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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 15, Issue 3, 2014

Technology in Emergency Care

USEFUL: Ultrasound Exam for Underlying Lesions Incorporated into Physical Exam

Introduction: The Ultrasound Screening Exam for Underlying Lesions (USEFUL) was developed in an attempt to establish a role for bedside ultrasound in the primary and preventive care setting. It is the purpose of our pilot study to determine if students were first capable of performing all of the various scans required of our USEFUL while defining such an ultrasound-assisted physical exam that would supplement the standard hands-on physical exam in the same head-to-toe structure. We also aimed to assess the time needed for an adequate exam and analyze if times improved with repetition and previous ultrasound training.Methods: Medical students with ranging levels of ultrasound training received a 25-minute presentation on our USEFUL followed by a 30-minute hands-on session. Following the hands-on session, the students were asked to perform a timed USEFUL on 2-3 standardized subjects. All images were documented as normal or abnormal with the understanding that an official detailed exam would be performed if an abnormality were to be found. All images were read and deemed adequate by board eligible emergency medicine ultrasound fellows.Results: Twenty-six exams were performed by nine students. The average time spent by all students per USEFUL was 11 minutes and 19 seconds. Students who had received the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine’s integrated ultrasound curriculum performed the USEFUL significantly faster (p < 0.0025). The time it took to complete the USEFUL ranged from 6 minutes and 32 seconds to 17 minutes, and improvement was seen with each USEFUL performed. The average time to complete the USEFUL on the first standardized patient was 13 minutes and 20 seconds, while 11 minutes and 2 seconds, and 9 minutes and 20 seconds were spent performing the exam on the second and third patient, respectively.Conclusion: Students were able to effectively complete all scans required by the USEFUL in a timely manner. Students who have been a part of the integrated ultrasound in medicine curriculum performed the USEFUL significantly faster than students who had not. Students were able to significantly improve upon the time it took them to complete the USEFUL with successive attempts. Future endpoints are aimed at assessing the feasibility and outcomes of an ultrasound-assisted physical exam in a primary care setting and the exam’s effect on doctor-patient satisfaction. [West J Emerg Med.2014;15(3):260–266.]

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Emergency Department Operations

Does Prolonged Length of Stay in the Emergency Department Affect Outcome for Stroke Patients?

Introduction: Conflicting data exist regarding the association between the length of stay (LOS) of critically ill patients in the emergency department (ED) and their subsequent outcome. However, such patients are an overall heterogeneous group, and we therefore sought to study the association between EDLOS and outcomes in a specific subgroup of critically ill patients, namely those with acute ischemic stroke/transient ischemic attack (AIS/TIA).

Methods: This was a retrospective review of adult patients with a discharge diagnosis of AIS/TIA presenting to an ED between July 2009 and February 2010. We collected demographics, EDLOS, arrival stroke severity (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale - NIHSS), intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA) use, functional outcome at discharge, discharge destination and hospital-LOS. We analyzed relationship between EDLOS, outcomes and discharge destination aftercontrolling for confounders.

Results: 190 patients were included in the cohort. Median EDLOS was 332 minutes (Inter-Quartile Range -IQR: 250.3–557.8). There was a significant inverse linear association between EDLOS and hospital-LOS (p¼0.049). Patients who received IV tPA had a shorter median EDLOS (238 minutes, IQR: 194–299) than patients who did not (median: 387 minutes, IQR: 285–588 minutes; p,0.0001). There was no significant association between EDLOS and poor outcome (p¼0.40), discharge destination (p¼0.20), or death (p¼0.44). This remained true even after controlling for IV tPA use, NIHSS and hospital-LOS; and did not change even when analysis was restricted to AIS patients alone.

Conclusion: There was no significant association between prolonged EDLOS and outcome for AIS/ TIA patients at our institution. We therefore suggest that EDLOS alone is an insufficient indicator of stroke care in the ED, and that the ED can provide appropriate acute care for AIS/TIA patients. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):267–275.]

Follow Up for Emergency Department Patients After Intravenous Contrast and Risk of Nephropathy

Introduction: Contrast-induced nephropathy (CIN), defined as an increase in serum creatinine (SCr) greater than 25% or ≥0.5 mg/dL within 3 days of intravenous (IV) contrast administration in the absence of an alternative cause, is the third most common cause of new acute renal failure in hospitalized patients. It is known to increase in-hospital mortality up to 27%. The purpose of this study was to investigate the rate of outpatient follow up and the occurrence of CIN in patients who presented to the emergency department (ED) and were discharged home after computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen and pelvis (AP) with IV contrast.

