I had never heard this specific diagnosis bandied about in an Emergency Medicine context – but, essentially, it’s a gastroenterology entity (and diagnosis of exclusion) that entails, essentially, chronic, intractable, crampy abdominal pain of unknown etiology and concurrent narcotic use. I can’t even describe how many of these patients I saw each shift during residency – and how many of those people had multiple CT scans in the past year. The key feature in this particular diagnosis, as described in their case, is they had extensive follow-up evaluation, were weaned from their narcotics, and had resolution of symptoms.
I think this is a diagnosis spectrum we see a lot in the ED – whether it be constipation, IBS, cyclic vomiting syndrome, “feeling sick”, or the multitudinous abdominal pain of unknown etiology. With more and more patients being prescribed (or secretly taking) narcotics, what we see in our EDs is not just the overdose emergencies, but the various side effect spectrums of dependence and withdrawal.
You’d think that with all our medical technological prowess we’d have better mechanisms to treat pain than they did thousands of years ago.
“Narcotic Bowel Syndrome”
I think I’ve discovered the new paradigm of research in ultrasound. Every time you do a procedure or make a diagnosis, slap the ultrasound on someone and see if you can reliably identify anatomic changes.
It looks like, with their practiced ultrasonographers, that they can get some preliminary information regarding endotracheal tube placement by performing transtracheal ultrasound. Their “gold standard” was waveform capnography – which is a fair gold standard, but not universally sensitive and specific for tube placement in all clinical situations. Essentially, if the ETT is in the correct place, there is only one “air-mucosal interface” observed with high-frequency linear probe, and, if the ETT is in the esophagus, you have a second, posterior air-mucosal interface.
Experts did it correctly with 99% sensitivity and 94% specificity, and the main advantage was speed.
“Tracheal rapid ultrasound exam (T.R.U.E.) for confirming endotracheal tube
placement during emergency intubation.”
When a small city only has two Emergency Departments, you can run a study like this to see what effect publication of ED wait times has on visits.
While it is fabulously logical that if 18 to 40 people a day are looking at your Emergency Department wait times that some portion of those people will choose a facility with a shorter wait time – or choose not to come to the ED at all – or choose to come in when they might not have otherwise come in if the wait time is short – this study doesn’t actually try to study the population of interest. They need to somehow capture individuals who are using the published information to make decisions, rather than looking generally at their overall wait time statistics – because, even though they say their results “were consistent with the hypothesis that the publication of wait time information leads to patients selecting the site with shorter wait time”, they are making a huge unsubstantiated leap.
Looking at their descriptive statistics, hardly anything changed to actually justify their conclusions, and, really, it looks like patients just based their decisions pretty heavily on which of the two hospitals was closer – particularly Victoria Hospital, which people only went to if it was nearer. I do also find it fascinating that their mean wait time rose from about 105 minutes to 115 minutes, yet the amount of time their wait time was >2 hours (120 minutes) actually dropped from 13% to 9%. This is how they justify their conclusion that the “spikes” are mitigated by online usage – and it may be true – but there are too many moving parts and they aren’t actually asking people if they used the website and used the information from it.
“The effects of publishing emergency department wait time on patient utilization patterns in a community with two emergency department sites: a retrospective, quasi-experiment design.”
This is just a short little letter I found published in The Lancet. Apparently, the Taiwan Society of Emergency Medicine has been wrangling with the Department of Health regarding appropriate solutions to the national problem of ED overcrowding. To make their short story even shorter, apparently, they ended up forming a group on Facebook, and then posting their concerns to the Minister of Health’s Facebook page. This then prompted the Minister of Health to make surprise visits to several EDs, and, in some manner, the Taiwanese feel their social networking has led to a fortuitous response to their public dialogue.
So, slowly but surely, I’m sure all these little blogs will save the world, too.
“Facebook use leads to health-care reform in Taiwan.”
This is a multicenter study from Canada that looked at the diagnostic accuracy of computed tomographic coronary angiography using invasive coronary angiography as the gold standard – and they found that it’s not bad. Specifically, they found it was not bad at one of their four centers used in the study, and terrible at three of the four centers used in the study. In a patient population with a pretest probability of CAD less than 50%, the AUC for CTCA was 0.951 at center 1, and 0.597 at centers 2, 3, and 4 combined.
So, clearly, the most important factor affecting the results of your CTCA is your institution’s skill at performing and interpreting the test. Which, if you take it one step further, means that unless your institution is a CTCA center of excellence like the ones pumping out the CTCA studies, you can’t apply their results to your practice. Specificity stays reasonable, but you lose a lot of sensitivity – and when the CTCA for low-risk rapid rule-out is predicated on the high NPV, you can’t afford to lose sensitivity.
“Ontario Multidetector Computed Tomographic Coronary Angiography Study”
…but still probably a good idea.
Out of 225 ACEP councillors responding to a survey, 5 knew of an instance in the past year where a time-out may have prevented an error. So, a year’s worth of personal patient encounters, plus whatever they heard about in their department, multiplied by 225 – which means we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of patient encounters – and there were only a handful of events where a time-out would have helped.
