Difficult airways can’t be reliably predicted

December 29, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, ICU, Resus

This paper1 proves what Rich Levitan has been saying (and writing) for years – that there is no method of prediction of difficult intubation that is both highly sensitive (the test wouldn’t miss many difficult airways) and highly specific (meaning those predicted to be difficult would indeed turn out to be difficult). Most importantly, this means one should always have a plan for failure to intubate and failure to mask-ventilate regardless of how ‘easy’ the airway may appear.

This study of a large prospectively collected database captured anaesthetists’ clinical assessment of likelihood of difficult intubation and difficult mask-ventilation, and compared them with actual findings. These studies are always difficult, due in part to the lack of standard definitions of difficult airways, but the take home was clear – the large majority of difficulties were unanticipated and not suspected from pre-operative clinical assessment.

This issue was brilliantly summed up by Yentis in a 2002 Editorial2:

I dare to suggest that attempting to predict difficult intubation is unlikely to be useful – does that mean one shouldn’t do it at all? To this I say no, for there is another important benefit of this ritual: it forces the anaesthetist at least to think about the airway, and for this reason we should encourage our trainees (and ourselves) to continue doing it.”

1. Diagnostic accuracy of anaesthesiologists’ prediction of difficult airway management in daily clinical practice: a cohort study of 188 064 patients registered in the Danish Anaesthesia Database
Anaesthesia. 2014 Dec 16. doi: 10.1111/anae.12955. [Epub ahead of print]

Both the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the UK NAP4 project recommend that an unspecified pre-operative airway assessment be made. However, the choice of assessment is ultimately at the discretion of the individual anaesthesiologist. We retrieved a cohort of 188 064 cases from the Danish Anaesthesia Database, and investigated the diagnostic accuracy of the anaesthesiologists’ predictions of difficult tracheal intubation and difficult mask ventilation. Of 3391 difficult intubations, 3154 (93%) were unanticipated. When difficult intubation was anticipated, 229 of 929 (25%) had an actual difficult intubation. Likewise, difficult mask ventilation was unanticipated in 808 of 857 (94%) cases, and when anticipated (218 cases), difficult mask ventilation actually occurred in 49 (22%) cases. We present a previously unpublished estimate of the accuracy of anaesthesiologists’ prediction of airway management difficulties in daily routine practice. Prediction of airway difficulties remains a challenging task, and our results underline the importance of being constantly prepared for unexpected difficulties.

2. Predicting difficult intubation–worthwhile exercise or pointless ritual?
Anaesthesia. 2002 Feb;57(2):105-9

i-STAT® analysis of intraosseous aspirate

March 6, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, ICU, Kids, Resus

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In the absence of vascular access we may resort to sending intraosseous aspirates for analysis, but in some laboratories there is concern that the samples can block autoanalysers.

A study on haematology/oncology patients undergoing diagnostic bone marrow aspiration showed clinically acceptable agreement between venous and intraosseous measurements for pH, base excess, sodium, ionised calcium and glucose using an an i-STAT® point-of-care analyser.

Key points are:

  • The first 1-2 ml should be discarded (as in this study)
  • Lactate hasn’t been assessed
  • These patients weren’t critically ill

Analysis of bloodgas, electrolytes and glucose from intraosseous samples using an i-STAT® point-of-care analyser
Resuscitation. 2014 Mar;85(3):359-63

BACKGROUND: Intraosseous access is used in emergency medicine as an alternative when intravenous access is difficult to obtain. Intraosseous samples can be used for laboratory testing to guide treatment. Many laboratories are reluctant to analyse intraosseous samples, as they frequently block conventional laboratory equipment. We aimed to evaluate the feasibility and accuracy of analysis of intraosseous samples using an i-STAT(®) point-of-care analyser.

METHODS: Intravenous and intraosseous samples of twenty children presenting for scheduled diagnostic bone marrow aspiration were analysed using an i-STAT(®) point-of-care analyser. Sample types were compared using Bland Altman plots and by calculating intraclass correlation coefficients and coefficients of variance.

RESULTS: The handheld i-STAT(®)point-of-care analyser proved suitable for analysing intraosseous samples without technical difficulties. Differences between venous and intraosseous samples were clinically acceptable for pH, base excess, sodium, ionised calcium and glucose in these haemodynamically stable patients. The intraclass correlation coefficient was excellent (>0.8) for comparison of intraosseous and intravenous base excess, and moderate (around 0.6) for bicarbonate, sodium and glucose. The coefficient of variance of intraosseous samples was smaller than that of venous samples for most variables.

CONCLUSION: Analysis of intraosseous samples with a bedside, single-use cartridge-based analyser is feasible and avoids the problem of bone marrow contents damaging conventional laboratory equipment. In an emergency situation point-of-care analysis of intraosseous aspirates may be a useful guide to treatment.

