared to be a trend toward better sedation quality.

"Addition of a subdissociative dose of ketamine to propofol did not significantly reduce respiratory depression," the authors conclude. "However, it did result in greater provider satisfaction, a decreased propofol requirement, and a trend toward more effective sedation."

According to the researchers, the "most striking" outcome was markedly greater provider satisfaction with ketamine/propofol. "This did not correlate with sedation scores and thus reflects features of sedation that transcend simple sedation depth," they suggest. "Possibilities include the more consistent sedation already described or the decreased need to titrate additional propofol."

Regarding the new guidelines, lead author of the guidelines, Steven M. Green, MD, from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Loma Linda University, California, noted, "It was time to update the clinical guidelines because substantial new research on the use of ketamine warranted it."

Since the guidelines were last updated, there has been "sufficient emergency department research in adults to support expansion of ketamine use beyond children," Dr. Green noted in a news release. He added that the body of research now supports the expansion of ketamine for use in children younger than previously recommended (ie, between 3 and 12 months of age). "We further recommend that emergency physicians administer ketamine intravenously instead of intra-muscularly whenever feasible, and that certain other medications not be routinely co-administered," he added.

Full-text (free) guidelines:

6. The Effect of Triage Diagnostic Standing Orders on ED Treatment Time

Retezar R, et al. Ann Emerg Med. 2011;89-99.e2

Study objective
Triage standing orders are used in emergency departments (EDs) to initiate evaluation when there is no bed available. This study evaluates the effect of diagnostic triage standing orders on ED treatment time of adult patients who presented with a chief complaint for which triage standing orders had been developed.

We conducted a retrospective nested cohort study of patients treated in one academic ED between January 2007 and August 2009. In this ED, triage nurses can initiate full or partial triage standing orders for patients with chest pain, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, or genitourinary complaints. We matched patients who received triage standing orders to those who received room orders with respect to clinical and temporal factors, using a propensity score. We compared the median treatment time of patients with triage standing orders (partial or full) to those with room orders, using multivariate linear regression.

Of the 15,188 eligible patients, 25% received full triage standing orders, 56% partial triage standing orders, and 19% room orders. The unadjusted median ED treatment time for patients who did not receive triage standing orders was 282 minutes versus 230 minutes for those who received a partial triage standing order or full triage standing orders (18% decrease). Controlling for other factors, triage standing orders were associated with a 16% reduction (95% confidence interval −18% to −13%) in the median treatment time, regardless of chief complaint.

Diagnostic testing at triage was associated with a substantial reduction in ED treatment time for 4 common chief complaints. This intervention warrants further evaluation in other EDs and with different clinical conditions and tests.

Full-text (free):

7. Drug-Induced Deaths More Common Than Alcohol- or Firearm-Related Fatalities

Deborah Brauser. January 28, 2011 — US deaths caused by drug use in 2007 were more common than either alcohol-induced or firearm-related deaths, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Although the report found that 38,371 drug-induced deaths occurred that year, the number was down slightly from those reported during the 2003-2006 period. However, the rates for males were significantly higher than for females during all years examined.

The information was published January 14 as part of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Increase in Prescription Drugs

Drug-induced deaths included those "attributable to acute poisoning by drugs (drug overdoses) and deaths from medical conditions resulting from chronic drug use," write Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, from the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in El Paso, Texas, and colleagues.

The researchers assessed data on this type of death occurring between 2003 and 2007 from the National Vital Statistics System.

They found the following:

• The highest drug-induced group mortality rates for each year examined, and greatest rate increases, were for non-Hispanic white people;
• For males, non-Hispanic white or black males had the highest rates;
• Rates for non-Hispanic white males were 64% higher than for non-Hispanic white females in 2007;
• For females, American Indians/Alaskan natives had the highest rate for every year except 2006;
• Rates for Hispanics did not increase significantly year to year;
• The lowest group rates overall were found in Asian/Pacific Islanders; and
• Unintentional drug poisoning was the cause of most deaths, followed by suicidal drug poisoning and drug poisoning of undetermined intent.

