Isolated LAFB and outcome

July 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Resus

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A small study followed up an older cohort of patients with isolated left anterior fascicular block on their ECG (isolated left axis deviation), without clinically manifest cardiovascular disease.


Learn about LAFB at Life In The Fast Lane

LAFB was associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, heart failure and death. LAFB is caused by conduction tissue fibrosis, and is a marker of other left heart fibrosis. The patients did not go on to develop left bundle branch block, and only 2 of 39 required pacing in 10 years, suggesting these outcomes were not due to progression of conduction disease.

Long-term Outcomes of Left Anterior Fascicular Block in the Absence of Overt Cardiovascular Disease
JAMA. 2013 Apr 17;309(15):1587-8

Potential new therapy for acute heart failure

July 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus

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Interesting new drug to know about: Serelaxin, recombinant human relaxin-2. It’s hard to assess the clinical significance of the statistically significant findings. Let’s see if a benefit is replicated in future studies. It’s hard to imagine a normotensive patient that can’t be fixed with existing therapies though.

Serelaxin, recombinant human relaxin-2, for treatment of acute heart failure (RELAX-AHF): a randomised, placebo-controlled trial.

Lancet. 2013 Jan 5;381(9860):29-39

BACKGROUND: Serelaxin, recombinant human relaxin-2, is a vasoactive peptide hormone with many biological and haemodynamic effects. In a pilot study, serelaxin was safe and well tolerated with positive clinical outcome signals in patients with acute heart failure. The RELAX-AHF trial tested the hypothesis that serelaxin-treated patients would have greater dyspnoea relief compared with patients treated with standard care and placebo.

METHODS: RELAX-AHF was an international, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, enrolling patients admitted to hospital for acute heart failure who were randomly assigned (1:1) via a central randomisation scheme blocked by study centre to standard care plus 48-h intravenous infusions of placebo or serelaxin (30 μg/kg per day) within 16 h from presentation. All patients had dyspnoea, congestion on chest radiograph, increased brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal prohormone of BNP, mild-to-moderate renal insufficiency, and systolic blood pressure greater than 125 mm Hg. Patients, personnel administering study drug, and those undertaking study-related assessments were masked to treatment assignment. The primary endpoints evaluating dyspnoea improvement were change from baseline in the visual analogue scale area under the curve (VAS AUC) to day 5 and the proportion of patients with moderate or marked dyspnoea improvement measured by Likert scale during the first 24 h, both analysed by intention to treat. This trial is registered at, NCT00520806.

FINDINGS: 1161 patients were randomly assigned to serelaxin (n=581) or placebo (n=580). Serelaxin improved the VAS AUC primary dyspnoea endpoint (448 mm × h, 95% CI 120-775; p=0·007) compared with placebo, but had no significant effect on the other primary endpoint (Likert scale; placebo, 150 patients [26%]; serelaxin, 156 [27%]; p=0·70). No significant effects were recorded for the secondary endpoints of cardiovascular death or readmission to hospital for heart failure or renal failure (placebo, 75 events [60-day Kaplan-Meier estimate, 13·0%]; serelaxin, 76 events [13·2%]; hazard ratio [HR] 1·02 [0·74-1·41], p=0·89] or days alive out of the hospital up to day 60 (placebo, 47·7 [SD 12·1] days; serelaxin, 48·3 [11·6]; p=0·37). Serelaxin treatment was associated with significant reductions of other prespecified additional endpoints, including fewer deaths at day 180 (placebo, 65 deaths; serelaxin, 42; HR 0·63, 95% CI 0·42-0·93; p=0·019).

INTERPRETATION: Treatment of acute heart failure with serelaxin was associated with dyspnoea relief and improvement in other clinical outcomes, but had no effect on readmission to hospital. Serelaxin treatment was well tolerated and safe, supported by the reduced 180-day mortality

Decatecholaminization in septic shock

December 29, 2012 by  
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A subset of patients from the 2008 Vasopressin and Septic Shock Trial (VASST) trial had invasive haemodynamic monitoring measurements from pulmonary artery catheters. These data have now been analysed, revealing that vasopressin was associated with a lower heart rate compared with norepinephrine (noradrenaline) alone, without significant difference in cardiac index or stroke volume index. However, there was significantly greater use of inotropic drugs in the vasopressin group compared with the norepinephrine group.

