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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Medical Legal Case Report

A Pair of Testicular Torsion Medicolegal Cases with Caveats: The Ball’s in Your Court

In this article, we present two medicolegal cases illustrating medical and diagnostic pitfalls that can lead to litigation for missed testicular torsion. Testicular torsion (TT) is a urologic emergency with potentially devastating consequences and costs, for providers and patients alike. TT occurs in approximately 4.5 per 100,000 males under the age of 25. While uncommon, TT is the third most common cause of medical malpractice suits in this demographic. As a consequence of varying presentations and physical exam findings, and diagnostic imaging subject to individual interpretation, this time-sensitive diagnosis may be missed by emergency department providers. Delays in diagnosis significantly increases the morbidity associated with TT, and 31.9%-41.9% of such cases result in testicular loss. The average reported settlement for TT malpractice litigation is $60,000. This article discusses two actual malpractice cases involving TT and provides insight and caveats to ensure an optimal evaluation and diagnostic approach to this often-elusive condition.

Case Series

Fascia Iliaca Compartment Block Efficacy in Resource-poor Emergency Departments

Introduction: Although the fascia iliaca compartment block (FICB) seems to be an ideal technique for femoral neck and shaft fractures occurring in resource-poor settings, it has been unclear how effective it is when used by emergency physicians (EP) with little training in the technique, using equipment, medications and methods that differ from those commonly available in developed countries. This series was designed to demonstrate that EPs in a resource-poor setting can provide effective analgesia for femur fractures with anatomic landmark-guided FICBs, clinician-compounded lidocaine-epinephrine (1:100,000), and a standard injection needle.

Methods: Over a three-month period, patients ≥12 years old presenting to the emergency department with hip or femur fractures and a Likert visual analogue scale >4 had an EP-administered FICB. EPs used a standard intramuscular needle and a lidocaine-epinephrine solution they compounded at the bedside and located the injection site using only anatomic landmarks. EPs evaluated the patient’s pain level at 30 minutes and at two hours post-FICB. We also reviewed articles since 2016 that describe the FICB.

Results: We enrolled a non-consecutive sample of 10 patients in the case series. Five had femoral neck (hip) fractures and five had femoral shaft fractures. All patients had a reduction in their pain levels after the FICB. On average, the block took effect about three minutes after injection. At 30 minutes all patients reported clinically meaningful pain reduction. The analgesic effect of the compounded agent lasted approximately 200 minutes. No adverse effects were reported. No published journal articles about FICB since 2016 were from resource-poor settings, and only one was from a developing country.

Conclusion: This series suggests that the FICB is effective even when performed with the minimal materials that are usually available in resource-poor settings. Methods such as this, which use simplified clinical tests and techniques applicable in resource-poor settings, can assist global emergency medicine (EM). We can assist global EM by similarly finding methods to simplify useful clinical tests and techniques that can be used in resource-poor settings.

Case Report

Threatened Respiratory Compromise in the Setting of Isolated Angioedema

Isolated angioedema of the uvula, or Quincke’s disease, is a rare condition that can cause respiratory compromise. Although typically self-limiting, episodes of angioedema may require prompt therapy to prevent obstruction of the proximal airway. In this case report we review the appropriate steps for initial evaluation of patients with suspected angioedema, primary etiologies, and appropriate initial therapy.

Rib Osteomyelitis in a Pediatric Patient: A Case Report and Review of the Literature

We present a case report and review of the literature of rib osteomyelitis in a pediatric patient presenting to the emergency department (ED) with fever and increased work of breathing. The patient was seen on a return visit to the ED after discharge with presumed viral illness approximately 12 hours prior. On the second ED visit, there was concern for occult bacteremia, and work-up ultimately revealed a subperiosteal abscess with rib osteomyelitis, a rare etiology for fever in the pediatric patient. The patient was treated with antibiotics, had surgical debridement, and fully recovered.

48-year-old Man with Fevers, Chest Pain, and a History of Substance Abuse

A 48-year-old male with a history of intravenous (IV) drug use presented to the emergency department (ED) for an area of mild pain and erythema on his chest. He was then triaged to the urgent care, or fast track, area of the ED. He was well appearing with normal lab findings and vital signs, but his workup revealed mediastinitis with osteomyelitis of the manubrium and clavicles, a surgical emergency. His treatment course included IV antibiotics and operative intervention with thoracic surgery. The patient looked too good to be sick, yet he had a life-threatening infection.

