November 9, 2020

Background/Introduction: The use of Sodium Bicarbonate (SB) in cardiac arrest has had a complicated history with strong and varied opinions on its effectiveness. SB was recommended in earlier ACLS guidelines, mostly stemming from the notion that severe metabolic acidosis due to hypoxia and hypoperfusion during cardiac arrest led to impaired myocardial contractility, decreased effectiveness of vasopressors, and increased risk of dysrhythmias. Subsequent data called into question the benefits of SB in cardiac arrest and highlighted potential harms such as hypernatremia, hyperosmolarity, metabolic alkalosis, as well as reduction in ionized calcium, vascular resistance, and extracellular fluid volume expansion. This led to the 2010 ACLS guidelines stating that routine use of SB is not recommended (Class IIIB) and that it may be considered in special circumstances (preexisting metabolic acidosis, Hyperkalemia, or TCA overdose). Despite this, the use of SB during cardiac arrest is still common in emergency departments with varying opinions on its effectiveness. In fact, recently published data from the National Emergency Medicine Services Information System (NEMSIS) noted that besides epinephrine and normal saline, sodium bicarbonate was the third most commonly used medication in out of hospital cardiac arrest (Chan 2020). This study aimed to consolidate the state of evidence behind the use of SB in cardiac arrest.

October 15, 2020

Background: A resuscitative thoracotomy is a time-critical high acuity, low occurrence (HALO) procedure – as an emergency physician you need to know how to do it, but depending on your practice environment, it may be a once-in-a-career maneuver. All the more reason that, if you have to do it, you want to make sure your effort counts. In a prior post, I advised that if you’re going to be doing a thoracotomy as an EM doc, you should do a clamshell approach. This was based both on some evidence from the surgical literature as well as personal experience – I feel the clamshell gives you the exposure you really need if you are doing this rarely and the time difference compared to an anterolateral approach is negligible. A recent paper from Newberry et al. (published ahead of print in Annals of Emergency Medicine) addresses this very issue – from an EM perspective.

October 12, 2020

Background: The only well-established treatments for sepsis and septic shock are antibiotic therapy and source control.  Septic shock, the most severe form of sepsis, is characterized by circulatory and cellular metabolism abnormalities.  There have been a host of randomized controlled trials evaluating the use of vitamin C, thiamine, and corticosteroids (i.e. metabolic cocktail) to help mitigate dysregulated host responses in the hopes of improving patient-oriented outcomes. Thus far none of the randomized trials have shown improvements in mortality and shown mixed results with shock reversal (see tables below).

September 14, 2020

Background: Though it’s been stated numerous times on this blog, it bears repeating: the pillars of sepsis care remain early identification of sepsis, early appropriate empiric antibiotics, source control, and supportive care. The focus should be on getting the basics right but, it is important to evaluate whether other adjunctive therapies can help decrease mortality in a common and frequently fatal condition. Ascorbic acid and thiamine deficiency have been described in patients with sepsis and are thought to be due to reduced intake and increased metabolic demands.  Corticosteroids have had mixed results but seem to improve shock reversal in patients with septic shock based on best available evidence (Link is HERE). There have been a slew of RCTs evaluating this metabolic cocktail (vitamin C, thiamine, & corticosteroids) in recent months. Though biologically plausible, this treatment approach has not been shown to improve patient-oriented outcomes.

August 24, 2020

Background Information:

It is well documented throughout the literature that critically ill patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) with acute kidney injury have a higher morbidity and mortality.1–4 Acute kidney injury may be complicated by acidosis, hyperkalemia and other major metabolic disorders and thus the initiation of renal replacement therapy (RRT) is generally considered beneficial in these patients.5 In patients without these complications, the timing of when to initiate RRT remains unclear and is frequently debated. There are three trials to know before getting to this one: ELAIN, IDEAL and AKIKI. The ELAIN trial was the only one of the three to show reduced 90-day mortality with early vs delayed initiation of RRT and was the smallest in sample size.6 The IDEAL trial concluded that early planned initiation of dialysis in stage V chronic kidney disease was not associated with improvement in survival or clinical outcomes.7 Lastly, the AKIKI trial found no significant difference with regard to mortality between an early and delayed strategy of RRT and actually saw an appreciable number of patients avert the need for RRT in a delayed strategy.8 The authors of the following study sought to investigate whether an accelerated strategy for RRT would result in lower risk of death from any cause at 90 days when compared to a standard strategy of RRT initiation.