Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Medical Legal Case Report

Patient with a Subarachnoid Headache

Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is a life-threatening cause of headache. The diagnostic approach to this entity continues to evolve with a recent questioning of the classic workup of computed tomography and lumbar puncture. We report a risk management case of a patient with a missed SAH resulting in a fatal outcome. When there are multiple diagnostic strategies, the patient may be involved with shared decision-making. Some of the medical and legal implications of the diagnosis of SAH will be discussed.

Case Report

Compartment Syndrome with Rhabdomyolysis in a Marathon Runner

A 38-year-old female seasoned marathon runner presented to the emergency department (ED) with increasing right lower extremity pain after running two mid-distance races in one weekend. The patient had previously run many two-day races and longer distances, but recently had gainedweight and had not been training.  This case report details her presenting symptoms, evaluation, review of the literature, and treatment with attention to the factors that led to the development of herpathologies.

Blunt Traumatic Cervical Vascular Injury Without any Modified Denver Criteria

Blunt traumatic cervical vascular injury (BCVI) is challenging to recognize, but it is a potentially devastating entity that warrants attention from emergency physicians. Injury to the vertebral or carotid artery can result in a delayed manifestation of neurologic injury that may be preventable if promptly recognized and treated. The modified Denver Criteria are frequently used to guide imaging decisions for BCVI; however, injuries can still be missed. We present a case of BCVI in a trauma patient whose initial presentation evaded standard screening criteria, illustrating the nee dfor a high index of suspicion for BCVI in blunt trauma.

Severe Intracranial Hemorrhage at Initial Presentation of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia

Intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) is the second leading cause of mortality among patients diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). The bone marrow failure associated with AML produces dysfunctional platelets, which significantly increases the risk of hemorrhagic complications within this population. In this report we discuss the case of a previously healthy female patient, newly diagnosed with AML, who rapidly developed fatal ICH.

Methemoglobinemia Induced By Ingesting Lava Lamp Contents

A patient presented after ingesting the contents of a lava lamp that he believed to contain alcohol. It was later discovered that this product was comprised of 76% calcium nitrate, leading to his subsequent development of methemoglobinemia. This disease is a medical emergency secondary to poor transportation of oxygen and resultant tissue hypoxic effects. Therefore, having high suspicion for this disease process in patients with toxic ingestions, understanding the proper diagnosis, and promptly starting treatment are all critical actions for emergency physicians.

Stump Appendicitis

Abdominal pain is a frequent problem encountered in the emergency department, and acute appendicitis is a well-recognized diagnosis. Laparoscopic appendectomy has become one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States. Patients with a history of appendectomy may experience recurrent right lower quadrant abdominal pain from an infrequently encountered complication that may occur when the residual appendix becomes obstructed and inflamed. We describe two cases of stump appendicitis in pediatric patients with a review of clinical and imaging findings and surgical management.

Alteplase Causing Cardiac Tamponade in the Setting of Recent Cardiac Pacemaker Placement

A 56-year-old female presented to the emergency department with evolving cardiac tamponade after receiving alteplase for acute ischemic stroke. This is the first case report of cardiac tamponade from thrombolytics in the setting of recent pacemaker placement. Point-of-care ultra sound was usedto make the diagnosis quickly and expedite the patient to the operating room where a pericardial window was performed.

Fatal Influenza B Myocarditis in a 34-Year-Old Female

A 34-year-old female reported to the emergency department with a chief complaint of epigastric pain. Initial rapid screening was negative for both influenza A and B. The patient eventually developedmyocarditis that led to pulseless ventricular tachycardia and death within 24 hours of admission. Viral smear was positive for influenza B postmortem despite the initial negative rapid screen. This case demonstrates the need for a new diagnostic criteria and treatment strategy for viral myocarditis due to influenza while concisely illustrating how the disease can progress in adults despite commonly presenting as a disease in adolescents.

Fatality Following Intentional Ingestion of Cerbera odollam Seeds

Seeds from the mangrove plant Cerbera odollam, known as the “suicide tree,” are responsible for a significant number of plant deaths worldwide but are not well recognized in Western medicine. Cerberin is a cardiac glycoside concentrated in the plant’s seeds, which causes disrupted cardiac electrical activity leading to fatal dysrhythmias. We present a fatal case of intentional C. odollam seed ingestion. The patient experienced high-degree heart block and cardiac arrest despite supportive treatment and digoxin immune fab administration. Clinicians should be aware of the potential morbidity and mortality associated with C. odollam poisoning and be prepared for resuscitative interventions.

Cor Triatriatum: Case Report of Emergency Department Diagnosis

Cor triatriatum is a rare, congenital heart defect. When diagnosis does not occur in infancy, primary symptoms in an older patient may mimic reactive airway disease. We report a case of cor triatriatum in an older child, previously diagnosed with asthma, presenting to an emergency department with a chief complaint of wheezing. Initial treatment with bronchodilators and corticosteroids was unsuccessful, prompting thorough evaluation. Subsequent imaging diagnosed cor triatriatum sinister. When presentations consistent with common conditions, such as asthma, do not respond appropriately to classic intervention, emergency physicians must be prepared to consider alternative and rare diagnoses.