The ‘Magic Eye®’ method of rhythm assessment

February 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, ICU, Resus

Are you someone who tries to determine whether an ECG trace is ‘irregularly irregular’ by drawing little dots on a piece of paper level with the R waves to see if they are evenly spaced? I’d done that for years until I read this fantastic suggestion, which I’ve been following for over a year now.

In the 1990s there was a popular series of posters and books called ‘Magic Eye‘. These contained a ‘random dot autostereogram‘ which appeared as a mish-mash of coloured dots, but when you stared at it for a while the illusion of a 3D image would emerge. They looked a bit like this (although this one won’t work at such reduced resolution):

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dr Broughton and colleagues from Cambridge, UK, discovered that this technique, which involves forcing a divergent gaze to get repeating patterns to appear to overlap, can be applied to an ECG trace.

Stereoviewing an ECG trace causes successive QRS complexes to visually overlap and produce a new image. As Broughton and colleagues point out:

When achieved, this will lead to one of three outcomes. Entirely regular rhythms will ‘click’ into place as a new image at fixed depth. Rhythms with only mild irregularity may be stereoviewable, and if so, will appear to show successive QRS complexes at subtly varying depths. Rhythms with marked irregularity will not be stereoviewable, instead (in our experience) merely giving the viewer sore eyes after several failed viewing attempts.”

The authors assert that this can be applied to continuous ECG monitors, although unless you are really good at stereoviewing while moving your head/eyes horizontally, you should really freeze the trace on the screen first.

The ‘Magic Eye®’ method of rhythm assessment
Anaesthesia. 2012 Oct;67(10):1170-1

Does RV enlargement on echo predict PE?

January 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus, Ultrasound

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A nice paper from Annals of Emergency Medicine showing the test characteristcs of some of the common signs we look for on basic 2D echo that suggest the presence of (sub)massive pulmonary embolism:

Right Ventricular Dilatation on Bedside Echocardiography Performed by Emergency Physicians Aids in the Diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism
Ann Emerg Med. 2014 Jan;63(1):16-24

STUDY OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine the diagnostic performance of right ventricular dilatation identified by emergency physicians on bedside echocardiography in patients with a suspected or confirmed pulmonary embolism. The secondary objective included an exploratory analysis of the predictive value of a subgroup of findings associated with advanced right ventricular dysfunction (right ventricular hypokinesis, paradoxical septal motion, McConnell’s sign).

METHODS: This was a prospective observational study using a convenience sample of patients with suspected (moderate to high pretest probability) or confirmed pulmonary embolism. Participants had bedside echocardiography evaluating for right ventricular dilatation (defined as right ventricular to left ventricular ratio greater than 1:1) and right ventricular dysfunction (right ventricular hypokinesis, paradoxical septal motion, or McConnell’s sign). The patient’s medical records were reviewed for the final reading on all imaging, disposition, hospital length of stay, 30-day inhospital mortality, and discharge diagnosis.

RESULTS: Thirty of 146 patients had a pulmonary embolism. Right ventricular dilatation on echocardiography had a sensitivity of 50% (95% confidence interval [CI] 32% to 68%), a specificity of 98% (95% CI 95% to 100%), a positive predictive value of 88% (95% CI 66% to 100%), and a negative predictive value of 88% (95% CI 83% to 94%). Positive and negative likelihood ratios were determined to be 29 (95% CI 6.1% to 64%) and 0.51 (95% CI 0.4% to 0.7%), respectively. Ten of 11 patients with right ventricular hypokinesis had a pulmonary embolism. All 6 patients with McConnell’s sign and all 8 patients with paradoxical septal motion had a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. There was a 96% observed agreement between coinvestigators and principal investigator interpretation of images obtained and recorded.

CONCLUSION: Right ventricular dilatation and right ventricular dysfunction identified on emergency physician performed echocardiography were found to be highly specific for pulmonary embolism but had poor sensitivity. Bedside echocardiography is a useful tool that can be incorporated into the algorithm of patients with a moderate to high pretest probability of pulmonary embolism.

Age adjusted D-dimer cut-off values

July 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus

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Age adjusted D-dimer cut-off values (age×10 µg/L) improve specificity without losing sensitivity for venous thromboembolism. This could spare many elderly patients unnecessary imaging. Full text is available free from the BMJ.

Diagnostic accuracy of conventional or age adjusted D-dimer cut-off values in older patients with suspected venous thromboembolism: systematic review and meta-analysis>
BMJ. 2013 May 3;346:f2492

OBJECTIVE: To review the diagnostic accuracy of D-dimer testing in older patients (>50 years) with suspected venous thromboembolism, using conventional or age adjusted D-dimer cut-off values.

DESIGN Systematic review and bivariate random effects meta-analysis.

DATA SOURCES: We searched Medline and Embase for studies published before 21 June 2012 and we contacted the authors of primary studies.

