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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Astonishing Cases and Images in Emergency Medicine

Case Report

Not All Sore Throats Are Pharyngitis

Presentations to the emergency department (ED) can often appear to be simple and common. Only when a physician begins to think outside the box when confronting what seems to be a simple condition can a life-threatening situation be avoided. This case provides insight into a common chief complaint seen everyday in the ED – “sore throat.” Not until the patient was seen on several subsequent encounters was a further work-up initiated and the diagnosis made.

Sulfur Mustard Exposure from Dredged Artillery Shell in a Commercial Clammer

A 40-year-old commercial fisherman presented with a blistering second degree burn to the right arm after handling a dredged and undetonated World War I-era sulfur mustard artillery shell. He sustained isolated second degree cutaneous injury requiring wound care and skin grafting. Sulfur mustard, or dichlorethylsulphide, is a vesicant chemical warfare agent that causes significant cutaneous chemical burn and is managed with burn wound care. Long-term effects include cosmetic disfigurement and increased risk of developing cancer. Sulfur mustard exposure is a rare but devastating injury when discarded artillery shells are encountered in coastal waters.

Post-operative Appendix Specimen Retention Presenting as Small Bowel Obstruction

One rare complication of appendectomy is a retained appendicolith, which can become a focal point for infection presenting hours to years after surgery. We present a case in which a 50-year-old male presented to the emergency department with a small bowel obstruction one week post appendectomy. A diagnostic laparoscopy was performed, and a necrotic appendiceal specimen containing a staple line across the base as well as an appendicolith was removed. It is crucial to include rare surgical complications in our differentials, alongside the more common pathologies when approaching and treating patients with abdominal pain.

Myasthenic Crisis In Pregnancy

This case reviews the management of a 27-year-old pregnant female in myasthenic crisis. She presented to the emergency department in respiratory distress refractory to standard therapy, necessitating airway and ventilatory support and treatment with plasmapheresis. Myasthenic crisis in the setting of pregnancy is rare and presents unique management challenges for emergency physicians.

25C-NBOMe Ingestion

The popularity of recreational synthetic drug use has increased within the past several years. Emergency physicians, along with prehospital providers, are often the first to interact with patients who use these new drugs. We report the case of a 27-year-old male with two emergency department visits with confirmed ingestion of a relatively new synthetic drug of abuse. We discuss symptom management as well as the identification process of the ingestant.

The Malingering Intussusception

While intussusception is rarely seen in adults, it is typically obstructive in nature when it does occur. Even less commonly seen is transient intussusception, which occurs without a radiological lead point or any evidence of bowel obstruction. Such findings consist of a “target pattern” seen on computed tomography (CT) but are incidental and do not require any surgical intervention. We report the case of a 31-year-old female who presented to the emergency department with abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. CT imaging revealed transient intussusception, a benign finding that is not well established in emergency medicine literature.

Reversible Acute Kidney Injury Associated with Chlorothalonil Ingestion

A 43-year-old man ingested a chlorothalonil-containing fungicide in a suicide attempt. The patient was found to have acute kidney injury from acute tubular necrosis on hospital admission (serum creatinine 2.9 mg/dL), although his renal function recovered with hydration and supportive care. Acute toxicity from chlorothalonil ingestion has been described very rarely, and no previous cases have described clinically-significant renal effects.

Idiopathic Spinal Epidural Lipomatosis Causing Cauda Equina Syndrome

Spinal epidural lipomatosis (SEL) is a rare condition defined by the hypertrophy of adipose tissue in the spinal epidural space, often resulting in compression of nerves in the region affected.1 This case describes a 64-year-old man who presented with cauda equina syndrome. Magnetic resonance imaging of the spine revealed extensive SEL of the lumbar spine. He underwent decompression and fusion with subsequent improvement of symptoms. This is one of the few cases reported of lumbar SEL in a non-obese patient in absence of long-term corticosteroid usage. We review possible etiologies.