The report notes that although most drug-induced deaths in the 1980s and 1990s were attributable to illicit drugs and the mortality rates were higher for blacks than for whites, that trend reversed beginning in 2002.

"This change occurred as prescription drugs, especially opioid painkillers and psychotherapeutic drugs, were prescribed more widely by physicians. Prescribed drugs eventually supplanted illicit drugs as the leading cause of drug-related overdose deaths," the study authors write.

They note that racial/ethnic minorities "are less likely to use prescription drugs and therefore might have been less likely to misuse such drugs."

On the basis of their findings, the report authors recommend that clinicians should be following "existing guidelines for cautious use" of prescription drugs.

"Regulations designed to prevent illicit use of prescription drugs need to be strengthened and enforced. Persons who misuse prescription drugs should be identified and receive a referral for substance abuse treatment," they conclude.

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60:60-61.


8. Use of Ocular Ultrasound for the Evaluation of Retinal Detachment

Shinar Z, et al. J Emerg Med. 2011;40:53-57.

Background: Retinal detachment is an ocular emergency posing diagnostic difficulty for the emergency practitioner. Direct fundoscopy and visual field testing are difficult to perform and do not completely rule out retinal detachment. Ophthalmologists use ocular ultrasound to enhance their clinical acumen in detecting retinal detachments (RD), and bedside ultrasound capability is readily available to many emergency practitioners (EP).

Study Objective: Our study sought to assess whether ocular ultrasound would be a helpful adjunct for the diagnosis of RD for the practicing EP. Methods: This was a prospective observational study with a convenience sample of patients. As part of a general course on emergency ultrasonography, practitioners received a 30-min training session on ocular ultrasound before beginning the study. Trained practitioners submitted ultrasound scans with interpretation on patients with signs and symptoms consistent with retinal detachment.

Results: Thirty-one of the 72 practitioners trained submitted ocular ultrasound reports on patients presenting to the Emergency Department with concerns for retinal detachments. EPs achieved a 97% sensitivity (95% confidence interval [CI] 82–100%) and 92% specificity (95% CI 82–97%) on 92 examinations (29 retinal detachments). Disc edema and vitreous hemorrhage accounted for false positives, and a subacute retinal detachment accounted for the only false negative.

Conclusion: These data show that trained emergency practitioners can use ocular ultrasound as an adjunct to their clinical assessment for retinal detachment.

9. Encouraging Change in Behavior by Nudging

Marteau TM, et al. Judging nudging: can nudging improve population health? BMJ 2011;342:d228

If people didn’t smoke, drank less, ate healthier diets and were more active, the huge burden of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes would be much reduced.1 The prospect of being able to nudge populations into changing their behaviour has generated great interest among policymakers worldwide, including the UK government.2 We explore what nudging is and assess the prospect of nudging our way to a healthier population.

Understanding behaviour change
Most people value their health yet persist in behaving in ways that undermine it. This can reflect a deliberate act by individuals who happen at different moments in time to value other things in life more highly than their health. It can also reflect a non-deliberate act. This gap between values and behaviour can be understood by using a dual process model in which human behaviour is shaped by two systems.3 The first is a reflective, goal oriented system driven by our values and intentions. It requires cognitive capacity or thinking space, which is limited. Many traditional approaches to health promotion depend on engaging this system. Often based on providing information, they are designed to alter beliefs and attitudes, motivate people with the prospect of future benefits, or help them develop self regulatory skills. At best, these approaches have been modestly effective in changing behaviour.4

The second is an automatic, affective system that requires little or no cognitive engagement, being driven by immediate feelings and triggered by our environments. Despite wishing to lose weight, for example, we still buy the chocolate bar displayed by the checkout till. Such environmental cues combine with the power of immediate and certain pleasure over larger, less certain and more distant rewards to make unhealthy behaviour more likely. This suggests an approach to behaviour change that focuses on altering environmental cues to prompt healthier behaviour. Such an approach is readily embraced by advertisers and retailers and, increasingly, by public health specialists.5 Nudging mainly operates through this automatic, affective system.