STUDY SELECTION: Primary studies that enrolled older patients with suspected venous thromboembolism in whom D-dimer testing, using both conventional (500 µg/L) and age adjusted (age × 10 µg/L) cut-off values, and reference testing were performed. For patients with a non-high clinical probability, 2 × 2 tables were reconstructed and stratified by age category and applied D-dimer cut-off level.

RESULTS: 13 cohorts including 12,497 patients with a non-high clinical probability were included in the meta-analysis. The specificity of the conventional cut-off value decreased with increasing age, from 57.6% (95% confidence interval 51.4% to 63.6%) in patients aged 51-60 years to 39.4% (33.5% to 45.6%) in those aged 61-70, 24.5% (20.0% to 29.7% in those aged 71-80, and 14.7% (11.3% to 18.6%) in those aged >80. Age adjusted cut-off values revealed higher specificities over all age categories: 62.3% (56.2% to 68.0%), 49.5% (43.2% to 55.8%), 44.2% (38.0% to 50.5%), and 35.2% (29.4% to 41.5%), respectively. Sensitivities of the age adjusted cut-off remained above 97% in all age categories.

CONCLUSIONS: The application of age adjusted cut-off values for D-dimer tests substantially increases specificity without modifying sensitivity, thereby improving the clinical utility of D-dimer testing in patients aged 50 or more with a non-high clinical probability.

Predicting volume responsiveness

May 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus, Ultrasound

IVCiconOne of the current Holy Grails of ED critical care is to find a reliable measure of fluid responsiveness in those patients with impaired organ perfusion, such as those with severe sepsis. This would enable us to identify those patients whose cardiac output would be improved by fluid therapy, and avoid subjecting ‘non-responders’ to the risks associated with fluid overload. Thanks to the uptake of early goal-directed therapy in sepsis, under-resuscitation is now much less common in the ED. However a growing evidence base reveals the dangers of over-resuscitation. We have a responsibility to optimise fluid therapy as best we can with the equipment we have, according to the latest evidence.

Inferior Vena Cava Ultrasound
Some tests of fluid responsiveness rely on the effect of respiration-induced changes in pleural pressure on the circulation. Inferior vena cava (IVC) size and degree of inspiratory collapse correlate with central venous pressure (CVP), but CVP is not a reliable predictor of volume status or responsiveness. Skinny, collapsing IVCs detected on ultrasound suggest volume responsiveness, but the lack of this finding does not exclude fluid responsiveness. IVC size and measurement can be affected by patient position, probe position, and a variety of health states from athleticism to increased abdominal pressure.

Pulse Pressure Variation
Respiratory pulse pressure variation derived from an arterial line trace in mechanically ventilated patients who are adequately sedated and receiving large tidal volumes can predict fluid responsiveness too. Variability in tidal volume, the presence of spontaneous breathing activity in a ventilated patient, and cardiac dysrhythmia can all confound the usefulness of this method.

End expiratory occlusion
Another test in mechanically ventilated patients is the end expiratory occlusion test. A positive pressure inspiratory breath cyclically decreases the left cardiac preload. Occluding the circuit at end-expiration prevents this cyclic impediment in left cardiac preload and acts like a fluid challenge. A 15 second expiratory occlusion is performed and an increase in pulse pressure or (if you can measure it) cardiac index predicts fluid responsiveness with a high degree of accuracy. The patient must be able to tolerate the 15 second interruption to ventilation without initiating a spontaneous breath.

Passive Leg Raise
Passive leg raising (PLR) involves measuring cardiac output (or its surrogate, velocity-time integral, or VTI) before and after tilting the semirecumbent patient supine and raising the legs to 45 degrees. This ‘autotransfuses’ blood from the lower limbs to the core and acts as a reversible fluid challenge. An increase in VTI identifies fluid responders. It would be nice if a PLR-induced increase in blood pressure revealed the answer, but BP does not reliably inform us of changes in cardiac output.

All these tests have limitations. Pulse pressure variation fails in patients with low respiratory system compliance, such as is found in ARDS(1). End-expiratory occlusion and PLR work in low respiratory system compliance, but the former still requires mechanical ventilation, and the latter requires a means of estimating cardiac output or a surrogate – oesophageal Doppler, the velocity-time integral measured by transthoracic echocardiography, and femoral artery flow (measured by arterial Doppler) have all been used. Non-invasive cardiac output monitors that are not operator dependent exist, such as the NICOM(TM) bioreactance device. Bioreactance cardiac output measurement is based on an analysis of relative phase shifts of an oscillating current that occurs when this current traverses the thoracic cavity. Its advantages are that it is noninvasive, it does not require endotracheal intubation or an arterial line, and it provides a good estimate of stroke volume in patients with atrial fibrillation.

