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Open Access Publications from the University of California

CPC-EM Full-Text Issue

Clinicopathological Cases from the University of Maryland

60-year-old Female with Edema

Introduction: Many patients present to the emergency department (ED) with nonspecific, acute-on-chronic complaints. It requires a thorough diagnostic approach and broad differential diagnosis to determine whether there is serious, undiagnosed pathology.

Case Presentation: A 60-year-old female presented to the ED for gradually worsening bilateral lower extremity swelling with associated abdominal distension, ascites, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss.

Discussion: This case takes the reader through the evaluation of a patient with acute-on-chronic complaints who presented in a decompensated state.

Case Series

Role of Tele-ultrasound for Teaching Ultrasound-guided Nerve Blocks in the Emergency Department: A Case Series from Peru

Introduction: Ultrasound-guided nerve blocks (UGNB) represent a procedural skill set that can be used to treat acute pain by physicians in the emergency department (ED). However, limited access to education and training represents a barrier to widespread adoption of this core skill set. The implementation of UGNBs within the ED can aid in resource allocation, particularly in limited-resource settings.

Case Series: In this case series we discuss our experience using tele-ultrasound to train emergency physicians on the use of UGNBs within our international point-of-care ultrasound fellowship in Peru. We highlight the potential role UGNBs serve in management of acute pain when working in resource-limited, public safety-net hospitals in Peru.

Conclusion: Tele-ultrasound may represent a strategy for teaching procedures such as UGNBs via remote guidance and supervision.

Case Report

Hyperaldosteronism and Renal Artery Stenosis in a Post-Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Patient: A Case Report

Introduction: Patients with history of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) undergoing surgical repair can have a myriad of surgical complications including compromise to large arteries branching from the aorta. Secondary hyperaldosteronism, characterized by high levels of aldosterone and renin, can be due to a multitude of causes, including renal artery stenosis, and presents with nonspecific symptoms of fatigue, increased thirst, and muscle spasms. While it can initially be difficult to diagnose given its multitude of metabolic abnormalities, secondary hyperaldosteronism is important to consider in patients presenting with uncontrolled hypertension, hypokalemia, and metabolic alkalosis.

Case Report: This report explores the case of a 65-year-old male with a complicated medical history presenting to the emergency department with hypokalemia and hypertension six months after undergoing endovascular repair for an AAA and was found to have metabolic abnormalities including hypokalemia and metabolic alkalosis consistent with secondary hyperaldosteronism, likely secondary to renal artery stent stenosis. He was admitted to the hospital for four days and made a full recovery.

Conclusion: This case highlights the need to understand, identify, and accurately diagnose hyperaldosteronism and recognize post-AAA repair complications of renal artery stenosis as a cause of this metabolic derangement.

Occipital Lobe Status Epilepticus, A Stroke Mimic with Novel Imaging Findings: A Case Report

Introduction: Stroke mimics are a major diagnostic challenge during the initial evaluation of patients presenting with an acute focal neurological deficit. This case reviews a patient who presented to the emergency department (ED) with homonymous hemianopsia, a rare manifestation of focal status epilepticus of the occipital lobe. Her initial brain computed axial tomographic perfusion scan and magnetic resonance imaging revealed novel findings associated with this diagnosis.

Case Report: A 70-year-old female presented to our ED with left visual field hemianopsia, dyskinesia, dysmetria, and facial droop. Her initial diagnosis was left posterior fossa circulation cerebrovascular accident. However, her neuroimaging indicated hypervascularity of the left occipital lobe without evidence of infarct or structural lesion. A cerebral angiogram excluded arteriovenous malformation. Subsequently, an electroencephalogram showed left occipital lobe status epilepticus.

Conclusion: Hemianopsia is a rare presentation of focal status epilepticus mimicking stroke. Hypervascularity seen on advanced neuroimaging may have suggested this diagnosis on initial ED evaluation.

Level I Hyperglycemia Alert: A Case Report

Introduction: Nonketotic hyperglycemia-associated chorea is a rare condition that upon presentation to the emergency department can be easily misdiagnosed as a seizure or a stroke. Although uncommon, identification of this condition can aid emergency physicians in avoiding unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments for other neurological pathology. Furthermore, prompt hyperglycemic control can result in reversal of symptoms within days.

Case Report: We present a case of nonketotic hyperglycemia-associated chorea where the patient was transferred to our facility as a hemorrhagic stroke alert, based on a false-positive interpretation of head computed tomography (CT) imaging.

Conclusion: Nonketotic hyperglycemia on CT imaging and clinical presentation can mimic stroke presentations. Prompt recognition of key features can lead to appropriate treatment.

