September 12, 2019


  • Tramadol is a centrally acting synthetic opioid analgesic approved for use in the United States in 1995 by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Agency classified tramadol as a Schedule IV controlled substance.
  • ~41 million prescriptions for tramadol were dispensed in the United States in 2017.

August 5, 2019

Background Information: Non-steroidal Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen are of the one of the most commonly used oral analgesics in the emergency department. 1 These medications work by inhibiting the enzymes cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). These are two enzymes which lead to prostaglandin production and ultimately promote pain, fever and inflammation. Prostaglandins also serve to line the stomach epithelium and protect it from the digestive acids. The COX-1 enzyme also plays a role in platelet activation through the production of Thrombaxane-2. Understanding the physiology behind these important enzymes helps us better anticipate the expected adverse effects that may occur when prescribing NSAIDs, especially at higher doses or over an extended period of time. Due to its linear kinetic effects, higher doses of ibuprofen results in longer duration of analgesia and not necessarily more effective pain control. 3, 4 The authors of this study sought to identify the analgesic effects of three different doses of ibuprofen. Furthermore, they hypothesized that a lower dose had comparable analgesic effects when compared to higher doses.

January 21, 2019

Background Information: In 2017, more than two-thirds of the 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States involved an opioid.1 Many emergency departments are affected as opioid overdoses increased 30% from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.2 With the half-life of naloxone being between 60-90 minutes the appropriate disposition and observation time of these patients following naloxone reversal continues to be debated in the literature.3,4, A study on heroin overdose patients treated and released by pre-hospital providers showed no deaths in the one-year period studied.5 While this only applies to isolated heroin use, other studies have shown no increased incidence of death within 48 hours of patients treated with naloxone for non-fentanyl opioid overdoses.6,7 Many of these studies, however, suffer from poor follow up which is unsurprising given the difficulty in tracking patients with opiate use disorders. It is important to note that the increased presence of synthetic and long-acting opioids further complicates this topic. A systematic review of a clinical prediction rule known as the St. Paul’s Early Discharge Rule, concluded that ambulatory patients with normal vital signs, and a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 15 only needed 1 hour of observation prior to discharge.8,9 The authors of this study sought to validate this single center derived rule and its six criteria.

January 10, 2019

Background: The mainstay of treatment for alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a symptom-triggered approach using benzodiazepines. Phenobarbital, however, is an interesting agent in this scenario for several reasons. It is famous for  it is long duration of action. IV Phenobarbital has an onset of action of over 15 – 20 minutes, a duration of action of 10 – 12 hours and a half-life of 53 – 118 hours in adults [5]. But phenobarbital has several other characteristics that make it attractive in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. Importantly, it works on the GABA receptor differently than benzodiazepines. First, it increases the duration (not frequency) the chloride channel is open. Also, chronic alcohol abuse can alter the GABA receptor making it less sensitive to benzodiazepines not barbiturates. And finally, at very high doses, phenobarbital can open the chloride channel independent of the presence of GABA. The authors of this paper sought to compare a phenobarbital-adjunct versus benzodiazepine-only approach for the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome in the ED.

August 16, 2018

Background: Alcohol and drug intoxication is common in trauma patients and a significant proportion of cervical spine (c-spine) injuries occur in patients with intoxication. A standard approach to both intoxicated and sober patients with suspected c-spine injury in many trauma centers includes the placement of a rigid cervical collar for spinal immobilization until the c-spine can be “cleared.”  Even after a negative CT, intoxicated patients often are immobilized for prolonged periods of time until a reliable exam can be performed due to concern for missed findings on CT scan, specifically unstable ligamentous injuries.  This practice is less than ideal, as prolonged c-spine immobilization is associated with DVT, atelectasis, aspiration pneumonia, and elevated intracranial pressures.  In 2015, the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST) demonstrated that CT imaging of obtunded patients due to any cause would miss approximately 9% of cervical spine injuries, most of which are clinically insignificant. They additionally found no benefit to prolonged immobilization.