Tachycardia and high quantities of catecholamine infusion are both associated with mortality in sepsis. The authors discuss:

“The idea of decatecholaminization, reducing both endogenous and exogenous adrenergic stimulation, is now believed to be an important treatment strategy, and the use of beta-blockers in septic shock is being considered. The early use of vasopressin or specific V1a receptor agonists in early septic shock may be another possible treatment.”

This interesting post-hoc analysis may help further define the patients in whom vasopressin is to be considered, by those clinicians who are using it in septic shock. For those that aren’t, I wouldn’t worry about it.

The cardiopulmonary effects of vasopressin compared with norepinephrine in septic shock
Chest. 2012 Sep;142(3):593-605

BACKGROUND: Vasopressin is known to be an effective vasopressor in the treatment of septic shock, but uncertainty remains about its effect on other hemodynamic parameters.

METHODS: We examined the cardiopulmonary effects of vasopressin compared with norepinephrine in 779 adult patients with septic shock recruited to the Vasopressin and Septic Shock Trial. More detailed cardiac output data were analyzed for a subset of 241 patients managed with a pulmonary artery catheter, and data were collected for the first 96 h after randomization. We compared the effects of vasopressin vs norepinephrine in all patients and according to severity of shock (< 15 or ≥ 15 μg/min of norepinephrine) and cardiac output at baseline.

RESULTS: Equal BPs were maintained in both treatment groups, with a significant reduction in norepinephrine requirements in the patients treated with vasopressin. The major hemodynamic difference between the two groups was a significant reduction in heart rate in the patients treated with vasopressin (P < .0001), and this was most pronounced in the less severe shock stratum (treatment × shock stratum interaction, P =.03). There were no other major cardiopulmonary differences between treatment groups, including no difference in cardiac index or stroke volume index between patients treated with vasopressin and those treated with norepinephrine. There was significantly greater use of inotropic drugs in the vasopressin group than in the norepinephrine group.

CONCLUSIONS: Vasopressin treatment in septic shock is associated with a significant reduction in heart rate but no change in cardiac output or other measures of perfusion.

New STEMI guidelines

December 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Guidelines, ICU, Resus

Primary percutaneous coronary intervention or fibrinolysis for STEMI? What if you don’t have PCI at your hospital?

The new 2013 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the Management of ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction is out and you can get the summary here.

Here’s what they say about initial reperfusion therapy:

Onset of Myocardial Infarction: Recommendations
Regional Systems of STEMI Care, Reperfusion Therapy, and Time-to-Treatment Goals

Class I

1. All communities should create and maintain a regional system of STEMI care that includes assessment and continuous quality improvement of emergency medical services and hospital-based activities. Performance can be facilitated by participating in programs such as Mission: Lifeline and the Door-to-Balloon Alliance.(Level of Evidence: B)

2. Performance of a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) by emergency medical services personnel at the site of first medical contact (FMC) is recommended in patients with symptoms consistent with STEMI.(Level of Evidence: B)

3. Reperfusion therapy should be administered to all eligible patients with STEMI with symptom onset within the prior 12 hours. (Level of Evidence: A)

4. Primary PCI is the recommended method of reper- fusion when it can be performed in a timely fashion by experienced operators. (Level of Evidence: A)

5. Emergency medical services transport directly to a PCI-capable hospital for primary PCI is the recommended triage strategy for patients with STEMI, with an ideal FMC-to-device time system goal of 90 minutes or less.(Level of Evidence: B)

6. Immediate transfer to a PCI-capable hospital for primary PCI is the recommended triage strategy for patients with STEMI who initially arrive at or are transported to a non–PCI-capable hospital, with an FMC-to-device time system goal of 120 minutes or less.(Level of Evidence: B)

7. In the absence of contraindications, fibrinolytic therapy should be administered to patients with STEMI at non–PCI-capable hospitals when the anticipated FMC-to-device time at a PCI-capable hospital exceeds 120 minutes because of unavoidable delays.(Level of Evidence: B)

8. When fibrinolytic therapy is indicated or chosen as the primary reperfusion strategy, it should be administered within 30 minutes of hospital arrival.(Level of Evidence: B)

Class IIa

1. Reperfusion therapy is reasonable for patients with STEMI and symptom onset within the prior 12 to 24 hours who have clinical and/or ECG evidence of ongoing ischemia. Primary PCI is the preferred strategy in this population. (Level of Evidence: B)

2013 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the Management of ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines.
Circulation. 2012 Dec 17. [Epub ahead of print]

Echocardiography in Pulmonary Embolism

October 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus, Ultrasound

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I had great fun joining in a Google Hangout with the Ultrasound Podcast guys and some real masters of emergency/critical care ultrasound. You can watch it here:

Is diastolic worse than systolic dysfunction in sepsis?