  • 1 supplemental video

Diagnosing Pheochromocytoma in the COVID-19 Era: A Case Report

Introduction: Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas are rare neuroendocrine tumors that secrete catecholamines. Symptoms of these tumors are related directly to catecholamine excess but can be intermittent and easily misattributed to other, more common pathologies. Identification in the emergency department (ED) is inherently difficult. During the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, physicians have had to account for both the disease itself as well as associated increased prevalence of cardiac, pulmonary, and vascular complications.  Such shifting of disease prevalence arguably makes rarer diseases like pheochromocytoma less likely to be recognized.

Case Report: We report a case of pheochromocytoma in a patient who presented to the ED in the fall of 2020, at a regional height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with complaints of fatigue, tachycardia, and diaphoresis. The differential diagnosis included pulmonary embolism, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and infectious causes. A broad workup was begun that included serology, electrocardiogram, computed tomography angiogram (CTA), and COVID-19 testing. Imaging was consistent with COVID-19 infection, and laboratory testing confirmed the diagnosis. A tiny retroperitoneal tumor was reported on CTA as “incidental” in the setting of multifocal pneumonia from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection. Additional history-taking revealed many years of intermittent symptoms suggesting that the tumor may have been more contributory to the patient’s presentation than originally suspected. Subsequent magnetic resonance imaging and surgical pathology confirmed the dual diagnosis of pheochromocytoma and COVID-19 pneumonia.

Conclusion: This case presentation highlights the importance of careful history-taking, keeping a broad differential, and examining incidental findings in the context of the patient’s presentation.

Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy Following Traumatic Hand Amputation: A Case Report

Introduction: Takotsubo or stress cardiomyopathy is a syndrome of transient left ventricular systolic dysfunction seen in the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease.

Case Report: We describe a case of stress cardiomyopathy diagnosed in the emergency department (ED) using point-of-care ultrasound associated with traumatic hand amputation. The patient suffered a near-complete amputation of the right hand while using a circular saw, subsequently complicated by brief cardiac arrest with rapid return of spontaneous circulation. Point-of-care ultrasonography in the ED revealed the classic findings of takotsubo cardiomyopathy, including apical ballooning of the left ventricle and hyperkinesis of the basal walls with a severely reduced ejection fraction. After formalization of the amputation and cardiovascular evaluation, the patient was discharged from the hospital in stable condition 10 days later.

Conclusion: Emergency physicians should be aware of the possibility of stress cardiomyopathy as a cause for acute decompensation, even in isolated extremity trauma.

  • 1 supplemental video

Atypical Presentation of Traumatic Pediatric Carotid Artery Dissection: A Case Report

Introduction: Carotid artery dissection is a rare but serious condition manifesting with signs and symptoms that closely overlap with other more benign medical diagnoses. This vascular injury, however, can result in debilitating sequelae, including thromboembolic cerebrovascular accidents.

Case Report: We describe the atypical presentation of a healthy eight-year-old male who presented to the emergency department (ED) with generalized abdominal pain and non-bloody, non-bilious emesis. These symptoms occurred nine days after he sustained blunt head trauma after a non-syncopal fall from standing while playing hockey. He was initially diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease and constipation and was discharged home. The following day he developed an acute headache followed shortly by gait ataxia, prompting a return visit to the ED. Imaging of the head and neck revealed a left internal carotid artery dissection. The patient was started on intravenous unfractionated heparin and admitted to the hospital. He was later discharged symptom-free on therapeutic enoxaparin for eight weeks, followed by daily aspirin therapy.

Conclusion: Pediatric trauma patients, especially those sustaining insult to the head and cervical spine, are at risk for craniocervical arterial injuries. This rare but dangerous pathology often manifests in a non-specific, delayed fashion making it a challenging diagnosis for physicians to make on the initial medical encounter.1,2 Maintaining a high clinical suspicion for carotid artery dissection is required to make this diagnosis and should guide a thorough history, physical examination, and appropriate imaging in orderto improve patient morbidity and mortality. This case emphasizes key clinical features and risk factors of this disease that may help emergency clinicians promptly recognize and treat this entity.

Bilateral Central Retinal Vein Occlusion as a First Presentation of Multiple Myeloma: A Case Report

Introduction: Acute presentation of multiple myeloma in the emergency department (ED) is an uncommon yet life-threatening clinical entity.

Case Report: A 42-year-old male presented to the ED with severe generalized fatigue and vision changes most notable in his left eye. Bilateral central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) was diagnosed on dilated fundus exam in the ED.

Conclusion: The most common cause of CRVO in adults over age 50 is vascular disease, but in younger adults, conditions of systemic inflammation or hyperviscosity must be considered. Diagnosis of CRVO requires emergent ophthalmology consultation and further treatment with phototherapy, steroids, and potentially anti-vascular endothelial growth factor. Ultimately, patients require hematology/oncology and ongoing management of acute hyperviscosity syndrome. We present this case to increase awareness surrounding this diagnosis among emergency physicians. Multiple myeloma should be considered in young patients who present to the ED with bilateral CRVO, acute renal failure, and symptomatic anemia.