Methods: We conducted a single center retrospective review of charts for patients who required CT of AP with IV contrast and who were discharged home. Patients’ clinical data included the presence of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and congestive heart failure (CHF).

Results: Five hundred and thirty six patients underwent CT of AP with IV contrast in 2011 and were discharged home. Diabetes mellitus was documented in 96 patients (18%). Hypertension was present in 141 patients (26.3%), and 82 patients (15.3%) were on angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (ACEI). Five patients (0.9%) had documented CHF and all of them were taking furosemide. Seventy patients (13%) had a baseline SCr >1.2 mg/dL. One hundred fifty patients (28%) followed up in one of the clinics or the ED within one week after discharge, but only 40 patients (7.5%) had laboratory workup. Out of 40 patients who followed up within 1 week after discharge, 9 patients (22.5%) developed CIN. One hundred ninety patients (35.4%) followed up in one of the clinics or the ED after 7 days and within 1 month after discharge, but only 71 patients (13.2%) had laboratory workup completed. Out of 71 patients who followed up within 1 month, 11 patients (15%) developed CIN. The overall incidence of CIN was 15.3% (17 out of 111 patients).

Conclusion: There was a poor outpatient follow up after CT of AP with IV contrast and biochemically CIN appears to be present in some patients. Unlike previous reports that CKD is the major risk factor for CIN, our results demonstrated that risk factors such as advanced age, DM and hypertension seem to predispose patients to CIN rather than abnormal baseline SCr. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):276–281.]

Skin Infections and Antibiotic Stewardship: Analysis of Emergency Department Prescribing Practices, 2007-2010

Introduction: National guidelines suggest that most skin abscesses do not require antibiotics, and that cellulitis antibiotics should target streptococci, not community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA). The objective of this study is to describe antimicrobial treatment of skin infections in U.S. emergency departments (EDs) and analyze potential quality measures.

Methods: The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) is a 4-stage probability sample of all non-federal U.S. ED visits. In 2007 NHAMCS started recording whether incision and drainage was performed at ED visits. We conducted a retrospective analysis, pooling 2007-2010 data, identified skin infections using diagnostic codes, and identified abscesses by performance of incision and drainage. We generated national estimates and 95% confidence intervals using weighted analyses; quantified frequencies and proportions; and evaluated antibiotic prescribing practices. We evaluated 4 parameters that might serve as quality measures of antibiotic stewardship, and present 2 of them as potentially robust enough for implementation.

Results: Of all ED visits, 3.2% (95% confidence interval 3.1-3.4%) were for skin infection, and 2.7% (2.6-2.9%) were first visits for skin infection, with no increase over time (p=0.80). However, anti-CA-MRSA antibiotic use increased, from 61% (56-66%) to 74% (71-78%) of antibiotic regimens (p<0.001). Twenty-two percent of visits were for abscess, with a non-significant increase (p=0.06). Potential quality measures: Among discharged abscess patients, 87% were prescribed antibiotics (84-90%, overuse). Among antibiotic regimens for abscess patients, 84% included anti-CA-MRSA agents (81-89%, underuse).

Conclusion: From 2007-2010, use of anti-CA-MRSA agents for skin infections increased significantly, despite stable visit frequencies. Antibiotics were over-used for discharged abscess cases, and CA-MRSA-active antibiotics were underused among regimens when antibiotics were used for abscess. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):282–289.]


Survey of Publications and the H-index in Academic Emergency Medicine Professors

Introduction: The number of publications and how often these have been cited play a role in academic promotion. Bibliometrics that attempt to quantify the relative impact of scholarly work have been proposed. The h-index is defined as the number (h) of publications for an individual that have been cited at least h times. We calculated the h-index and number of publications for academic emergency physicians at the rank of professor.Methods: We accessed the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine professor list in January of 2012. We calculated the number of publications through Web of Science and PubMed and the h-index using Google scholar and Web of Science. Results: We identified 299 professors of emergency medicine. The number of professors per institution ranged from 1 to 13. Median h-index in Web of Science was 11 (interquartile range [IQR] 6-17, range 0-51), in Google Scholar median h-index was 14 (IQR 9-22, range 0-63) The median number of publications reported in Web of Science was 36 (IQR 18-73, range 0-359. Total number of publications had a high correlation with the h-index (r=0.884). Conclusion: The h-index is only a partial measure of academic productivity. As a measure of the impact of an individual’s publications it can provide a simple way to compare and measure academic progress and provide a metric that can be used when evaluating a person for academic promotion. Calculation of the h-index can provide a way to track academic progress and impact. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):290–292.]

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Study of Medical Students’ Malpractice Fear and Defensive Medicine: A “Hidden Curriculum?”