Point-of-care Ultrasound Diagnosis of an Atypical Acute Aortic Dissection

Aortic dissections have a vast array of clinical presentations that rarely follow traditional teachings. Dissections are rapidly fatal conditions requiring immediate diagnosis and treatment to reduce morbidity and mortality. We present a case of an acute aortic dissection presenting as abrupt onset, atraumatic leg pain with absent distal extremity pulses. The prompt use of point-of-care ultrasound detected an intimal flap within the abdominal aorta allowing immediate surgical consultation and intervention.

Acute Hepatitis B with Pancreatitis and Cholecystitis Leading to Acute Liver Failure and Death

Acute liver failure is defined as severe acute liver injury, concurrent with encephalopathy and loss of hepatic synthetic function, in a patient without known pre-existing liver disease. Evaluation of acute liver failure in the emergency department should focus on identification of treatable causes. Acute liver failure from acute hepatitis B infection is a rare but potentially lethal occurrence. Multi-organ dysfunction from acute liver failure may be exacerbated by metabolic and inflammatory reactions associated with acute pancreatitis, which accompanies approximately 5% of cases of acute viral hepatitis. Transplant-free survival rate with liver failure from acute hepatitis B is unfortunately less than 20%.

Double Sequence Defibrillation for Out-of-hospital Cardiac Arrest: Unlikely Survival

Survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is highest with early defibrillation and immediate, high-quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) is rare in OHCA. The purpose of this discussion and case report is to highlight the use of double sequence defibrillation (DSD) for refractory ventricular fibrillation (RVF). We present a 58-year-old male with RVF who successfully achieved ROSC after 38 minutes using DSD and had a good neurological outcome. DSD has shown promise in many case reports and case series as a means of increasing ROSC and survival rates in OHCA.

Spontaneous Thrombosis of the Aortic Arch After Outpatient Urologic Procedure

A healthy, 42-year-old woman presented to a local community hospital with abdominal pain and left arm pain after laser stone ablation and ureteral stenting performed earlier that day. She was diagnosed with a spontaneous aortic thrombus and embolization of the radial, ulnar and splenic arteries and transferred to a tertiary care facility for cardiothoracic surgery evaluation. This case report discusses her emergency department course, disposition, and one-year outcome.

Pacemaker-associated Phlegmasia Cerulea Dolens Treated with Catheter-directed Thrombolysis

Phlegmasia cerulea dolens (PCD) is a rare and severe form of deep venous thrombosis that is classically associated with the lower extremities. We report a case of upper extremity PCD developing abruptly in a 37-year-old female with an indwelling cardiac pacemaker who presented to the emergency department complaining of pain and paresthesias in her left arm, adjoining left chest wall, and inferior neck. Her condition was promptly diagnosed and successfully treated with intravenous unfractionated heparin and balloon venoplasty with catheter-directed thrombolysis without any known residual signs or symptoms at hospital discharge.

Point-of-care Ultrasonography of a Rare Cause of Hemoperitoneum

A young woman presented to the emergency department with lethargy, hemodynamic instability, and diffuse abdominal tenderness. On point-of-care ultrasound (PoCUS), she was found to have intraperitoneal free fluid and a large pelvic mass, which were discovered intraoperatively to be hemoperitoneum due to ruptured vessels of a uterine leiomyoma. Although rare, a life-threatening, ruptured leiomyoma may be treated surgically if recognized in an expedient fashion. A PoCUS can aid the emergency clinician in prompt diagnosis.

FascIOtomy: Ultrasound Evaluation of an Intraosseous Needle Causing Compartment Syndrome

Intraosseous (IO) needles are used in critically ill patients when it is not possible to quickly obtain venous access. While they allow for immediate access, IO infusions are associated with complications including fractures, infections, and compartment syndrome. We present a case where point-of-care ultrasound was used to quickly identify a malfunctioning IO needle that resulted in compartment syndrome of the lower extremity.