Hypotension Unresponsive to Fluid Resuscitation: A Case Report

Introduction: Iron deficiency anemia is commonly seen in the emergency department (ED), and the cause can be complex and variable.

Case Report: We present a case of a female without known medical history who presented to the ED for generalized weakness and was found to have severe anemia in the setting of chronic lice infestation.

Conclusion: Severe and chronic pediculosis can cause chronic blood loss and be an unusual and rare cause of iron deficiency anemia. In the setting of anemia and hypotension unresponsive to fluid resuscitation, consideration should be given to early packed red blood cell transfusion and subsequent investigation of causes of severe anemia.

When a Headache Is More than the Flu: A Case Report

Introduction: When influenza (flu) season arrives, it is easy for emergency department clinicians to anchor on the diagnosis of flu, sending patients on their way with or without anti-influenza medication. It is important not to miss the outlier – the patient who seems to have typical symptoms of influenza but with certain subtleties that should make one consider expanding the differential diagnosis.

Case Report: We describe an 11-year-old previously healthy male who presented with eight days of fever, myalgias, cough, congestion, and headache in the context of positive influenza exposure. The length and severity of his symptoms prompted laboratory and imaging investigation. He was positive for influenza type B with elevated inflammatory markers but otherwise normal laboratory workup and normal chest radiograph. He complained of a headache and was given fluids and antipyretics, and was admitted for overnight observation. He specifically did not have any forehead swelling. The next day during his inpatient stay he developed right frontal forehead edema and appeared ill. He was taken for a sinus computed tomography, which showed changes consistent with frontal bone osteomyelitis. Even after drainage by neurosurgery and otolaryngology, the patient subsequently developed repeat abscesses and ultimately a superior sagittal sinus thrombosis.

Conclusion: Other sources of infection should be considered in patients who have flu-like symptoms that last longer than expected, present with focality, or appear ill.

Delayed Recognition of Severe Systemic Envenomation after Copperhead Bite: A Case Report

Introduction: We report a case of severe systemic copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix, envenomation that resulted in long-term sequelae.

Case Report: A 72-year-old man presented to the emergency department after suffering a copperhead snakebite. He developed severe systemic toxicity before local tissue injury developed. Clinicians did not initially recognize his envenomation syndrome and sought alternative explanations for his systemic symptoms before polyvalent immune fab (ovine) antivenom was administered. Although the patient improved, he was discharged with new stage three chronic kidney disease.

Conclusion: Although rare, copperhead envenomation can cause severe systemic toxicity. Envenomation should be promptly treated with antivenom.

Real-time Ultrasound-Guided Manual Testicular Detorsion: A Case Report

Introduction: Acute testicular torsion is a surgical emergency due to acute testicular ischemia. Manual testicular detorsion is a testis-saving, bedside therapeutic when performed correctly and in a timely fashion. This procedure is most commonly performed blindly with pain relief as the endpoint for detorsion. However, up to one-third of patients continued to show signs of residual torsion in the operating room even using pain relief as the stopping point for the procedure.

Case Report: We present a case demonstrating the utility of color Doppler ultrasound to confirm complete manual detorsion in a 14-year-old male with acute testicular torsion. The patient underwent 360-degree detorsion and had relief of pain; however, color Doppler demonstrated incomplete return of flow to the testis. After an additional 180-degree turn was made, color Doppler demonstrated complete return of normal vascular flow to the torsed testis.

Conclusion: When it comes to testicular viability, timely restoration of blood flow to the testicle is of utmost importance. Manual detorsion is a non-invasive intervention that can be quickly and effectively performed at the bedside. Moreover, using color Doppler ultrasound guidance can ensure that physicians detorse in the proper direction and to completion, by providing instant visualization of restorative flow and ensuring reperfusion of the testis while awaiting definitive surgical management.

Images in Emergency Medicine

Nail Gun Injury of the Trachea and Spinal Cord

Introduction: A 26-year-old man was impaled by a nail after a nail gun accident. He was fully conscious with weakness and loss of sensation in the extremities. Cervical computed tomography showed a 9-centimeter long nail penetrating the spinal cord. The nail was removed surgically six hours after the incident. Neurological deficits gradually improved, and at three-month follow-up the patient had completely recovered from muscle weakness and reported only mild sensory deficits in the bilateral sole of his foot.

Discussion: This case showed a favorable neurological course, which may be attributed to the fact that the cervical spinal cord injury did not involve the corticospinal tracts and anterior horn.

Evolving Paralysis after Motor Vehicle Collision

Case Presentation: An 85-year-old male who had been prescribed prasurgel presented to the emergency department (ED) after a motor vehicle collision and developed progressive neurological deficits. Computed tomography imaging demonstrated epidural thickening from the second through seventh cervical vertebrae, and magnetic resonance imaging was notable for a cervicothoracic epidural hematoma. The patient underwent emergent decompression with a favorable outcome.