What is nudging?
The term “nudge” was first used in a book of the same title to describe “any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.”6 It is exemplified by a simple intervention that substantially increased the amount that people saved for their retirement: an opt-in system in which people had to make a positive choice to set aside savings from their salaries was replaced by an opt-out system in which savings were made by default.7

The original definition of nudging excludes legislation, regulation, and interventions that alter economic incentives. Aside from these exclusions, nudging could include a wide variety of approaches to altering social or physical environments to make certain behaviours more likely. These might include providing information about what others are doing (“social norm feedback”) framed to make healthy behaviours more salient, changing the defaults that surround the serving of food and drinks, or altering the layout of buildings to cue physical activity (table⇓). However, there is no precise, operational definition of nudging. This may reflect a reality—namely, that nudging is at best a fuzzy set8 intended to draw attention to the role of social and physical environments in shaping our behaviour and not to inform a scientific taxonomy of behaviour change interventions.

The remainder of the article:

10. CT Scans Not Needed Routinely for Head Trauma in Asymptomatic Kids with Bleeding Disorders

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jan 25 - For children with bleeding disorders who experience head trauma, cranial CT scans are usually not necessary if symptoms are absent, investigators report in The Journal of Pediatrics online January 14.

Dr. Lois K. Lee at Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues note that intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) is a potentially life-threatening complication for children with congenital or acquired bleeding disorders.

"There is evidence that these children are at increased risk for sustaining ICH even after minor blunt head trauma."

To determine the rate of CT imaging after blunt head trauma in children with or without bleeding disorders, and the prevalence of ICH in these children, the authors analyzed data on 43,904 cases seen in 25 emergency departments. Among this cohort, 230 children had a bleeding disorder - 129 of them with hemophilia.

All of the patients with bleeding disorders and 98% of those without had apparently minor trauma indicated by a Glasgow coma scale score of 14 or 15.

Cranial CT scans were obtained for 80.9% of the children with bleeding disorders and 35.3% of those without, for a rate ratio of 2.29.

"Of the patients with GCS scores of 14 to 15 for whom a CT was obtained, an ICH was present in 2 of 186 children with bleeding disorders (1.1%) compared with 655 of 14, 969 children without bleeding disorders (4.4%)," Dr. Lee and colleagues report.

Both of the children with bleeding disorders and positive CT scans presented with signs and symptoms of ICH.

Given these results, the researchers conclude, "CT imaging may not routinely be needed in the evaluation of children with bleeding disorders after blunt head trauma, particularly in those without signs and symptoms suggestive of ICH."

J Pediatr. Posted online January 14, 2011.


11. Short-Term Outcomes after Fab Antivenom Therapy for Severe Crotaline Snakebite

Lavonas L, et al. Ann Emerg Med. 2011;57:128-137.e3

Study objectives
We seek to determine the short-term outcomes associated with the use of Crotalidae polyvalent immune Fab (ovine) (CroFab; FabAV) therapy for severe crotaline snake envenomation and to better define the incidence of hypersensitivity reactions associated with FabAV use.

We conducted a multicenter observational case series study of patients who received FabAV at 17 US hospitals in 2002 to 2004. A 7-point score incorporating local, systemic, and hematologic venom effects was used to grade envenomation severity before and after FabAV therapy. The primary outcome for response to therapy was the change in overall envenomation severity after FabAV administration. The primary safety outcomes were the rates of immediate hypersensitivity reactions and serum sickness.

The outcome-evaluable population included 209 patients, of whom 28 had severe envenomation. All severely envenomated patients improved after receiving FabAV. The median severity scores of severely envenomated patients were 5 (interquartile range [IQR] 5 to 5) before FabAV, 1 (IQR 1 to 2) at the last FabAV loading dose, and 1 (IQR 0 to 1) at the last clinical observation. The proportion of patients with progressive pain, progressive swelling, cardiovascular effects, respiratory effects, neurologic effects, gastrointestinal effects, coagulopathy, and thrombocytopenia all improved after FabAV therapy. The safety population included 247 patients. Immediate hypersensitivity reactions were reported in 6.1% (95% confidence interval 3.4% to 9.8%) of patients. Serum sickness was reported in 5% (95% confidence interval 0.6% to 17%) of patients with a minimum of 6 days of follow-up after the last dose of FabAV.