Anterior Urethral Laceration from a Human Bite

Isolated anterior urethral injuries in males related to sexual activity have rarely been reported. Human bites to the penis are also rarely discussed in the medical literature. We report an isolatedanterior urethral laceration in a male caused by a biting injury sustained during fellatio.

Sternoclavicular Septic Arthritis Caused by Streptococcus pyogenes in a Child

Septic arthritis can be a devastating condition that leads to further morbidity and potential mortality if not identified early in its course. Emergency providers must keep septic arthritis high on their differential of any joint-related pain in the pediatric population. We present a case of an eight-yearold female who initially presented with the chief complaint of chest pain and was subsequently diagnosed with septic arthritis of the left sternoclavicular joint in the emergency department.

Dead Legs: A Case of Bilateral Leg Paralysis

Aortoiliac occlusive disease (AOD) is a rare presentation of thrombosis of the abdominal aorta. Also known as Leriche syndrome, its classic description entails claudication of the buttocks, thighs, and calves, absent femoral pulses, and impotence. AOD risk factors include smoking, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, chronic renal insufficiency, and hypercoagulopathy. Ischemic complications of gastrointestinal malperfusion, renal infarction, and paralysis secondary to spinal cord ischemia are also noted. This case describes AOD complicated by a Stanford Type B aortic dissection leading to multi-system organ failure. A brief review of the literature further elucidates the key risk factors inidentifying and treating Leriche syndrome.

Thoracic Compression Fracture as a Result of Taser® Discharge

A conducted electrical device (CED), usually Taser®, is commonly used by law enforcement officers to aid in the incapacitation of subjects. While CEDs are considered “safe” for use on subjects, adverse events may rarely occur. We report a case of a 23-year-old male presenting with severe back pain following deployment of a CED with resulting acute compression fractures of the thoracic sixth, seventh, and eighth vertebral bodies. To the best of our knowledge, this represents the third case of traumatic injury from CED discharge to be reported in the literature since 1995.

The Case of Ketamine Allergy

Ketamine is often used for pediatric procedural sedation due to low rates of complications, with allergic reactions being rare. Immediately following intramuscular (IM) ketamine administration, a three-year-old female rapidly developed facial edema and diffuse urticarial rash, with associated wheezing and oxygen desaturation. Symptoms resolved following treatment with epinephrine, dexamethasone and diphenhydramine. This case presents a clinical reaction to ketamine consistent with anaphylaxis due to histamine release, but it is uncertain whether this was immuno globulin Emediated. This is the only case reported to date of allergic reaction to IM ketamine, without coadministration of other agents.

Fatal Vibrio vulnificus Bacteremia in Two Cirrhotic Patients with Abdominal Pain and Misty Mesentery

Two cirrhotic patients with unexplained abdominal pain deteriorated rapidly and fatally after presenting to our emergency department. Abdominal computed tomography in both patients showed “misty mesentery”, which could not be explained by other etiologies. Both blood cultures revealed Vibrio vulnificus, which suggested the possible correlation of CT-finding and bacteremia.

Bilateral Posterior Native Hip Dislocations after Fall from Standing

We present a case of bilateral posterior native hip dislocations after a fall from standing. This exceedingly rare diagnosis is classically associated with younger patients whose bones are strong enough to dislocate rather than fracture in the setting of a high-momentum collision. We present an unusual case of an 88-year-old male with native hips who sustained a low-energy collision after falling from standing and was found to have bilateral posterior hip dislocations without associated pelvis or femur fractures.

Ultrasound-Guided Femoral Nerve Block to Facilitate the Closed Reduction of a Dislocated Hip Prosthesis

Prosthetic hip dislocation is a common but unfortunate complication in patients who have undergone total hip arthroplasty. Successful closed reduction in the emergency department leads to a reduced length of stay and rate of hospitalization.1,2 The use of regional anesthesia by femoral nerve block represents a novel approach for controlling pain in patients with hip pathologies.3 Ultrasound-guided approaches have been used with great success for controlling pain in patients with hip fractures.4,5 Here we report the case of a 90-year-old male who presented with a dislocated hip prosthesis, which was subsequently corrected with closed reduction following delivery of regional anesthesia to the femoral nerve under ultrasound guidance. To our knowledge, this represents the first reported use of an ultrasound-guided femoral nerve block to facilitate closed reduction of a dislocated prosthetic hip, and highlights a novel approach that avoids the use of procedural sedation in an elderly patient.