Simultaneous Multiple Thromboembolic Events in a Postpartum Patient

We report the case of a postpartum patient who presented to the emergency department in status epilepticus. She was initially treated for eclampsia; however, she was subsequently found to have simultaneous cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). While thromboembolic events may be seen frequently in the postpartum period, the combination of CVT and PE is an unusual occurrence. Although a challenging diagnosis, the emergency physicians played a critical role in the early recognition and rapid treatment of CVT in this case.

Pyogenic Flexor Tenosynovitis by Point-of-care Ultrasound in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Pyogenic flexor tenosynovitis (PFT) is difficult to diagnose on clinical grounds alone as many patients requiring an operation do not have all four of Kanavel’s signs. Previous studies have shown that hypoechoic fluid surrounding the flexor tendon on ultrasound is associated with this diagnosis. We sought to determine if emergency physicians (EP) could recognize this finding in patients with suspected flexor tenosynovitis using point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS).

Methods: We present a retrospective case series of seven patients suspected of PFT who had hypoechoic fluid surrounding the tendon on POCUS performed by the treating EP. We report on the patient characteristics, history of trauma by puncture wound, number of Kanavel’s signs, treatment course, and operative findings.

Results: We identified seven patients whom the EP had suspected of having flexor tenosynovitis and who were subsequently found to have anechoic or hypoechoic fluid surrounding the flexor tendon on real-time POCUS examination. Patients ranged in age from 16 – 51 years. All were male. All patients had at least two of Kanavel’s signs on examination. Five of seven (71%) patients had history of recent trauma to the affected hand. Four of seven (57%) were managed in the operating room. One of seven (14%) had incision and drainage at the bedside, and the remaining two (28%) were managed non-operatively and successfully with antibiotics alone.

Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that EPS can recognize the finding of hypoechoic or anechoic fluid surrounding the flexor tendon on POCUS.

Pyometra, an Unusual Case of Acute Abdomen

A 49-year-old female six days post-endometrial biopsy presented to the emergency department with constant severe suprapubic abdominal pain, fevers and myalgia. A contrasted computed tomography noted an intrauterine fluid collection and a final diagnosis of pyometra was made in the operating room following total hysterectomy. Pyometra is an exceptionally rare clinical condition with significant mortality.

Spontaneous Diaphragmatic Hernia

A spontaneous diaphragmatic hernia (SDH) occurs when intra-abdominal contents extend into the thoracic cavity through a defect in the diaphragm after a sudden increase in intra-abdominal pressure. SDH is one of the rarest surgical emergencies with less than 30 reported cases in the literature (1,2). In our case a 94-year-old female presented to the emergency department in respiratory distress with unilateral breath sounds and was diagnosed with a SDH. The only treatment option for a SDH is surgical (3,11). However, nasogastric tube decompression of the gastrointestinal tract and supplemental oxygen can be used to alleviate symptoms until definitive operative management is performed.

Anti-factor Xa Monitoring and Activated Charcoal for a Pediatric Patient With Rivaroxaban Overdose

Rivaroxaban, an oral anticoagulant, directly inhibits factor Xa (FXa). A 35-month-old boy was brought to the emergency department 15 minutes after ingesting 200 mg of rivaroxaban (16 mg/kg). Activated charcoal (AC) was administered; the patient was observed with monitoring of plasma anti-FXa levels and discharged the following day after an uneventful hospital observation. We identified two case series and seven case reports of potentially toxic rivaroxaban ingestion in the literature. No serious adverse effects were reported. The present case is the first reported use of anti-FXa monitoring after rivaroxaban ingestion. The magnitude of the effect of AC administration in this patient is unclear.

Nutritional Rickets Presenting as Chronic Episodic Extremity Pain in a 9-year-old with Autism

Rickets due to vitamin D deficiency, typically presenting as bowed legs in toddlers, is uncommon in the modern era. We describe the case of a nine-year-old girl with autism and developmental delay who was evaluated for chronic intermittent extremity pain for more than one year prior to referral to the emergency department for hypocalcemia and increased alkaline phosphatase, which eventually led to the diagnosis of rickets confirmed by radiographic and laboratory findings. This report highlights the importance of the patient’s history of developmental delay and autism in the evaluation and approach to limb pain, and discusses the appropriate diagnostic approach.


Esophageal Perforation After Failed Prehospital Intubation

Esophageal perforation is a rare condition with high rates of mortality if not recognized quickly. This is a case of a 67-year-old male with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He had one failed intubation attempt prior to arrival. On post-mortem autopsy it was discovered that in addition to significant head trauma, he also had an esophageal and gastric rupture.

Images in Emergency Medicine