Fungal Rhino-orbital Cerebritis in a Patient with Steroid-induced Ketoacidosis

Fungal rhino-orbital cerebritis is a devastating, opportunistic, invasive disease. Survival requires urgent diagnosis. Thus, all patients at risk who present with rhinosinusitis-type symptoms and have co-morbid conditions that decrease their immunocompetence should trigger the clinician’s consideration of this disease. Treatment includes antifungals and emergent surgical debridement.

Bulbar Muscle Weakness in the Setting of Therapeutic Botulinum Injections

We present a case of new-onset bulbar muscle weakness in the setting of therapeutic botulinum injections for spasticity in a teenaged patient with cerebral palsy. Through a careful history, a systemic effect of the local injections was suspected, and the patient’s symptoms improved with a decrease in the dosing of the botulinum injections.

Temporary Memory Steal: Transient Global Amnesia Secondary to Nephrolithiasis

Transient global amnesia (TGA) is typified by an abrupt and transient anterograde amnesia, “with repetitive questioning and often variable retrograde amnesia persisting up to 24 hours.”1,2 A 54-year-old male presented to our emergency department with paroxysms of left-sided flank pain, suggestive of renal colic. Computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen/pelvis revealed a three-millimeter left ureterovesicular-junction calculus. Pain control proved difficult, necessitating multiple doses of opioid and non-opioid analgesia. Subsequently, the patient developed repetitive questioning and perseveration with anterograde amnesia with a negative CT brain and unremarkable further workup. He experienced a complete resolution of symptoms within a 24-hour period, with a discharge diagnosis of TGA secondary to nephrolithiasis. This is the third case of TGA attributed to nephrolithiasis in the medical literature.

Acute Epiglottitis with Concurrent Pneumonia and Septic Shock in an Alcoholic Adult Patient

Historically epiglottitis has been considered a childhood disease. However, the introduction of the Haemophilus influenzae type B vaccine has decreased the incidence of epiglottitis in children. It is important to recognize modern epiglottitis as a disease of adults. This report describes a case of acute bacterial epiglottitis in an adult patient secondary to infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, a group A streptococcal infection. This case demonstrates the importance of early recognition of epiglottitis in adults, as they can experience rapid clinical decline. The progression of this disease can lead to abrupt airway obstruction necessitating emergent airway management.

Under-recognized Etiology of Altered Mental Status in a Patient with Alcoholism

Wernicke’s encephalopathy is an important condition for the emergency physician (EP) to consider in patients at risk for malnutrition. A 60-year-old man with history of alcoholism presented with word-finding difficulties, dysmetria, ataxia, and personality changes. After treatment with high-dose thiamine, his neurological status returned to his baseline. Although EPs routinely prescribe thiamine for patients with alcoholism, the common initial dose of 100 mg per day is likely subtherapeutic, and the population of patients at risk for malnutrition is much broader than only those with alcoholism, and includes those with cancer, anorexia nervosa, hyperemesis gravidarum, and others. EPs must be aware of this low-cost, readily available prophylaxis to prevent long-term neurological morbidity.

Convulsion and Atrial Fibrillation after Transforaminal Cervical Epidural Lidocaine Injection

Lidocaine has been widely used as a local anesthetic as well as an antiarrhythmic. Its use in epidural anesthesia is increasing, which has introduced new risk and potential for harm not associated with older indications. We present a case of convulsion and atrial fibrillation seen after transforaminal cervical epidural injection with two milliliters of 2% lidocaine (40 milligrams) that resolved with no long-term sequelae. Patient had a negative serum lidocaine level. With cervical epidural injections being a common treatment for radicular pain, it is important for medical providers to be aware of the various complications associated with this procedure.

Limb Ischemia in a Patient with Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic State

A 61-year-old male with a recent diagnosis of pemphigus vulgaris was brought to the emergency department for altered mental status. He had recently started taking prednisone to manage his autoimmune disease and had a progressive decline in his mental status along with decreased oral intake. Evaluation revealed hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS) and occlusive arterial thrombosis, a rare but known complication of HHS. He was resuscitated aggressively with intravenous fluids, insulin, and heparin and admitted to the intensive care unit. Emergency physicians should remain vigilant for ischemic complications in patients with HHS. Early recognition and treatment can reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with this endocrine emergency.

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