An Unusual Consolidation: Lobar Pulmonary Hemorrhage Due to Antithrombotic Therapy

Alveolar hemorrhage is a rare yet devastating clinical entity if not identified and treated aggressively. Exceedingly rare are the cases of anticoagulant-induced alveolar hemorrhage with very few cases described in the current literature. The nonspecific presentation of an alveolar hemorrhage makes its diagnosis and appropriate treatment difficult in the emergency department. We report a case of a patient on warfarin for atrial fibrillation who was initially misdiagnosed as having community-acquired pneumonia, but subsequently was identified to have a fatal alveolar hemorrhage.

Successful Point-Of-Care Ultrasound-Guided Treatment of Submassive Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism is associated with significant mortality and impaired long-term functional outcomes. Timely identification and treatment is crucial for successful management. Unfortunately, prompt diagnosis can be challenging in patients without overt signs of cardiovascular compromise. Point-of-care cardiac ultrasound (POCCUS) can be used to identify signs of acute pulmonary embolism, risk stratify patients for adverse outcomes and assess response to therapy. This report describes a patient with submassive pulmonary embolism and evidence of acute right ventricular strain on POCCUS successfully treated with thrombolytic therapy. The dynamic changes observed on point-of-care ultrasound are presented.

Inhaled Loxapine for the Treatment of Psychiatric Agitation in the Prehospital Setting: A Case Series

Rapid and effective control of agitated patients is crucial for ensuring their safety and proper management. We present a case series of 12 agitated psychiatric patients who were suitable for treatment with inhaled loxapine in the prehospital emergency setting. Two refused its administration and two required additional treatment. Loxapine was effective within 2-10 minutes, with no adverse effects or sedation. In our experience the use of inhaled loxapine enabled rapid and non-coercive control of agitation in most psychiatric patients, allowing us to avoid mechanical restraint and injectable drugs, and facilitating the transportation and transfer of the patients.

Reversal of Dabigatran with Idarucizumab in Acute Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Dabigatran etexilate mesylate is a direct thrombin inhibitor used for reducing the risk of stroke andsystemic embolism in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. Dabigatran belongs to a new generationof oral agents for anticoagulation – the direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs). The DOACs also includethe factor Xa inhibitors rivaroxaban, apixaban, and edoxaban. In the case of major or life-threateningbleeding and/or the need for emergent invasive procedures, a reversal agent is needed if a patient istaking one of these medications. Research has shown the efficacy of idarucizumab as an antidote inhealthy volunteers, but data in the case of life-threatening bleeds remains limited. We report a caseof a patient who suffered a traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage and received effective treatment withidarucizumab. Along with other reports, our case demonstrates that dabigatran-related major and/orlife-threatening bleeds may be effectively counteracted by idarucizumab. This provides an option toemergency department providers in managing clinically significant bleeds in patients taking dabigatran.

Chagas Disease-induced Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the most common cause of death in patients with Chagas disease (ChD). There are over 300,000 ChD-infected individuals living in the United States, of whom 10-15% have undiagnosed Chagas cardiomyopathy (CCM). CCM patients have a higher risk of SCD compared to non-CCM patients, although early and appropriate treatment of CCM patients can result in a 95% relative risk reduction of SCD. Emergency physicians have a unique opportunity to improve outcomes among these patients by becoming more vigilant in recognizing the signs and symptoms of CCM in patients who present in sudden cardiac arrest. We report the case of a patient presenting to the emergency department with pulseless ventricular tachycardia and an undiagnosed history of CCM.