Discussion: Cases of traumatic spinal epidural hematomas are rarely seen in the ED. These are part of a small subset of operative neurological emergencies that benefit from urgent surgical intervention.

A Strange Twist

Case Presentation: A 16-year-old female presented to the emergency department with acute onset of right lower quadrant abdominal pain for several hours. The patient was afebrile and physical examination was notable for isolated tenderness in the right lower quadrant. Ultrasound and computed tomography demonstrated an adnexal cystic structure. Pelvic magnetic resonance imaging was ordered to better characterize the pathology.

Discussion: Isolated fallopian tube torsion is an uncommon entity requiring prompt surgical intervention. Recognition and appropriate management are essential.

Pediatric Cranial Dog Bite Injuries: More than Meets the Eye

Case Presentation: A six-month-old female presented to a community hospital with small lacerations to the scalp, face, and left eyelid from a dog bite injury. Computed tomography imaging revealed an impacted right frontal bone fracture and left superior orbital fracture, prompting transfer, neurosurgical repair, and infectious disease management of the injury.

Discussion: This report highlights the importance of having a high level of suspicion for deeper injury in pediatric and especially infant craniofacial dog bites, obtaining radiographic imaging, and initiating appropriate multidisciplinary triage to prevent life-threatening infection and complications.

Omental Prolapse Through Vaginal Cuff Dehiscence

Case Presentation: A 31-year-old female presented to the emergency department with abdominal pain and a 15-centimeter bloody vaginal protrusion, which resulted during an attempted bowel movement. Reduction of the mass was unsuccessful, and the patient was taken to the operating room for examination.

Discussion: In patients with a history of vaginal hysterectomy, the vaginal cuff can dehisce and abdominal contents may protrude through the vaginal canal. In this case presentation, the vaginal mass was found to be omental tissue, which could be mistaken for a prolapse of vaginal mucosa. Therefore, a proper pelvic exam is imperative, as prolapse through a cuff dehiscence can lead to severe complications.

Infant with Groin Swelling

Case Presentation: A 21-day-old female presented to the pediatric emergency department with swelling of the left groin. Physical examination revealed a soft, nontender abdomen and a two- centimeter firm and fixed mass on the left aspect of her mons pubis. Point-of-care ultrasound revealed a left inguinal hernia with incarcerated ovary.

Discussion: Inguinal hernias are common in the pediatric population. In female patients, particularly those less than one year old, inguinal hernias most frequently contain an ovary rather than bowel; so they require careful evaluation to protect future reproductive function.

Exertional Near-Syncope: Pericardial Cyst as a Cause of Left Ventricular Outflow Obstruction

Case Presentation: A 41-year-old otherwise healthy male presented to the emergency department with recurrent exertional near-syncope. He was eventually found to have a large pericardial cyst causing an outflow obstruction. After resection of the cyst by cardiothoracic surgery, he had an uneventful hospital course and was discharged seven days later with no recurrent syncopal episodes.

Discussion: We describe an otherwise healthy patient who exhibited symptomatic left ventricular outflow obstruction from a pericardial cyst. These cysts are usually benign and asymptomatic, although they can progress to cause significant morbidity or mortality. Surveillance is recommended if no hemodynamic compromise is present. Patients who are symptomatic or have hemodynamic compromise may undergo needle aspiration or thoracoscopy with resection.

Snocross “Shark-bite” Laceration

Case Presentation: A snowmobile racer fell from his sled and was run over by another, sustaining “shark bite” to his hand and leg. He was evacuated to a trackside medical trailer where the characteristic wounds were felt to require further exploration at a hospital.

Discussion: “Shark bite” is a colloquial term for lacerations sustained from metal studs attached to a snowmobile’s track. “Shark-bite” lacerations may be more prone to complications than other lacerations commonly sustained in motorsports events.

Point-of-care Ultrasound to Distinguish Retinal Detachment and Ruptured Arterial Microaneurysm

Case presentation: We present the case of an older male with point-of-care-ultrasound (POCUS) imaging consistent with retinal detachment who was instead found by ophthalmology to have a ruptured arterial microaneurysm with vitreous and preretinal hemorrhage. The patient later had complete resolution of his symptoms. We discuss this retinal detachment “mimic.”

Discussion: Preretinal hemorrhage is an uncommon condition that can be mistaken for ophthalmologic emergencies such as retinal detachment. The images and videos shown here add to the body of evidence that POCUS is useful in diagnosing pre-retinal hemorrhage but must be differ-entiated from retinal detachment. These images also emphasize the need for further research and application of POCUS for the identification of preretinal hemorrhage.

  • 1 supplemental video