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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Case Series

Occipital Nerve Blocks in the Emergency Department for Initial Medication-Refractory Acute Occipital Migraines

Migraines are consistently among the top 20 primary coded diagnoses in emergency departments, constituting 4.5% of all chief complaints. In a significant subset of these, pain arises from the occipital region innervated by the greater (GON) and lesser occipital nerve. In this case series, we present three patients with occipital migraines who received GON blockade with 1% lidocaine. The blockade was performed only after first-line treatment with metoclopramide and possibly additional medications as ordered by triage physician, failed to adequately alleviate pain by 40 minutes after medication administration. Patients were contacted a minimum of seven days following treatment. All three patients experienced significant analgesia and relief of symptoms within 15 minutes of blockade and sustained relief through a seven-day follow-up period.

  • 1 supplemental video

Case Report

Point-of-Care Ultrasound Diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism with Thrombus in Transit

A 95-year-old female with a history of dementia and atrial fibrillation (not on anticoagulation) presented to the emergency department (ED) by ambulance from her skilled nursing facility due to hypoxia. Point-of-care ultrasound was performed, and showed evidence of a large mobile thrombus in the right ventricle on apical four-chamber view. Further evidence of associated right heart strain was seen on the corresponding parasternal short-axis view. These ultrasound findings in combination with the patient’s clinical presentation are diagnostic of acute pulmonary embolism with right heart strain. Point-of-care transthoracic cardiac ultrasound in the ED is an effective tool to promptly diagnose acute pulmonary embolism with right heart strain and thrombus in transit and guide further treatment.

  • 1 supplemental video

Early Identification of Central Retinal Artery Occlusion Using Point-of-care Ultrasound

A 69-year-old woman with a history of untreated hypertension presented with acute-onset monocular vision loss. Initial workup was delayed due to lack of immediate specialty consultation and dilated funduscopic exam. Point-of-care ultrasound in the emergency department identified a small hyperechoic structure within the distal area of the central retinal artery; in conjunction with specialty ophthalmologic evaluation in a tertiary care center, the diagnosis of central retinal artery occlusion was made. The patient was admitted to the neurology service for stroke risk stratification and was discharged in stable condition with re-initiation of her antihypertensive medication regimen.

Emergent Treatment of Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome Induced by Antipsychotic Monotherapy Using Dantrolene

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is a rare but potentially fatal complication resulting from neuroleptic drug therapy. Presentation of NMS can vary, and diagnosis relies primarily upon medical history and symptomatology. Due to the potential delay in diagnosis, emergency physicians should remain vigilant in recognizing the symptoms of NMS and be prepared to initiate immediate treatment following diagnosis. Dantrolene, which has been used for spasticity and malignant hyperthermia, has been reported as a potential treatment for NMS and led to off-label use for NMS. We report two cases of NMS induced by antipsychotic monotherapy for which dantrolene was administered.

Kratom (Mitragynine) Ingestion Requiring Naloxone Reversal

Kratom (mitragynine) is a naturally occurring opioid agonist whose use has been escalating. Its suppliers advertise it as a safe alternative for opioids and a safe treatment for opioid-withdrawal symptoms. There has been controversy in the past two years regarding the legal status and lack of regulation surrounding kratom. Currently, kratom is legal and unregulated, leaving users at risk from unpredictable potencies and effects. We present the first case of successful naloxone reversal of opioid toxidrome from recreationally used kratom. We advocate further research and regulation to ensure standardized dosing to protect patients.

A Single-session Crisis Intervention Therapy Model for Emergency Psychiatry

Presentations for anxiety and depression constitute the fastest growing category of mental health diagnoses seen in emergency departments (EDs). Even non-psychiatric clinicians must be prepared to provide psychotherapeutic interventions for these patients, just as they might provide motivational interviewing for a patient with substance use disorders. This case report of an 18-year-old woman with suicidal ideation illustrates the practicality and utility of a brief, single-session, crisis intervention model that facilitated discharge from the ED. This report will help practitioners to apply this model in their own practice and identify patients who may require psychiatric hospitalization.

  • 1 supplemental file

Late Presentation of Transfusion-related Acute Lung Injury in the Emergency Department

Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) is a complication of blood product transfusion characterized by respiratory distress with bilateral lung infiltrates and non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema developing within six hours of transfusion. TRALI is believed to result from an immunological response to transfused blood products. TRALI is a clinical diagnosis that requires the exclusion of other etiologies of pulmonary edema and acute lung injury. Here we report a case of a female who presented to the emergency department in acute respiratory distress two days after receiving a transfusion of packed red blood cells for post-operative anemia following a hysterectomy.