A recent study evaluating the combination of PLR with NICOM(TM) bioreactance monitoring revealed that another tool could indicate volume responsiveness: an increase in carotid blood flow after PLR, as measured by carotid Doppler flow imaging(2). A threshold increase in carotid Doppler flow imaging of 20% for predicting volume responsiveness had a sensitivity and specificity of 94% and 86%, respectively. This was studied in a heterogenous group of hemodynamically unstable patients, suggesting applicability to the kind of patients who present to the ED, although numbers were small so more validation is required.

End-tidal carbon dioxide
End-tidal carbon dioxide (ETCO2) levels depend on cardiac output. Increasing cardiac output with a fluid challenge or PLR increases ETCO2,as long as ventilatory and metabolic conditions remain stable. In a recent small study, a PLR-induced increase in ETCO2 ≥ 5 % predicted a fluid-induced increase in cardiac index ≥ 15 % with sensitivity of 71 % (95 % confidence interval: 48-89 %) and specificity of 100 (82-100) %(3). The maximal effects of PLR on CI and ETCO2 were observed within 1 min.

So what can I use?
In summary, differentiating fluid responders from non-responders in the ED remains a challenge. The method used depends on available equipment and expertise, and whether the patient is spontaneously breathing or mechanically ventilated. The NICOM(TM) shows great promise but until your department can afford one, ultrasound is the way to go; small collapsing IVCs suggest fluid responders. Learning to measure a VTI on transthoracic echo or carotid Doppler flow will help you assess the response to a PLR in spontaneously ventilating patients. If they’re mechanically ventilated, then looking for an ETCO2 rise after PLR could be a simpler alternative.

Fluid responsiveness assessment – options in the Emergency Department

Inferior Vena Cava Ultrasound
Helpful if skinny / large degree of respirophasic collapse – suggests fluid responsive – ventilated or spontaneous breathing

Passive Leg Raise
Good in ventilated or spontaneous breathing patients; need to measure cardiac output or a surrogate, such as VTI (echo), NICOM(TM), carotid Doppler flow, or ETCO2 (if ventilation and metabolic status constant)

Pulse Pressure Variation
Requires full mechanical ventilation; no good if low respiratory compliance / disturbed heart-lung interaction

End expiratory occlusion
Requires mechanical ventilation and patient tolerance of 15 seconds of apnoea. Acts like a passive leg raise so need a measure of cardiac output or surrogate

I look forward to more studies on these modalities, and to trying some of them in the resus room at every available opportunity.


1. Passive leg-raising and end-expiratory occlusion tests perform better than pulse pressure variation in patients with low respiratory system compliance
Crit Care Med. 2012 Jan;40(1):152-7

OBJECTIVES: We tested whether the poor ability of pulse pressure variation to predict fluid responsiveness in cases of acute respiratory distress syndrome was related to low lung compliance. We also tested whether the changes in cardiac index induced by passive leg-raising and by an end-expiratory occlusion test were better than pulse pressure variation at predicting fluid responsiveness in acute respiratory distress syndrome patients.

DESIGN: Prospective study.

SETTING: Medical intensive care unit.

PATIENTS: We included 54 patients with circulatory shock (63 ± 13 yrs; Simplified Acute Physiology Score II, 63 ± 24). Twenty-seven patients had acute respiratory distress syndrome (compliance of the respiratory system, 22 ± 3 mL/cm H2O). In nonacute respiratory distress syndrome patients, the compliance of the respiratory system was 45 ± 9 mL/cm H2O.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: We measured the response of cardiac index (transpulmonary thermodilution) to fluid administration (500 mL saline). Before fluid administration, we recorded pulse pressure variation and the changes in pulse contour analysis-derived cardiac index induced by passive leg-raising and end-expiratory occlusion. Fluid increased cardiac index ≥ 15% (44% ± 39%) in 30 “responders.” Pulse pressure variation was significantly correlated with compliance of the respiratory system (r = .58), but not with tidal volume. The higher the compliance of the respiratory system, the better the prediction of fluid responsiveness by pulse pressure variation. A compliance of the respiratory system of 30 mL/cm H2O was the best cut-off for discriminating patients regarding the ability of pulse pressure variation to predict fluid responsiveness. If compliance of the respiratory system was >30 mL/cm H2O, then the area under the receiver-operating characteristics curve for predicting fluid responsiveness was not different for pulse pressure variation and the passive leg-raising and end-expiratory occlusion tests (0.98 ± 0.03, 0.91 ± 0.06, and 0.97 ± 0.03, respectively). By contrast, if compliance of the respiratory system was ≤ 30 mL/cm H2O, then the area under the receiver-operating characteristics curve was significantly lower for pulse pressure variation than for the passive leg-raising and end-expiratory occlusion tests (0.69 ± 0.10, 0.94 ± 0.05, and 0.93 ± 0.05, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: The ability of pulse pressure variation to predict fluid responsiveness was inversely related to compliance of the respiratory system. If compliance of the respiratory system was ≤ 30 mL/cm H2O, then pulse pressure variation became less accurate for predicting fluid responsiveness. However, the passive leg-raising and end-expiratory occlusion tests remained valuable in such cases.