FabAV therapy is associated with clinical improvement in severe crotaline snake envenomation. Immediate hypersensitivity and serum sickness rates may be less than described in the FabAV prescribing information.

12. Neurothrombectomy 'Intriguing' Option for Stroke but Questions Remain

January 18, 2011 — Currently available neurothrombectomy devices offer "intriguing" treatment options for acute ischemic stroke patients who present either outside the initial time window from symptom onset or who cannot receive traditional therapies, such as pharmacologic thrombolysis, conclude the authors of a new "State of the Evidence" review of the devices.

Results of the review, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, were published online January 17 in Annals of Internal Medicine and will appear in the February 15 print issue of the journal.

"Despite their availability, the clinical data are still evolving and many unanswered questions remain,” first author William L. Baker, PharmD, BCPS (AQ Cardiology), from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy & Medicine in Farmington, told Medscape Medical News. "Noncomparative studies have shown these devices to be effective in many patients, although risks do exist," he noted, and the comparative effectiveness of these devices remains unknown.

Ann Intern Med article (free):

13. Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Beneficial in Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

HBO therapy did not add benefit to normobaric oxygen therapy in these studies.

Annane D, et al. Intensive Care Medicine 2010 Online First, December

Introduction: Although hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) is broadly used for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, its efficacy and practical modalities remain controversial.

Objectives: To assess HBO in patients poisoned with CO.

Design: Two prospective randomized trial on two parallel groups.

Setting: Critical Care Unit, Raymond Poincaré Hospital, Garches, France.

Subjects: Three hundred eighty-five patients with acute domestic CO poisoning.

Intervention: Patients with transient loss of consciousness (trial A, n = 179) were randomized to either 6 h of normobaric oxygen therapy (NBO; arm A0, n = 86) or 4 h of NBO plus one HBO session (arm A1, n = 93). Patients with initial coma (trial B, n = 206) were randomized to either 4 h of NBO plus one HBO session (arm B1, n = 101) or 4 h of NBO plus two 2 HBO sessions (arm B2, n = 105).

Primary endpoint: Proportion of patients with complete recovery at 1 month.

Results: In trial A, there was no evidence for a difference in 1-month complete recovery rates with and without HBO [58% compared to 61%; unadjusted odds ratio, 0.90 (95% CI, 0.47–1.71)]. In trial B, complete recovery rates were significantly lower with two than with one HBO session [47% compared to 68%; unadjusted odds ratio, 0.42 (CI, 0.23–0.79)].

Conclusion: In patients with transient loss of consciousness, there was no evidence of superiority of HBO over NBO. In comatose patients, two HBO sessions were associated with worse outcomes than one HBO session.

14. Abdominal CT Scans Improve Diagnostic Certainty in the ED

John Otrompke. January 24, 2011 — A change in diagnosis and treatment was made in nearly half (49%) of adult patients presenting to an emergency department with nontraumatic abdominal pain after a computed tomography (CT) scan, according to a prospective study of 584 patients at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston between November 2006 and February 2008.

The results support the utility of CT scans, despite concerns about associated increases in cost and radiation exposure, researchers said.

Results of the study appear in the February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

The use of CT scans was associated with a reduction in the number of patients admitted to the hospital by nearly half. In addition, the imaging technique was associated with an increase in the level of physician confidence in their diagnosis to 92.2%, up from 70.5%.

Prior to the CT scan, physicians planned to admit 75.3% of the patients evaluated (440 of 584 patients). After CT, the plan was changed to discharge with follow-up in 106 of 440 cases (24.1%), Hani H. Abujudeh, MD, and colleagues report. There was a 126% increase in the diagnosis of "no acute condition" after a CT.

Surgery was initially planned in 79 patients, but after CT, 20 patients (25.3%) were discharged.

The use of CT also reduced the number of patients for whom observation was planned by 44% (from 117 to 66 patients), and increased the number of patients discharged by 55% (from 142 to 220 patients).

