June 9, 2014

  89 year old male with PMH of hypertension, stage 3 chronic kidney disease with chief complaint of shortness of breath. Several days ago patient had a laminectomy for radicular pain. He was doing fine post-operatively and began to develop gradual shortness of breath.  He had no complaints of chest pain, nausea/vomiting, fevers, diaphoresis, but did have some weakness.  There were no prior ECGs for comparison. BP: 98/48 HR: 103 RR: 18 O2 on RA: 94% Temp: 38.6 JVD to the angle of the mandible Bibasilar Crackles Sinus Tachycardia Bilateral lower extremity pitting edema Labs: Na 125, K+ 4.2, Creatinine 2, BNP > 2500 ECG from triage is shown...

May 29, 2014

The first left ventricular assist device (LVAD) was performed in 1984 and since that time there is an increasingly growing population of patients with LVADs.  This means ED physicians will be seeing more and more of these patients in the ED and should have a basic understanding of how these devices work and have an adequate understanding of common complications and an approach to evaluate these patients. LVADs are typically used for end-stage heart failure for both a bridge to transplantion and for long-term quality of life improvement. Most of the information for this post comes from a great review article written by Chris Partyka et al in EMA 2014.

May 26, 2014

Typically, the treatment of acute pulmonary embolism consists of administration of unfractionated heparin or low molecular weight heparin (i.e. enoxaparin) overlapped with vitamin K antagonists (i.e. warfarin).  This can be a very effective treatment regimen, but also very complex.  New direct Xa inhibitors are being used more and more in clinical practice with prevention of venothromboembolism (EINSTEIN-DVT Trial), after major orthopedic surgery (RECORD1 Trial), prevention of stroke in patents with atrial fibrillation (ROCKET-AF Trial) , and in the treatment of acute coronary syndromes.  Recently, the EINSTEIN-PE Trial evaluated oral rivaroxaban for treatment of symptomatic pulmonary embolism.

May 1, 2014

Frequently, patients with acute alcohol intoxication are brought to the emergency department (ED) for evaluation and treatment.  Although practice patterns vary, it is not an uncommon practice to give normal saline to these patients in the hopes that the saline will cause a dilution effect on the level of alcohol helping patients sober faster and therefore having a shorter length of stay in the ED.  At the end of 2013 a study was published evaluating intravenous fluids and alcohol intoxication.

April 28, 2014

D-dimer testing is sensitive for thrombus formation, and in patients who are not high risk, this test is used to rule-out venous thromboembolism. D-dimer has been shown to increase with age, which can cause a lower specificity (i.e. more false positive tests) in older patients.  Specificity can range from 49 - 67% in patients ≤ 50 years of age, but in older patients (i.e. ≥ 80 years of age) the specificity is quoted as 0 - 18%. The result of this is, older patients often have more diagnostic imaging, but a higher cut-off may lead to increased false negative cases (i.e. missed VTE) and make this strategy less safe. So could age adjusted d-dimer testing increase specificity without affecting sensitivity?
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