June 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus, Ultrasound

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Septic myocardial dysfunction is a well recognised contributor to shock in sepsis but for many of us we assume this to be gross systolic impairment. Interestingly a recent study highlights that patients with severe sepsis and septic shock frequently have diastolic dysfunction1. They found that diastolic dysfunction was the strongest independent predictor of early mortality, even after adjusting for the APACHE-II score and other predictors of mortality.

In this study, 9.1% of severe sepsis/septic shock patients had isolated systolic dysfunction, 14.1% had combined systolic and diastolic dysfunction, and 38% had isolated diastolic dysfunction.

Importantly, the authors point out that although diastolic dysfunction is associated with age, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and ischaemic heart disease, diastolic dysfunction is a stronger independent predictor of mortality than age and the other co-morbidities. However, a limitation of the study acknowledged by the authors is that it did not include follow-up echocardiography examinations, so we do not know whether sepsis was responsible for a transient diastolic dysfunction or whether the observed diastolic dysfunction was a pre-existing condition.

Both troponin and NT-ProBNP elevations also predicted mortality.

Want to know how to measure diastolic dysfunction? These authors measured mitral annular early-diastolic peak velocity, or the e’-wave (called ‘e prime’). It is a way of seeing how fast myocardial tissue relaxes in diastole, and if its peak velocity is slow (in this case < 8cm/s) there is diastolic dysfunction. We measure speed using Doppler, and in this case we’re looking at the speed of heart tissue (as opposed to the blood cells within the heart chambers) so we do ‘Tissue Doppler Imaging’, or TDI. You need an echo machine with pulsed-wave Doppler, and you need to be able to get an apical view. This is explained really nicely here2 but if you don’t have the time or the echopassion to read a whole article on TDI watch this one minute video (BY emergency physicians FOR emergency physicians!) on diastology, where TDI measurement of e’ is shown from 45 seconds into the video.

For reference, there is some more detail on diastolic function measurements at the Echobasics site.

If you think you can cope with any more of this level of awesomeness and want these geniuses to talk to you from your smartphone in the ED then get the free One Minute Ultrasound app for Android or Apple devices.

AIMS: Systolic dysfunction in septic shock is well recognized and, paradoxically, predicts better outcome. In contrast, diastolic dysfunction is often ignored and its role in determining early mortality from sepsis has not been adequately investigated.

METHODS AND RESULTS: A cohort of 262 intensive care unit patients with severe sepsis or septic shock underwent two echocardiography examinations early in the course of their disease. All clinical, laboratory, and survival data were prospectively collected. Ninety-five (36%) patients died in the hospital. Reduced mitral annular e’-wave was the strongest predictor of mortality, even after adjusting for the APACHE-II score, low urine output, low left ventricular stroke volume index, and lowest oxygen saturation, the other independent predictors of mortality (Cox’s proportional hazards: Wald = 21.5, 16.3, 9.91, 7.0 and 6.6, P< 0.0001, <0.0001, 0.002, 0.008, and 0.010, respectively). Patients with systolic dysfunction only (left ventricular ejection fraction ≤50%), diastolic dysfunction only (e’-wave <8 cm/s), or combined systolic and diastolic dysfunction (9.1, 40.4, and 14.1% of the patients, respectively) had higher mortality than those with no diastolic or systolic dysfunction (hazard ratio = 2.9, 6.0, 6.2, P= 0.035, <0.0001, <0.0001, respectively) and had significantly higher serum levels of high-sensitivity troponin-T and N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP). High-sensitivity troponin-T was only minimally elevated, whereas serum levels of NT-proBNP were markedly elevated [median (inter-quartile range): 0.07 (0.02-0.17) ng/mL and 5762 (1001-15 962) pg/mL, respectively], though both predicted mortality even after adjusting for highest creatinine levels (Wald = 5.8, 21.4 and 2.3, P= 0.015, <0.001 and 0.13).

CONCLUSION: Diastolic dysfunction is common and is a major predictor of mortality in severe sepsis and septic shock.