An Atypical Case of Warfarin-Induced Skin Necrosis

Skin necrosis is a relatively rare, potentially fatal side effect of warfarin. It is most commonly reported within 10 days of initiation of therapy in warfarin-naïve patients. We report an atypical case of warfarin-induced skin necrosis upon recommencement of warfarin in a non-naïve warfarin patient.

Pacing-induced Cardiomyopathy

We present a case of pacing-induced cardiomyopathy. The patient presented with clinical symptoms of dyspnea, leg swelling, and orthopnea several months after a dual-chambered pacemaker was placed for third-degree heart block. The echocardiogram demonstrated a depressed ejection fraction. Coronary angiography was performed, which showed widely patent vessels. Single- and dual-chambered pacemakers create ventricular dyssynchrony, which in turn can cause structural, molecular changes leading to cardiomyopathy. With early intervention of biventricular pacemaker replacement, these changes can be reversible; thus, a timely diagnosis and awareness is warranted.

Uterine Body Stuffing Confirmed by Computed Tomography

A 31-year-old woman presented to an emergency department for suspected vaginal “stuffing” of cocaine. Her physical and pelvic exams were unremarkable despite agitation, tachycardia and hypertension. Abdominal radiograph was concerning for foreign body; transabdominal ultrasound was non-diagnostic. A noncontrast abdominal/pelvic computed tomography (CT) revealed aradiopaque mass within the cervix extending into the uterus. Gynecology was consulted, but thepatient refused removal and left against medical advice. Radiographs have varied sensitivity fordetecting stuffed foreign bodies; CT is more sensitive and specific. This case suggests that CT issuitable to evaluate for this rare event.

Point-of-care Ultrasound Aiding in the Diagnosis of Herlyn-Werner-Wunderlich Syndrome

We present a case of a 12-year-old female with a history of congenital solitary kidney presenting to an academic pediatric emergency department (ED) in acute abdominal pain. Using ultrasound as the initial diagnostic modality, the patient was found to have Herlyn-Werner-Wunderlich syndrome (HWWS), an abnormal development of the Müllerian system during embryogenesis resulting in obstructed hemivagina with resulting hematometrocolpos. The patient presented with undifferentiated abdominopelvic pain, and in the course of the ED workup was diagnosed witha disorder in frequently encountered by emergency physicians. We present a case of markedly abnormal point-of-care ultrasound findings prompting additional studies, ultimately leading to a diagnosis of HWWS during the initial ED visit.

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Urachal Cyst Diagnosed by Point-of-care Ultrasound

Irreducible umbilical swelling in infants is considered a surgical emergency because a delay in surgical intervention for an incarcerated umbilical hernia can lead to bowel ischemia and necrosis. We report two patients who presented to a pediatric emergency department with history and symptoms of irreducible umbilical mass suggestive of umbilical hernia. Point-of-care ultrasound was used at the bedside to demonstrate the presence of urachal cyst remnants and accurately guided the care of these children.

Hand Compartment Syndrome Due to N-acetylcysteine Extravasation

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is the antidote for acetaminophen (APAP)-induced hepatotoxicity. Both intravenous (IV) and oral (PO) NAC formulations are available with equal efficacy. Adverse events from either preparation are rare. We describe a hand compartment syndrome after extravasation of NAC requiring emergent fasciotomy during phase three of treatment for suspected APAP toxicity. Extravasation injuries leading to compartment syndrome are rare. It is unclear whether IV NAC induced a direct tissue toxicinsult, or functioned as a space-occupying lesion to cause a compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome from extravasation of NAC is possible. In cases where IV access is difficult, PO NAC is analternative.

Refractory Temporomandibular Joint Dislocation – Reduction Using the Wrist Pivot Method

We report a case of a 19-year-old male who presented to the emergency department with refractory atraumatic temporomandibular joint dislocation. Multiple attempts at reduction by emergency physicians before and after sedation were unsuccessful. The dislocation was eventually reduced using the wrist pivot technique. This case highlights the need to consider alternative methods of temporomandibular joint reduction, particularly in cases refractory to reduction despite the use of sedation.