Dr. Abujudeh and colleagues also found that treatment was upgraded to admission for some patients, even though the initial treatment plan was discharge. Prior to CT, physicians planned to discharge 142 patients, but the treatment plan was changed to admission in 29 patients (20.4%), they say. Overall, the use of CT reduced planned admission by 17.5%.

The researchers only analyzed data from adults who presented to the emergency department during the hours covered by the study coordinator, which varied between 3:00 PM and midnight Monday through Friday, and who underwent an abdominal CT scan as part of their work-up, the authors note. The patients had a mean age of 53.5 years.

The study was thought to be more powerful than some previous studies, which excluded conditions such as intraabdominal malignancies and inflammatory bowel disease, according to the authors. However, the study had weaknesses, they say. For instance, the research took place at a teaching hospital, so the findings might not be generalizable to other institutions.

AJR. 2011;196:238-243.

15. A Review of Emergent Inpatient Intubations

This large observational study reveals a 10% incidence of difficult intubation.

Martin LD et al. Anesthesiology 2011 Jan; 114:42.

BACKGROUND: There are limited outcome data regarding emergent nonoperative intubation. The current study was undertaken with a large observational dataset to evaluate the incidence of difficult intubation and complication rates and to determine predictors of complications in this setting.

METHODS: Adult nonoperating room emergent intubations at our tertiary care institution from December 5, 2001 to July 6, 2009 were reviewed. Prospectively defined data points included time of day, location, attending physician presence, number of attempts, direct laryngoscopy view, adjuvant use, medications, and complications. At our institution, a senior resident with at least 24 months of anesthesia training is the first responder for all emergent airway requests. The primary outcome was a composite airway complication variable that included aspiration, esophageal intubation, dental injury, or pneumothorax.

RESULTS: A total of 3,423 emergent nonoperating room airway management cases were identified. The incidence of difficult intubation was 10.3%. Complications occurred in 4.2%: aspiration, 2.8%; esophageal intubation, 1.3%; dental injury, 0.2%; and pneumothorax, 0.1%. A bougie introducer was used in 12.4% of cases. Among 2,284 intubations performed by residents, independent predictors of the composite complication outcome were as follows: three or more intubation attempts (odds ratio, 6.7; 95% CI, 3.2-14.2), grade III or IV view (odds ratio, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.1-3.5), general care floor location (odds ratio, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.2-3.0), and emergency department location (odds ratio, 4.7; 95% CI, 1.1-20.4).

CONCLUSIONS: During emergent nonoperative intubation, specific clinical situations are associated with an increased risk of airway complication and may provide a starting point for allocation of experienced first responders.

16. Ability of Physicians to Diagnose CHF Based on Chest X-Ray

Kennedy S, et al. J Emerg Med. 2011;40:47-52.

Background: Chest X-ray interpretation is an important skill in the diagnosis of congestive heart failure (CHF) by emergency physicians.

Objectives: This study evaluated the ability of emergency physicians to recognize CHF on chest X-ray and the effect of level of training and confidence upon accuracy of interpretation. Methods: This was a prospective, blinded study in which 24 patients with an elevated brain natriuretic peptide, low ejection fraction, and diagnosis of CHF were retrospectively identified. In addition, 31 patients without CHF were identified and used as controls. These 55 chest X-rays were presented to emergency attendings and housestaff and a radiologist. We calculated the accuracy of the raters' diagnoses, and measured their confidence in that diagnosis and their level of training.

Results: Physicians correctly identified the CHF chest X-rays 79% of the time (sensitivity 59%, specificity 96%; positive likelihood ratio 14.6, negative likelihood ratio 0.43). Accuracy ranged from a low of 78% among first-year residents to a high of 85% among attendings, and from 73% (confidence rating of 3/5) to 91% (confidence rating of 5/5). Increasing confidence was significantly correlated with accuracy across the spectrum (p = 0.001). An accuracy of 95% among radiologists suggests that a negative X-ray does not rule out CHF.

Conclusions: High specificity (96%) and low sensitivity (59%) suggest that emergency physicians are excellent at identifying CHF on X-ray when present, but under-call it frequently. Sensitivity may be much higher in real life given clinical correlation. Both increased level of training and higher confidence significantly improved accuracy.