Point-of-care Ultrasound Diagnosis of Tennis Leg

A 38-year-old male presented with left calf pain after a fall while skiing. Physical examination revealed tenderness over the gastrocnemius with a palpable mass and pain with resisted plantar flexion. Point-of care-ultrasound (POCUS) of the gastrocnemius was consistent with a muscle rupture, and we made a diagnosis of tennis leg. The patient was instructed to rest for two weeks, followed by a home rehabilitation program, and he was able to return to his normal activities. Here we present a case of tennis leg quickly and accurately diagnosed with POCUS, negating the need for additional advanced imaging.

No Sweat! Bilateral Shoulder Reduction Using a Modified Davos Technique

Shoulder dislocations are a common entity seen and treated in the everyday practice of emergency physicians. Bilateral simultaneous shoulder dislocations, however, are rare and are only described in the literature through case reports with no consensus about how to effectively and efficiently reduce them. We present a case of a 21-year-old male who sustained bilateral simultaneous anterior shoulder dislocations after a suspected seizure. Following confirmation with radiographs, the patient’s dislocations were reduced successfully and in a timely manner using a novel method: the modified Davos technique.

Abdominal Cerebrospinal Fluid Pseudocyst Diagnosed with Point-of-care Ultrasound

Abdominal pseudocysts are rare complications of ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunts characterized by accumulations of cerebrospinal fluid surrounded by fibrous layers in the intra-abdominal cavity or abdominal wall. We present a woman with bilateral VP shunts who presented with right-sided abdominal distension, pain, and tenderness and who was found to have an abdominal pseudocyst on point-of-care ultrasound and computed tomography. Given the potential to develop a secondary infection or VP shunt malfunction, it is important for emergency providers to consider intra-abdominal complications of VP shunts, including rare ones such as abdominal pseudocysts, in these patients who present with vague abdominal complaints.

  • 1 supplemental video

The Use of Emergency Department Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Treatment of Acute Necrotizing Myocarditis

We report a case of acute necrotizing eosinophilic myocarditis (ANEM) secondary to drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) related to administration of minocycline. Myocarditis is a rare complication of DRESS and can manifest as either a self-limited hypersensitivity myocarditis or as the frequently fatal ANEM. Due to the high morbidity and mortality caused by this disease, emergency physicians should be aware of the potential of ANEM in patients with history of DRESS and new-onset cardiac dysfunction. This case reviews the clinical presentation and management of ANEM and the potential role of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation use in the emergency department. 

Ruptured Ectopic Pregnancy in the Presence of an Intrauterine Device

Ruptured ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of first trimester maternal mortality. The diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy should always be suspected in patients with abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding or syncope. While the use of an intrauterine device (IUD) markedly reduces the incidence of intrauterine pregnancy, it does not confer equal protection from the risk of ectopic pregnancy. In this report we discuss the case of a female patient who presented with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and hemoperitoneum despite a correctly positioned IUD.

The Quick and Dirty: A Tetanus Case Report

Tetanus is an increasingly rare diagnosis in the post-vaccination era, although it continues to have significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. In the United States (U.S.), the incidence of tetanus has declined dramatically due to the widespread use of the vaccine. High-risk populations for tetanus in the U.S. include the elderly, diabetics, injection drug users, and unvaccinated individuals. This is a report of a 78-year-old male with an incomplete immunization history who presented to an emergency department with jaw pain and who was ultimately diagnosed with tetanus. This report highlights the importance of prompt diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of tetanus.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Presenting Solely as Low Back Pain

A 23-year-old man with acute lymphoblastic leukemia presented to the emergency department without any history of constitutional symptoms (fatigue, anorexia, or weight loss), dyspnea, bruising, or bleeding. Presentation of acute leukemia solely as musculoskeletal pathology is common in pediatric populations but rare among adult patients. Recognizing this presentation of acute leukemia in adult patients could help prevent delayed diagnoses.

Ruptured Tubal Ectopic Pregnancy at Fifteen Weeks Gestational Age

Tubal ectopic pregnancies are commonly diagnosed during the first trimester. Here we present a second-trimester tubal ectopic pregnancy that was previously misdiagnosed as an intrauterine pregnancy on a first-trimester ultrasound. A 39-year-old gravida 1 para 0 woman at 15 weeks gestation presented with 10 days of progressive, severe abdominal pain, along with vaginal bleeding and intermittent vomiting for two months. She was ultimately found to have a ruptured left tubal ectopic pregnancy. Second-trimester ectopic pregnancies carry a significant maternal mortality risk. Even with the use of ultrasound, they are difficult to diagnose and present unique diagnostic challenges.

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