2. The use of bioreactance and carotid doppler to determine volume responsiveness and blood flow redistribution following passive leg raising in hemodynamically unstable patients
Chest. 2013 Feb 1;143(2):364-70

BACKGROUND: The clinical assessment of intravascular volume status and volume responsiveness is one of the most difficult tasks in critical care medicine. Furthermore, accumulating evidence suggests that both inadequate and overzealous fluid resuscitation are associated with poor outcomes. The objective of this study was to determine the predictive value of passive leg raising (PLR)- induced changes in stroke volume index (SVI) as assessed by bioreactance in predicting volume responsiveness in a heterogenous group of patients in the ICU. A secondary end point was to evaluate the change in carotid Doppler fl ow following the PLR maneuver.

METHODS: During an 8-month period, we collected clinical, hemodynamic, and carotid Doppler data on hemodynamically unstable patients in the ICU who underwent a PLR maneuver as part of our resuscitation protocol. A patient whose SVI increased by . 10% following a fluid challenge was considered a fluid responder.

RESULTS: A complete data set was available for 34 patients. Twenty-two patients (65%) had severe sepsis/septic shock, whereas 21 (62%) required vasopressor support and 19 (56%) required mechanical ventilation. Eighteen patients (53%) were volume responders. The PLR maneuver had a sensitivity of 94% and a specificity of 100% for predicting volume responsiveness (one false negative result). In the 19 patients undergoing mechanical ventilation, the stroke volume variation was 18.0% 5.1% in the responders and 14.8% 3.4% in the nonresponders ( P 5 .15). Carotid blood fl ow increased by 79% 32% after the PLR in the responders compared with 0.1% 14% in the nonresponders ( P , .0001). There was a strong correlation between the percent change in SVI by PLR and the concomitant percent change in carotid blood fl ow ( r 5 0.59, P 5 .0003). Using a threshold increase in carotid Doppler fl ow imaging of 20% for predicting volume responsiveness, there were two false positive results and one false negative result, giving a sensitivity and specificity of 94% and 86%, respectively. We noted a significant increase in the diameter of the common carotid artery in the fluid responders.

CONCLUSIONS: Monitoring the hemodynamic response to a PLR maneuver using bioreactance provides an accurate method of assessing volume responsiveness in critically ill patients. In addition, the study suggests that changes in carotid blood fl ow following a PLR maneuver may be a useful adjunctive method for determining fluid responsiveness in hemodynamically unstable patients.

3. End-tidal carbon dioxide is better than arterial pressure for predicting volume responsiveness by the passive leg raising test
Intensive Care Med. 2013 Jan;39(1):93-100

PURPOSE: In stable ventilatory and metabolic conditions, changes in end-tidal carbon dioxide (EtCO(2)) might reflect changes in cardiac index (CI). We tested whether EtCO(2) detects changes in CI induced by volume expansion and whether changes in EtCO(2) during passive leg raising (PLR) predict fluid responsiveness. We compared EtCO(2) and arterial pulse pressure for this purpose.

METHODS: We included 65 patients [Simplified Acute Physiology Score (SAPS) II = 57 ± 19, 37 males, under mechanical ventilation without spontaneous breathing, 15 % with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, baseline CI = 2.9 ± 1.1 L/min/m(2)] in whom a fluid challenge was decided due to circulatory failure and who were monitored by an expiratory-CO(2) sensor and a PiCCO2 device. In all patients, we measured arterial pressure, EtCO(2), and CI before and after a fluid challenge. In 40 patients, PLR was performed before fluid administration. The PLR-induced changes in arterial pressure, EtCO(2), and CI were recorded.

RESULTS: Considering the whole population, the fluid-induced changes in EtCO(2) and CI were correlated (r (2) = 0.45, p = 0.0001). Considering the 40 patients in whom PLR was performed, volume expansion increased CI ≥ 15 % in 21 “volume responders.” A PLR-induced increase in EtCO(2) ≥ 5 % predicted a fluid-induced increase in CI ≥ 15 % with sensitivity of 71 % (95 % confidence interval: 48-89 %) and specificity of 100 (82-100) %. The prediction ability of the PLR-induced changes in CI was not different. The area under the receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curve for the PLR-induced changes in pulse pressure was not significantly different from 0.5.

CONCLUSION: The changes in EtCO(2) induced by a PLR test predicted fluid responsiveness with reliability, while the changes in arterial pulse pressure did not.