1. Diastolic dysfunction and mortality in severe sepsis and septic shock
Eur Heart J. 2012 Apr;33(7):895-903

2. A clinician’s guide to tissue Doppler imaging
Circulation. 2006 Mar 14;113(10):e396-8 Free Full Text

T waves in V1-V3 were not associated with badness

June 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Resus

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This long term follow up study showed that T-wave inversions in right precordial leads are not associated with adverse outcome.

No worries, mate


Background-: T-wave inversion in right precordial leads V1 to V3 is a relatively common finding in a 12-lead ECG of children and adolescents and is infrequently found also in healthy adults. However, this ECG pattern can also be the first presentation of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. The prevalence and prognostic significance of T-wave inversions in the middle-aged general population are not well known.

Methods and Results-: We evaluated 12-lead ECGs of 10 899 Finnish middle-aged subjects (52% men, mean age 44+/-8.5 years) recorded between 1966 and 1972 for the presence of inverted T waves and followed the subjects for 30+/-11 years. Primary end points were all-cause mortality, cardiac mortality, and arrhythmic death. T-wave inversions in right precordial leads V1 to V3 were present in 54 (0.5%) of the subjects. In addition, 76 (0.7%) of the subjects had inverted T waves present only in leads other than V1 to V3. Right precordial T-wave inversions did not predict increased mortality (not significant for all end points). However, inverted T waves in leads other than V1 to V3 were associated with an increased risk of cardiac and arrhythmic death (P<0.001 for both).

Conclusions-: T-wave inversions in right precordial leads are relatively rare in the general population, and are not associated with adverse outcome. Increased mortality risk associated with inverted T waves in other leads may reflect the presence of an underlying structural heart disease.

Prevalence and prognostic significance of T-wave inversions in right precordial leads of a 12-lead electrocardiogram in the middle-aged subjects
Circulation. 2012 May 29;125(21):2572-7

Enoxaparin beats heparin for PCI

February 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS

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This is of interest to those of us in retrieval medicine, for logistic reasons: an infusion of heparin can be an unnecessary hassle during transport, especially if a subcutaneous injection prior to retrieval is a satisfactory alternative. This systematic review and meta-analysis shows enoxaparin appears to be superior to unfractionated heparin in reducing mortality and bleeding outcomes during percutaneous coronary intervention. This applies particularly to patients undergoing primary percutaneous coronary intervention for ST elevation myocardial infarction

OBJECTIVE: To determine the efficacy and safety of enoxaparin compared with unfractionated heparin during percutaneous coronary intervention.

DESIGN: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

DATA SOURCES: Medline and Cochrane database of systematic reviews, January 1996 to May 2011.

STUDY SELECTION: Randomised and non-randomised studies comparing enoxaparin with unfractionated heparin during percutaneous coronary intervention and reporting on both mortality (efficacy end point) and major bleeding (safety end point) outcomes.

DATA EXTRACTION: Sample size, characteristics, and outcomes, extracted independently and analysed.

DATA SYNTHESIS: 23 trials representing 30 966 patients were identified, including 10 243 patients (33.1%) undergoing primary percutaneous coronary intervention for ST elevation myocardial infarction, 8750 (28.2%) undergoing secondary percutaneous coronary intervention after fibrinolysis, and 11 973 (38.7%) with non-ST elevation acute coronary syndrome or stable patients scheduled for percutaneous coronary intervention. A total of 13 943 patients (45.0%) received enoxaparin and 17 023 (55.0%) unfractionated heparin. Enoxaparin was associated with significant reductions in death (relative risk 0.66, 95% confidence interval 0.57 to 0.76; P<0.001), the composite of death or myocardial infarction (0.68, 0.57 to 0.81; P<0.001), and complications of myocardial infarction (0.75, 0.6 to 0.85; P<0.001), and a reduction in incidence of major bleeding (0.80, 0.68 to 0.95; P=0.009). In patients who underwent primary percutaneous coronary intervention, the reduction in death (0.52, 0.42 to 0.64; P<0.001) was particularly significant and associated with a reduction in major bleeding (0.72, 0.56 to 0.93; P=0.01).

CONCLUSION: Enoxaparin seems to be superior to unfractionated heparin in reducing mortality and bleeding outcomes during percutaneous coronary intervention and particularly in patients undergoing primary percutaneous coronary intervention for ST elevation myocardial infarction.