Introduction: Defensive medicine is a medical practice in which health care providers’ primary intent is to avoid criticism and lawsuits, rather than providing for patients’ medical needs. The purpose of this study was to characterize medical students’ exposure to defensive medicine during medical school rotations. Methods: We performed a cross- sectional survey study of medical students at the beginning of their third year. We gave students Likert scale questionnaires, and their responses were tabulated as a percent with 95% confidence interval (CI).Results: Of the 124 eligible third-year students,102 (82%) responded. Most stated they rarely worried about being sued (85.3% [95% CI=77.1% to 90.9%]). A majority felt that faculty were concerned about malpractice (55.9% [95% CI=46.2% to 65.1%]), and a smaller percentage stated that faculty taught defensive medicine (32.4% [95% CI=24.1% to 41.9%]). Many students believed their satisfaction would be decreased by MC and lawsuits (51.0% [95% CI=41.4% to 60.5%]). Some believed their choice of medical specialty would be influenced by MC (21.6% [95% CI=14.7% to 30.5%]), and a modest number felt their enjoyment of learning medicine was lessened by MC (23.5% [95% CI=16.4% to 32.6%]). Finally, a minority of students worried about practicing and learning procedures because of MC (16.7% [95% CI=10.7% to 25.1%]).Conclusion: Although third- year medical students have little concern about being sued, they are exposed to malpractice concerns and taught considerable defensive medicine from faculty. Most students believe that fear of lawsuits will decrease their future enjoyment of medicine. However, less than a quarter of students felt their specialty choice would be influenced by malpractice worries and that malpractice concerns lessened their enjoyment of learning medicine. [West J Emerg Med.2014;15(3):293–298.]

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Scholar Quest: A Residency Research Program Aligned With Faculty Goals

Introduction: The ACGME requires that residents perform scholarly activities prior to graduation, but this is difficult to complete and challenging to support. We describe a residency research program, taking advantage of environmental change aligning resident and faculty goals, to become a contributor to departmental cultural change and research development.

Methods: A research program, Scholar Quest (SQ), was developed as a part of an Information Mastery program. The goal of SQ is for residents to gain understanding of scholarly activity through a mentor-directed experience in original research. This curriculum is facilitated by providing residents protected time for didactics, seed grants and statistical/staff support. We evaluated total scholarly activity and resident/faculty involvement before and after implementation (PRE-SQ; 2003-2005 and POST-SQ; 2007-2009).

Results: Scholarly activity was greater POST-SQ versus PRE-SQ (123 versus 27) (p<0.05) with an incidence rate ratio (IRR)=2.35. Resident and faculty involvement in scholarly activity also increased PRE-SQ to POST-SQ (22 to 98 residents; 10 to 39 faculty, p<0.05) with an IRR=2.87 and 2.69, respectively.

Conclusion: Implementation of a program using department environmental change promoting a resident longitudinal research curriculum yielded increased resident and faculty scholarly involvement, as well as an increase in total scholarly activity. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):299–305.]

Experience with Emergency Ultrasound Training by Canadian Emergency Medicine Residents

Introduction: Starting in 2008, emergency ultrasound (EUS) was introduced as a core competency to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College) emergency medicine (EM) training standards. The Royal College accredits postgraduate EM specialty training in Canada through 5-year residency programs. The objective of this study is to describe both the current experience with and the perceptions of EUS by Canadian Royal College EM senior residents.

Methods: This was a web-based survey conducted from January to March 2011 of all 39 Canadian Royal College postgraduate fifth-year (PGY-5) EM residents. Main outcome measures were characteristics of EUS training and perceptions of EUS.

Results: Survey response rate was 95% (37/39). EUS was part of the formal residency curriculum for 86% of respondents (32/37). Residents most commonly received training in focused assessment with sonography for trauma, intrauterine pregnancy, abdominal aortic aneurysm, cardiac, and procedural guidance. Although the most commonly provided instructional material (86% [32/37]) was an ultrasound course, 73% (27/37) of residents used educational resources outside of residency training to supplement their ultrasound knowledge. Most residents (95% [35/37]) made clinical decisions and patient dispositions based on their EUS interpretation without a consultative study by radiology. Residents had very favorable perceptions and opinions of EUS.

Conclusion: EUS training in Royal College EM programs was prevalent and perceived favorably by residents, but there was heterogeneity in resident training and practice of EUS. This suggests variability in both the level and quality of EUS training in Canadian Royal College EM residency programs. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):306–311.]