17. Cardiac Arrest in Public vs. at Home

Weisfeldt ML, et al. N Engl J Med 2011; 364:313-321.

In a large U.S.–Canadian registry of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, shockable rhythms were more common in public settings than in the home. This finding has important implications for resuscitation strategies, especially the use of automated external defibrillators.

The incidence of ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia as the first recorded rhythm after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest has unexpectedly declined. The success of bystander-deployed automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public settings suggests that this may be the more common initial rhythm when out-of-hospital cardiac arrest occurs in public. We conducted a study to determine whether the location of the arrest, the type of arrhythmia, and the probability of survival are associated.

Between 2005 and 2007, we conducted a prospective cohort study of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in adults in 10 North American communities. We assessed the frequencies of ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia and of survival to hospital discharge for arrests at home as compared with arrests in public.

Of 12,930 evaluated out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, 2042 occurred in public and 9564 at home. For cardiac arrests at home, the incidence of ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia was 25% when the arrest was witnessed by emergency-medical-services (EMS) personnel, 35% when it was witnessed by a bystander, and 36% when a bystander applied an AED. For cardiac arrests in public, the corresponding rates were 38%, 60%, and 79%. The adjusted odds ratio for initial ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia in public versus at home was 2.28 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.96 to 2.66; P less than 0.001) for bystander-witnessed arrests and 4.48 (95% CI, 2.23 to 8.97; P less than 0.001) for arrests in which bystanders applied AEDs. The rate of survival to hospital discharge was 34% for arrests in public settings with AEDs applied by bystanders versus 12% for arrests at home (adjusted odds ratio, 2.49; 95% CI, 1.03 to 5.99; P=0.04).

Regardless of whether out-of-hospital cardiac arrests are witnessed by EMS personnel or bystanders and whether AEDs are applied by bystanders, the proportion of arrests with initial ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia is much greater in public settings than at home. The incremental value of resuscitation strategies, such as the ready availability of an AED, may be related to the place where the arrest occurs

Full-text (free):

18. A Fighting Spirit Won’t Save Your Life

Richard P Sloan. New York Times, January 24, 2011

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS’S remarkable recovery from a bullet to her head has provided a heartening respite from a national calamity. Representative Giffords’s husband describes her as a “fighter,” and no doubt she is one. Whether her recovery has anything to do with a fighting spirit, however, is another matter entirely.

The idea that an individual has power over his health has a long history in American popular culture. The “mind cure” movements of the 1800s were based on the premise that we can control our well-being. In the middle of that century, Phineas Quimby, a philosopher and healer, popularized the view that illness was the product of mistaken beliefs, that it was possible to cure yourself by correcting your thoughts. Fifty years later, the New Thought movement, which the psychologist and philosopher William James called “the religion of the healthy minded,” expressed a very similar view: by focusing on positive thoughts and avoiding negative ones, people could banish illness.

The idea that people can control their own health has persisted through Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking,” in 1952, to a popular book today, “The Secret,” by Rhonda Byrne, which teaches that to achieve good health all we have to do is to direct our requests to the universe.

It’s true that in some respects we do have control over our health. By exercising, eating nutritious foods and not smoking, we reduce our risk of heart disease and cancer. But the belief that a fighting spirit helps us to recover from injury or illness goes beyond healthful behavior. It reflects the persistent view that personality or a way of thinking can raise or reduce the likelihood of illness…

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19. Anticoagulant-associated intracerebral hemorrhage.

Semin Neurol. 2010 Nov;30(5):565-72. Epub 2011 Jan 4.

The incidence of anticoagulant-associated intracerebral hemorrhage (AAICH) quintupled during the 1990s, probably due to increased warfarin use for the treatment of atrial fibrillation. Anticoagulant-associated intracerebral hemorrhage now accounts for nearly 20% of all intracranial hemorrhage (ICH). Among patients using warfarin for atrial fibrillation, the annual risk of ICH in trials is 0.3 to 1.0%.

