Friday, June 8, 2012

Daily Aspirin Harms More Than It Helps

Patients with cardiovascular disease are routinely placed on daily, low-dose aspirin for primary prevention of cardiac events.

Unfortunately, antiplatelet effects promote other types of bleeding, while the cyclooxygenase pathway has a deleterious effect on the gastric mucosal.  This 4.1 million patient propensity matched retrospective database study from Italy demonstrated approximately 2 excess cases of major bleeding events - whether intracranial or gastrointestinal - per 1000 patients treated per year.

Which is approximately the number of major cardiovascular events prevented by the daily aspirin use during the same time period.

Not specifically relevant to Emergency Medicine, but yet another example of how it's naive to think many treatments in medicine - even those (or particularly those!) that have been part of routine practice for eons - are benefiting patients without a significant risk of harms.

"Association of Aspirin Use With Major Bleeding in Patients With and Without Diabetes"
jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1172042

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Ehrlanger HEARTS3 Score

I hate using the TIMI score to risk-stratify patients in the Emergency Department.  It wasn't derived from a question asked in the Emergency Department, but has been co-opted by hundreds of studies as it has some value as part of our common language with inpatient medicine and cardiology teams.  We're familiar enough with it's shoehorning into our environment that we can use it to assist in some rough decisions about prognosis, but, clearly a better tool must exist.

A couple years back, the HEART score came out of the Netherlands.  In a small derivation and validation cohort, it did a reasonable job of predicting outcomes, using language and variables more relevant to the Emergency Department.  However, these authors from Ehrlanger in Chattanooga recognized one of the limitations of the HEART score was the somewhat arbitrary "expert" weighting of the various elements.  They therefore undertook a study with the goal of using logistic regression and likelihood ratios of the various included elements to expand the score and modify the weighting.

The good news: they improved the AUC of the scoring system from 0.827 and 0.816 for acute MI and 30-day ACS, respectively, to 0.959 and 0.902.  At the reasonable cut-off, the HEARTS3 score gets up close to ~98% sensitivity with ~60% specificity for 30-day ACS.

The bad news: a complex clinical situation requires a complex clinical decision instrument.  No one will be able to hold this in their head like the NEXUS criteria, the TIMI score, or Wells criteria - if we were even bothering to hold all these hundreds of decision instruments in our heads to start.  Luckily, smartphones, the Internet, and decision-support built-in to electronic health records is making progress towards readily available peripheral brains with which to quickly reference risk-stratification instruments such as this.

It still needs external validation, but this is one of the tools seeming to have the greatest potential I've recently seen

"Improving risk stratification in patients with chest pain: the Erlanger HEARTS3 score"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22626816

Monday, June 4, 2012

How Many Emergency Physicians Are On Twitter?

672.

Or, at least, that's how many self-identified in their Twitter profiles as professional physicians in Emergency Medicine at the time this descriptive study was undertaken.  According to the author estimates, this accounts for ~1.6% of the ~20,000 U.S. board-certified Emergency Physicians.  The true number may be higher, owing to profiles that do not identify themselves professionally.

About half were "active" with a tweet within the last 15 days, and the other half were "inactive".  Active accounts followed more users and were followed by more users.  They also have a visualization figure showing the interconnectedness of the active Twitter accounts, and, unsurprisingly, everyone tweets to the same group of twits, and vice versa.

So, it's a small social media extension of the greater online presence of Emergency Physicians.  I'd probably say that the primary flaw with the service, regarding promoting wider interaction between online EPs, is that it is a closed, self-contained system separate from the other online resources visited by EPs.  The value is probably most to those who communicate and interact professionally in an active manner, whereas it doesn't have as much to offer the passive observer.

"Analysis of emergency physicians’ Twitter accounts"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22634832