Efficacy and safety of enoxaparin versus unfractionated heparin during percutaneous coronary intervention: systematic review and meta-analysis

BMJ. 2012 Feb 3;344:e553

Posterior pericardiocentesis

February 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus, Ultrasound

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Dr Emanuele Catena and colleagues report a case of an adult male who presented 7 days post cardiac surgery with simultaneous pleural and pericardial effucions causing dyspnoea, tachycardia and hypotension.

Old skool pericardiocentesis

His pericardial effusion was posterior which usually requires surgical drainage, but the adjacent left pleural effusion was associated with pulmonary atelectasis and displacement of the lung, allowing them to insert a needle using sonographic guidance first into the pleural space then the pericardial space.

They inserted through the fourth intercostal space 4 cm medially to the left posterior axillary line (with the patient positioned in the semireclining position). They used agitated saline bubbles to confirm first the pleural then the pericardial location of the needle tip. A 30-cm-long catheter was introduced into the posterior pericardium using the Seldinger technique, and serous-haemorrhagic fluid was drained. The catheter was then retracted allowing drainage of the pleural effusion.

The procedure resulted in haemodynamic and respiratory improvement.

The authors summarise:

This case reports the technique of a “back pericardiocentesis” performed under echographic guidance as a valid alternative to surgery in the peculiar situation characterized by the simultaneous presence of a large left pleural effusion. In the presence of a large left pleural effusion, pulmonary atelectasis and displacement of air-filled pulmonary tissue allows ultrasound transmission from a patient’s back to the heart through a liquid interface and needle insertion “from back” to reach the pericardial space.


Pericardiocentesis From Back Under Echographic Guidance An Approach for Posterior Pericardial Effusions
Circulation. 2011 Dec 13;124(24):e835-6

Prehospital echo predicts arrest outcome

February 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Resus, Ultrasound

In hospital, the detection of cardiac standstill with ultrasound predicts a fatal outcome from cardiac arrest with a high degree of accuracy. A similar finding has been made in the prehospital setting. Interestingly, it was a better predictor than other commonly recognised factors associated with outcome: the presence of asystole, down time, bystander CPR, or end-tidal CO2 levels.

Introduction. The prognostic value of emergency echocardiography (EE) in the management of cardiac arrest patients has previously been studied in an in-hospital setting. These studies mainly included patients who underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by emergency medicine technicians at the scene and who arrived at the emergency department (ED) still in a state of cardiac arrest. In most European countries, cardiac arrest patients are normally treated by physician-staffed emergency medical services (EMS) teams on scene. Transportation to the ED while undergoing CPR is uncommon. Objective. To evaluate the ability of EE to predict outcome in cardiac arrest patients when it is performed by ultrasound-inexperienced emergency physicians on scene.

Methods. We performed a prospective, observational study of nonconsecutive, nontrauma, adult cardiac arrest patients who were treated by physician-staffed urban EMS teams on scene. Participating emergency physicians (EPs) received a two-hour course in EE during CPR. After initial procedures were accomplished, EE was performed during a rhythm and pulse check. A single subxiphoid, four-chamber view was required for study enrollment. We defined sonographic evidence of cardiac kinetic activity as any detected motion of the myocardium, ranging from visible ventricular fibrillation to coordinated ventricular contractions. The CPR had to be continued for at least 15 minutes after the initial echocardiography. No clinical decisions were made based on the results of EE.

Results. Forty-two patients were enrolled in the study. The heart could be visualized successfully in all patients. Five (11.9%) patients survived to hospital admission. Of the 32 patients who had cardiac standstill on initial EE, only one (3.1%) survived to hospital admission, whereas four out of 10 (40%) patients with cardiac movement on initial EE survived to hospital admission (p = 0.008). Neither asystole on initial electrocardiogram nor peak capnography value, age, bystander CPR, or downtime was a significant predictor of survival. Only cardiac movement was associated with survival, and cardiac standstill at any time during CPR resulted in a positive predictive value of 97.1% for death at the scene.

Conclusion. Our results support the idea of focused echocardiography as an additional criterion in the evaluation of outcome in CPR patients and demonstrate its feasibility in the prehospital setting.

Cardiac Movement Identified on Prehospital Echocardiography Predicts Outcome
Prehosp Emerg Care. 2012 Jan 11. [Epub ahead of print]

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