That being said, time-outs have been a Universal Protocol with the National Patient Safety Goals since 2004 because performing the wrong procedure, at the wrong site, on the wrong patient really falls into a category of a “never event”. It does seem like a no-brainer in the ED, where the procedures we’re performing on patients are specifically related to the unique presenting event, but errors still occur – and the magnitude of the harm to the patients who are being harmed is probably greater than the consequences of the additive delay in care to other patients from the cumulative time performing the time-out.
“A Survey of the Use of Time-Out Protocols in Emergency Medicine”
Apparently, we’re still $376 million dollars short in funding just to meet the 2003 ACGME work hours regulations, in terms of hiring additional staff, etc. So, of course, there should be no problem getting the remaining $1.4 billion needed to bring us up to date with the new rules. And there’s still the matter of these authors saying that’s still not good enough.
They also say, more stick, less carrot. For patients! Think of the children!
Of course, they’re probably right. A lot of EM training is stressful, but it isn’t barbaric. We have enough off-service rotations to realize we’re one of the relatively coddled residencies in brute terms of sleep deprivation and time away from the hospital. My sister just finished her PGY-1 in general surgery by going Q2 into the break before 2nd year. We’re not in compliance, we’re not operating at our peak abilities, and we’re not exhaustively supervised. Patients are harmed, no doubt.
But that’s the reality of the funding situation and the budgets proscribed by Congress.
Now, if you want go out and inflame a mob, you could invoke this as part of healthcare “rationing”, letting undertrained, barely-doctors practice on the sickest patients because we choose to allow a few people to be harmed to save money.
“Implementing the 2009 Institute of Medicine recommendations on resident physician work hours, supervision, and safety.”
These studies pretty much all end up saying the same thing – academic faculty can’t agree on the presence or absence of differentiating characteristics between abscess and cellulitis. This particular study is in a pediatric population, and, there’s a lot of kappa and absolute agreement to comb through in their tables, but, basically, about 20% of the time two attendings substantially disagreed. The authors then follow this up by observing that an I&D was performed 75% time, and purulent material was found 92% of the time.
The best conclusion from this might be – if there’s some ambiguity, put a scalpel in it. I’d say this is reasonable – because we’ve seen a hundred times the child who bounces into the ED on day 3 of cephalexin for cellulitis because what he really had was a MRSA abscess to begin with.
Or, if you have an ultrasound with a high-frequency probe, you might be able to differentiate homogenous hyperemia from fluid collection.
“Interexaminer Agreement in Physical Examination for Children With Suspected Soft Tissue Abscesses”
I know you can’t get published if you say something like “Our intervention is probably not useful and serves only as a cautionary tale for other wayward sailors”, but it still bothers me when you stretch the conclusions out by saying that an intervention that is probably not better than the control group “appears promising”.
This is a group that looked at the best way to improve parent education in pediatric asthma encounters in the Emergency Department. They compared a video-based education program to a written handout and found…it didn’t make much difference. They had two groups of parents, those with “low health literacy” and those with “adequate health literacy”. The low literacy group improved a ton regardless of which educational modality was used. The adequate literacy group barely budged with written and had a little bit more of bump with video – but the relative change in their level of literacy really wasn’t anything to write home about and they don’t try to offer an explanation for why intelligent people derive no benefit from written education.
But it doesn’t stop them from stating it “appears promising” – which, I suppose, means it’s probably better than not educating people at all, or potentially educating the illiterate.
“Parental Health Literacy and Asthma Education Delivery During a Visit to a Community-Based Pediatric Emergency Department.”
Imagine, if necessary, a case you see every hour in the ED – a child with a fever. Wave a magic wand in triage, find the source of the fever, and let the doctor pick up the decision-making process advance from there.
This scenario is, of course, totally farfetched – after all, you still need a certain number of HPI and ROS elements before you wave the magic wand to bill at a higher level of service.
But, the principle – this is a fascinating article regarding the workup of “fever of unknown origin” in adults. These 81 patients had fevers for 3 weeks without a satisfactory explanation, and their cases were retrospectively reviewed following referral to FDG-PET scans. Essentially, any time this FDG-PET scan localized to an area of high uptake, it provided significant helpful localizing information regarding the underlying disease process. Examples of diagnoses it identified were infectious endocarditis, tuberculosis, pyogenic spondylitis, graft infections, Takayasu arteritis, and a host of other fascinatingly difficult diseases to identify.
The main diagnostic drawback is that it is mostly only structurally/anatomically specific, not necessarily disease specific, so there is a lot to do in terms of clinical correlation with imaging findings. And then there is the small issue where it’s a nuclear medicine study requiring 5 hours of fasting and an injection of the FDG tracer 1 hour before the study is performed. But, someday a decade out, the next generations of these devices might be more clinician-friendly….
“FDG-PET for the diagnosis of fever of unknown origin: a Japanese multi-center study.”