Swallow a camera in GI bleed

April 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, Resus

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Two recent studies evaluate the use of a novel ingestable camera to diagnose upper gastrointestinal bleeding in emergency department patients.

The potential advantages of video capsule endoscopy over traditional endoscopy could include immediate availability, avoidance of sedation, patient tolerance, and the ability to rule out active bleeding in the emergency department.

The device used was the PillCam ESO2 – shown here in this animation:

Further research is needed. These small interesting studies demonstrate the potential for this imaging technology to be used in stable patients presenting to emergency departments. Since it can only diagnose rather than treat, it would not appear to have any role in unstable patients.

Video capsule endoscopy in the emergency department: a prospective study of acute upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage.
Ann Emerg Med. 2013 Apr;61(4):438-443

STUDY OBJECTIVE: Video capsule endoscopy has been used to diagnose gastrointestinal hemorrhage and other small bowel diseases but has not been tested in an emergency department (ED) setting. The objectives in this pilot study are to demonstrate the ability of emergency physicians to detect blood in the upper gastrointestinal tract with capsule endoscopy after a short training period, measure ED patient acceptance of capsule endoscopy, and estimate the test characteristics of capsule endoscopy to detect acute upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

METHODS: During a 6-month period at a single academic hospital, eligible patients underwent video capsule endoscopy (Pillcam Eso2; Given Imaging) in the ED. Video images were reviewed by 4 blinded physicians (2 emergency physicians with brief training in capsule endoscopy interpretation and 2 gastroenterologists with capsule endoscopy experience).

RESULTS: A total of 25 subjects with acute upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage were enrolled. There was excellent agreement between gastroenterologists and emergency physicians for the presence of fresh or coffee-ground blood (0.96 overall agreement; κ=0.90). Capsule endoscopy was well tolerated by 96% of patients and showed an 88% sensitivity (95% confidence interval 65% to 100%) and 64% specificity (95% confidence interval 35% to 92%) for the detection of fresh blood. Capsule endoscopy missed 1 bleeding lesion located in the postpyloric region, which was not imaged because of expired battery life.

CONCLUSION: Video capsule endoscopy is a sensitive way to identify upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage in the ED. It is well tolerated and there is excellent agreement in interpretation between gastroenterologists and emergency physicians.

Capsule endoscopy in acute upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage: a prospective cohort study
Endoscopy. 2013 Jan;45(1):12-9

BACKGROUND AND STUDY AIMS: Capsule endoscopy may play a role in the evaluation of patients presenting with acute upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage in the emergency department.

METHODS: We evaluated adults with acute upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage presenting to the emergency departments of two academic centers. Patients ingested a wireless video capsule, which was followed immediately by a nasogastric tube aspiration and later by esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). We compared capsule endoscopy with nasogastric tube aspiration for determination of the presence of blood, and with EGD for discrimination of the source of bleeding, identification of peptic/inflammatory lesions, safety, and patient satisfaction.

RESULTS:The study enrolled 49 patients (32 men, 17 women; mean age 58.3 ± 19 years), but three patients did not complete the capsule endoscopy and five were intolerant of the nasogastric tube. Blood was detected in the upper gastrointestinal tract significantly more often by capsule endoscopy (15 /18 [83.3 %]) than by nasogastric tube aspiration (6 /18 [33.3 %]; P = 0.035). There was no significant difference in the identification of peptic/inflammatory lesions between capsule endoscopy (27 /40 [67.5 %]) and EGD (35 /40 [87.5 %]; P = 0.10, OR 0.39 95 %CI 0.11 - 1.15). Capsule endoscopy reached the duodenum in 45 /46 patients (98 %). One patient (2.2 %) had self-limited shortness of breath and one (2.2 %) had coughing on capsule ingestion.

CONCLUSION:In an emergency department setting, capsule endoscopy appears feasible and safe in people presenting with acute upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Capsule endoscopy identifies gross blood in the upper gastrointestinal tract, including the duodenum, significantly more often than nasogastric tube aspiration and identifies inflammatory lesions, as well as EGD. Capsule endoscopy may facilitate patient triage and earlier endoscopy, but should not be considered a substitute for EGD.

Point of care analysis of intraosseous samples

January 2, 2013 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, Resus

Some good news for remote, rural, prehospital, and retrieval medicine clinicians who rely on point of care testing with the i-STAT® device. An animal study confirmed the reliability of testing aspirates from intraosseous samples taken from the tibia(1).

This is also good news for hospital practitioners when it comes to the acquisition of blood gas results, since there are concerns over the potential damage to blood gas analysers by bone marrow contents in the samples.

The researchers tested blood gases, acid–base status, lactate, haemoglobin, and electrolytes, and compared these with results from an arterial sample.