Delayed Migration and Perforation of the Jugular Vein by a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter

We report a case of peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) migration and perforation of the left internal jugular vein in a home health setting in an 80-year-old female. A left sided PICC was placed for treatment of diverticulitis following hospital discharge. She complained of sudden onset left sided neck pain immediately after starting an infusion of vancomycin. In the emergency department the injury was identified by portable chest radiograph and computed tomography of her neck. Following removal of the line, she had an uneventful course. Emergency physicians should be aware of this possible PICC line complication.

Aortic Thrombus Causing a Hypertensive Emergency

Thoracic aorta thrombi are a rare condition typically presenting as a source for distal embolization in elderly patients with atherosclerotic risk factors. However, young patients with a variety of presentations resulting from such thrombi have rarely been reported. We describe a case of a young patient with refractory hypertensive emergency caused by a large thoracic aorta thrombus. Investigation was guided by abnormal physical exam findings.

Tibial Osteomyelitis Following Prehospital Intraosseous Access

Intraosseous (IO) access is a lifesaving alternative to peripheral or central venous access in emergency care. However, emergency physicians and prehospital care providers must be aware of the potential for infectious complications associated with this intervention. We describe the case of a HIV-negative, otherwise immunocompetent adult patient who underwent prehospital insertion of a tibial IO device. Following successful resuscitation, the patient developed tibial osteomyelitis requiring multiple operative debridements, soft tissue coverage, and several courses of prolonged antimicrobial therapy. Skin antisepsis prior to device insertion followed by early device removal are important strategies for reducing the risk of infection associated with IO access.

Immediate Emergency Department Diagnosis of Pyloric Stenosis with Point-of-care Ultrasound

A 15-day-old male who was born at term presented with non-bilious projectile vomiting. He was nontoxic and his abdomen was benign without masses. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) showed hypertrophic pyloric stenosis (HPS). Typical findings include target sign; pyloric muscle thickness greater than three mm; channel length greater than 15-18 mm; and lack of gastric emptying. The patient was admitted; consultative ultrasound (US) was negative, but repeated 48 hours later for persistent vomiting. This second US was interpreted as HPS, which was confirmed surgically. Pyloromyotomy was successful. Few reports describe POCUS by general emergency physicians to diagnose HPS. Here, we emphasize the value in repeat US for patients with persistent symptoms.

Emergency Department Diagnosis of Idiopathic Pneumoparotitis with Cervicofacial Subcutaneous Emphysema in a Pediatric Patient

Idiopathic pediatric pneumoparotitis, being rare, is often misdiagnosed in acute care settings, resulting in inappropriate initial management and emergency department (ED) disposition. We report the case of a previously well 11-year-old boy who presented to our ED with acute left cheek swelling and pain. He was diagnosed with pneumoparotitis with cervicofacial subcutaneous emphysema with the aid of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) and radiographs. Despite appropriate initial ED and inpatient management, he developed bilateral involvement and pneumomediastinum. After 72 hours, his condition improved and he was discharged well after five days of hospitalization. This case report highlights the use of POCUS and radiographs to facilitate an early diagnosis and appropriate EDdisposition.

Pericardial Tamponade Masquerading as Abdominal Pain Diagnosed by Point-of-care Ultrasonography

An 18-year-old female presented to the emergency department with a complaint of right-sided abdominal pain for one day. An abdominal computed tomography was significant for hepatic congestion and a large pericardial effusion. The patient was found to have early signs of cardiac tamponade on point-of-care ultrasonography. She was taken to the operating room for pericardial window and had immediate resolution of her symptoms. Patient was diagnosed with system iclupus erythematosus based on laboratory and clinical findings. This case report details the atypical clinical features of our patient and highlights the subtle signs that should indicate the need for point-of-care cardiac ultrasonographic assessment in these patients.

Images in Emergency Medicine