Predictors of potential anticoagulant-associated hemorrhage are increasing age, prior ischemic stroke, hypertension, leukoaraiosis, the early period of warfarin use, higher intensity anticoagulation, and antiplatelet use in addition to anticoagulation. Compared with other intracranial hemorrhage patients, anticoagulated patients have a greater risk of hematoma expansion, subsequent clinical deterioration and death, necessitating vigorous reversal of their coagulopathy.

Recommended methods of warfarin reversal are administration of intravenous vitamin K and either prothrombin complex concentrates or fresh frozen plasma. Reversal of unfractionated heparin is accomplished with intravenous protamine sulfate. Surgical treatment of intracranial hemorrhage may be life saving in select cases, but has not reduced morbidity or mortality in large randomized trials.

20. The “High” Risk of Energy Drinks

Arria AM, et al. JAMA 2011; online first

In this Commentary, we outline why regular (nonalcoholic) energy drinks might pose just as great a threat to individual and public health and safety. More research that can guide actions of regulatory agencies is needed. Until results from such research are available, the following should be seriously considered: health care professionals should inform their patients of the risks associated with the use of highly caffeinated energy drinks; the public should educate themselves about the risks of energy drink use, in particular the danger associated with mixing energy drinks and alcohol; and the alcohol and energy drink industries should voluntarily and actively caution consumers against mixing energy drinks with alcohol, both on their product labels and in their advertising materials.

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21. EMS Makes a Difference

A. Improved Clinical Outcomes and Downstream Healthcare Savings. A Position Statement of the National EMS Advisory Council

NHTSA. Ann Emerg Med. 2011;57:169.

The National Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council (NEMSAC) conducted a literature review to answer such questions as, do emergency medical services (EMS) make a difference? Do out-of-hospital interventions really improve patient outcomes? Can timely care provided in the out-of-hospital setting lead to reduced total health care expenditures?

The article summarizes the evidence base documenting improved patient outcomes resulting from out-of-hospital interventions and regionalized EMS systems. It documents the definitive relationship between EMS-related improvements in patient outcomes and financial savings to the health care system for specific conditions.

The strongest evidence demonstrating improved patient outcomes resulting from coordinated systems of out-of-hospital care was observed in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Trained EMS providers are proficient in the capture and interpretation of 12-lead ECGs, and their participation in the triage decisionmaking process results in clinically meaningful reductions in the time to definitive care.

Strong evidence was also found to document the positive effect of out-of-hospital care and transport for patients experiencing stroke or respiratory distress. By providing advance notification to the receiving hospital and by transporting stroke patients to regional centers, out-of-hospital care providers significantly increase the percentage of stroke patients receiving thrombolysis within 2.5 hours of symptom onset. Patients in respiratory distress who received advanced life support (ALS) treatments show improved higher survival rates and higher functioning cerebral performance scores at discharge than patients receiving basic life support.

By providing appropriate triage and transport to regionalized trauma centers, EMS systems play an important role in improving survival for patients with severe injuries. Adherence to out-of-hospital protocols for the treatment of head injury and pediatric shock also contributes to improved outcomes.

The cost-effectiveness for out-of-hospital care has not received adequate scrutiny, but early studies indicate favorable lifetime cost savings per quality-adjusted life-year from treatments, including thrombolysis and continuous positive airway pressure in the out-of-hospital setting. The use of paramedic practitioners to treat acute minor medical emergencies has been shown to be cost-effective.

The NEMSAC believes that there is enough evidence to support the fact that EMS in general and certain interventions in the out-of-hospital care of patients positively affect the clinical outcome of the patient in the short and long term and have been shown to be cost-effective. Meaningful health reform cannot ignore the significant role of EMS in improving health outcomes and decreasing health care expenditures.

Copies of the 30-page report “EMS Makes a Difference: Improved Clinical Outcomes and Downstream Healthcare Savings. A Position Statement of the National EMS Advisory Council” can be downloaded from Questions about the information presented in this document can be directed to Cathy Gotschall at

B. Commentary: Making a Difference in Emergency Medical Services

Kahn C. Ann Emerg Med. 2011;57:169-171.

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