There was no malfunction of the equipment. Most of the acid–base parameters showed discrepancies between arterial and osseous samples: the average pH and base excess were consistently lower whilst pCO2 and lactate were higher in the intraosseous samples compared to the arterial. However the overall small degree and predictable direction of discrepancy in these values should preserve the clinical usefulness of intraosseous gases if these findings can be replicated in human subjects. pO2 was obviously very different between osseous and arterial samples.

They noted that aspiration of intraosseous samples was generally straightforward, especially immediately after placement of the cannulae, but on a few occasions more forceful aspiration was needed. They point out that this could possibly cause cellular lysis and affect the potassium analysis.

The authors consider the issue of how much aspirate should be discarded before taking a sample after intraosseous cannula insertion, and refer to a prior study which suggested that 2mL is adequate.

  • Intraosseous aspirate can be tested on an i-STAT® point-of-care analyser
  • Haemoglobin and electrolytes show good correlation with arterial samples
  • Acid-base, pCO2, and lactate differ slightly from arterial results but in a predictable direction and results are still likely to be clinically useful in an emergency
  • It may be worth discarding the first 2 ml of aspirate
  • These results require validation in human subjects

Analysis of intraosseous samples using point of care technology–an experimental study in the anaesthetised pig
Resuscitation. 2012 Nov;83(11):1381-5

BACKGROUND: Intraosseous access is an essential method in emergency medicine when other forms of vascular access are unavailable and there is an urgent need for fluid or drug therapy. A number of publications have discussed the suitability of using intraosseous access for laboratory testing. We aimed to further evaluate this issue and to study the accuracy and precision of intraosseous measurements.

METHODS: Five healthy, anaesthetised pigs were instrumented with bilateral tibial intraosseous cannulae and an arterial catheter. Samples were collected hourly for 6h and analysed for blood gases, acid base status, haemoglobin and electrolytes using an I-Stat point of care analyser.

RESULTS: There was no clinically relevant difference between results from left and right intraosseous sites. The variability of the intraosseous sample values, measured as the coefficient of variance (CV), was maximally 11%, and smaller than for the arterial sample values for all variables except SO2. For most variables, there seems to be some degree of systematic difference between intraosseous and arterial results. However, the direction of this difference seems to be predictable.

CONCLUSION: Based on our findings in this animal model, cartridge based point of care instruments appear suitable for the analysis of intraosseous samples. The agreement between intraosseous and arterial analysis seems to be good enough for the method to be clinically useful. The precision, quantified in terms of CV, is at least as good for intraosseous as for arterial analysis. There is no clinically important difference between samples from left and right tibia, indicating a good reproducibility.

Infectious biomarkers in the critically ill

October 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU

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A study examining patterns of procalcitonin in a group of critically ill patients(1) showed some interesting findings:

Shock was associated with higher procalcitonin values independent of the presence of infection

Procalcitonin (PCT) levels were less in patients who developed infections later during their ICU stay compared with those who had infections when admitted to ICU.

The accompanying editorial(2) reminds us about commonly used inflammatory biomarkers.

White blood cells are influenced by almost every inflammatory stimulus, rendering them unhelpful in the management of severely ill patients.

Daily monitoring of CRP levels can identify ICU-acquired infections early, and some prognostic information can be provided by how rapidly CRP levels respond to treatment.

PCT rises early in severe sepsis, mainly by pneumonia and bloodstream infections, and can reflect the severity of the systemic inflammatory response syndrome to infection. PCT is more specific than CRP for infection compared with non-infectious causes of systemic inflammatory response syndrome. However PCT can also be increased in noninfectious diseases such as acute pancreatitis and cardiogenic shock.

1. Longitudinal changes in procalcitonin in a heterogenous group of critically ill patients
Crit Care Med. 2012 Oct;40(10):2781-2787

OBJECTIVE: The utility of procalcitonin for the diagnosis of infection in the critical care setting has been extensively investigated with conflicting results. Herein, we report procalcitonin values relative to baseline patient characteristics, presence of shock, intensive care unit time course, infectious status, and Gram stain of infecting organism.

DESIGN: Prospective, multicenter, observational study of critically ill patients admitted to intensive care unit for >24 hrs. SETTING:: Three tertiary care intensive care units.

PATIENTS: All consenting patients admitted to three mixed medical-surgical intensive care units. Patients who had elective surgery, overdoses, and who were expected to stay <24 hrs were excluded.

INTERVENTIONS: Patients were followed prospectively to ascertain the presence of prevalent (present at admission) or incident (developed during admission) infections and clinical outcomes. Procalcitonin levels were measured daily for 10 days and were analyzed as a function of the underlying patient characteristics, presence of shock, time of infection, and pathogen isolated.

MAIN RESULTS: Five hundred ninety-eight patients were enrolled. Medical and surgical infected cohorts had similar baseline procalcitonin values (3.0 [0.7-15.3] vs. 3.7 [0.6-9.8], p = .68) and peak procalcitonin (4.5 [1.0-22.9] vs. 5.0 [0.9-16.0], p = .91). Infected patients were sicker than their noninfected counterparts (Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II 22.9 vs. 19.3, p < .001); those with infection at admission had a trend toward higher peak procalcitonin values than did those whose infection developed in the intensive care unit (4.9 vs. 1.4, p = .06). The presence of shock was significantly associated with elevations in procalcitonin in cohorts who were and were not infected (both groups p < .003 on days 1-5).

CONCLUSIONS: Procalcitonin dynamics were similar between surgical and medical cohorts. Shock had an association with higher procalcitonin values independent of the presence of infection. Trends in differences in procalcitonin values were seen in patients who had incident vs. prevalent infections.

2. The many facets of procalcitonin in the critically ill population
Crit Care Med. 2012 Oct;40(10):2903-5

COPD and heart disease interactions

August 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, ICU, Resus

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Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often affect the same patient; in fact, more than one-third of patients with angiography-proven IHD also have COPD on spirometry(1).
A recent study suggests COPD exacerbations in patients with IHD were associated with longer (5 more days) recovery times and suffered more severe breathlessness between exacerbations(2).

An accompanying editorial highlights some important points:

  • Patients admitted with COPD exacerbations are more susceptible to myocardial infarction during the admission.
  • Infective COPD exacerbations may contribute to heart failure through systemic inflammation, autonomic activation, and increased fluid in the lung. Lung infection can increase ventilation/perfusion mismatch and increased work of breathing, further straining the heart.
  • Heart failure can be very difficult to diagnose during a COPD exacerbation because cough, dyspnoea and wheeze are common to both disorders. Physical examination may not be discriminatory, and chest radiography is insensitive to milder degrees of heart failure.

The authors recommed a high index of suspicion combined with consideration of biomarkers (BNP or pro-BNP) and imaging such as echocardiography or even nuclear medicine scans, cardiac MRI, and cardiac catheterisation.

So, next time you’re managing a COPD exacerbation, ask yourself:

  • Could there be concomitant heart failure contributing to symptoms?
  • If not, is the patient at risk of cardiac events during this admission, for which we need to be vigilant?
  • Do I need to consider additional laboratory (BNP) or imaging (echo) investigations? Remember BNP may be elevated in pneumonia and other non-cardiac critical illness, although a normal BNP rules out heart failure.
  • Should I add empiric anti-failure therapy to the acute treatment regimen?
  • If there is combined COPD exacerbation and heart failure, are there any conflicting priorities in therapy (eg. the pros and cons of beta-agonists, anticholinergics, and steroids)?

1. The complex relationship between ischemic heart disease and COPD exacerbations
Chest. 2012 Apr;141(4):837-8

2. The impact of ischemic heart disease on symptoms, health status, and exacerbations in patients with COPD
Chest. 2012 Apr;141(4):851-7

BACKGROUND: Comorbid ischemic heart disease (IHD) is a common and important cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with COPD. The impact of IHD on COPD in terms of a patient’s health status, exercise capacity, and symptoms is not well understood.

METHODS: We analyzed stable-state data of 386 patients from the London COPD cohort between 1995 and 2009 and prospectively collected exacerbation data in those who had completed symptom diaries for ≥ 1 year.

RESULTS: Sixty-four patients (16.6%) with IHD had significantly worse health status as measured by the St. George Respiratory Questionnaire (56.9 ± 18.5 vs 49.1 ± 19.0, P = .003), and a larger proportion of this group reported more severe breathlessness in the stable state, with a Medical Research Council dyspnea score of ≥ 4 (50.9% vs 35.1%, P = .029). In subsets of the sample, stable patients with COPD with IHD had a higher median (interquartile range [IQR]) serum N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide concentration than those without IHD (38 [15, 107] pg/mL vs 12 [6, 21] pg/mL, P = .004) and a lower exercise capacity (6-min walk distance, 225 ± 89 m vs 317 ± 85 m; P = .002). COPD exacerbations were not more frequent in patients with IHD (median, 1.95 [IQR, 1.20, 3.12] vs 1.86 (IQR, 0.75, 3.96) per year; P = .294), but the median symptom recovery time was 5 days longer (17.0 [IQR, 9.8, 24.2] vs 12.0 [IQR, 8.0, 18.0]; P = .009), resulting in significantly more days per year reporting exacerbation symptoms (median, 35.4 [IQR, 13.4, 60.7] vs 22.2 [IQR, 5.7, 42.6]; P = .028). These findings were replicated in multivariate analyses allowing for age, sex, FEV(1), and exacerbation frequency where applicable.

CONCLUSIONS: Comorbid IHD is associated with worse health status, lower exercise capacity, and more dyspnea in stable patients with COPD as well as with longer exacerbations but not with an increased exacerbation frequency.

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