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Ethical and Legal Issues

Informed Consent Documentation for Lumbar Puncture in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Informed consent is a required process for procedures performed in the emergency department (ED), though it is not clear how often or adequately it is obtained by emergency physicians.Incomplete performance and documentation of informed consent can lead to patient complaints,medico-legal risk, and inadequate education for the patient/guardian about the procedure. Weundertook this study to quantify the incidence of informed consent documentation in the ED setting forlumbar puncture (LP) and to compare rates between pediatric (,18 years) and adult patients.

Methods: In this retrospective cohort study, we reviewed the ED electronic health records (EHR) for allpatients who underwent successful LPs in 3 EDs between April 2010 and June 2012. Specific elementsof informed consent documentation were reviewed. These elements included the presence of generalED and LP-specific consent forms, signatures of patient/guardian, witness, and physician,documentation of purpose, risks, benefits, alternatives, and explanation of the LP. We also reviewedthe use of educational material about the LP and LP-specific discharge information.

Results: Our cohort included 937 patients; 179 (19.1%) were pediatric. A signed general ED consent form was present in the EHR for 809 (86%) patients. A consent form for the LP was present for 524 (56%) patients, with signatures from 519 (99%) patients/guardians, 327 (62%) witnesses, and 349 (67%) physicians. Documentation rates in the EHR were as follows: purpose (698; 74%), risks (742; 79%), benefits (605; 65%), alternatives (635; 68%), and explanation for the LP (57; 6%). Educational material about the LP was not documented as having been given to any of the patients and LP-specific discharge information was documented as given to 21 (2%) patients. No significant differences were observed in the documentation of informed consent elements between pediatric and adult patients.

Conclusion: General ED consent was obtained in the vast majority of patients, but use of a specific LP consent form and documentation of the elements of informed consent for LP in the ED were suboptimal, though comparable between pediatric and adult patients. There is significant opportunity for improvement in many aspects of documenting informed consent for LP in the ED. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):318–324.]

Healthcare Utilization

Depression Is Associated with Repeat Emergency Department Visits in Patients with Non-specific Abdominal Pain

Introduction: Patients with abdominal pain often return multiple times despite no definitive diagnosis. Our objective was to determine if repeat emergency department (ED) use among patients with non-specific abdominal pain might be associated with a diagnosis of moderate to severe depressive disorder.

Methods: We screened 987 ED patients for major depression during weekday daytime hours from June 2011 through November 2011 using a validated depression screening tool, the PHQ-9. Each subject was classified as either no depression, mild depression or moderate/ severe depression based on the screening tool. Within this group, we identified 83 patients with non-specific abdominal pain by either primary or secondary diagnosis. Comparing depressed patients versus non-depressed patients, we analyzed demographic characteristics and number of prior ED visits in the past year.

Results: In patients with non-specific abdominal pain, 61.9% of patients with moderate or severe depression (PHQ9≥10) had at least one visit to our ED for the same complaint within a 365-day period, as compared to 29.2% of patients with no depression (PHQ9<5), (p=0.013).

Conclusion: Repeat ED use among patients with non-specific abdominal pain is associated with moderate to severe depressive disorder. Patients with multiple visits for abdominal pain may benefit from targeted ED screening for depression. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):325–328.]

Critical Care

Epidemiology of the Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Consensus guidelines recommend sepsis screening for adults with systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), but the epidemiology of SIRS among adult emergency department (ED) patients is poorly understood. Recent emphasis on cost-effective, outcomes-based healthcare prompts the evaluation of the performance of large-scale efforts such as sepsis screening. We studied a nationally representative sample to clarify the epidemiology of SIRS in the ED and subsequent category of illness.Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of ED visits by adults from 2007 to 2010 in the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS). We estimated the incidence of SIRS using initial ED vital signs and a Bayesian construct to estimate white blood cell count based on test ordering. We report estimates with Bayesian modified credible intervals (mCIs).Results: We used 103,701 raw patient encounters in NHAMCS to estimate 372,844,465 ED visits over the 4-year period. The moderate estimate of SIRS in the ED was 17.8% (95% mCI: 9.7 to 26%). This yields a national moderate estimate of approximately 16.6 million adult ED visits with SIRS per year. Adults with and without SIRS had similar demographic characteristics, but those with SIRS were more likely to be categorized as emergent in triage (17.7% versus 9.9%, p<0.001), stay longer in the ED (210 minutes versus 153 minutes, p<0.0001), and were more likely to be admitted (31.5% versus 12.5%, P<0.0001). Infection accounted for only 26% of SIRS patients. Traumatic causes of SIRS comprised 10% of presentations; other traditional categories of SIRS were rare.Conclusion: SIRS is very common in the ED. Infectious etiologies make up only a quarter of adult SIRS cases. SIRS may be more useful if modified by clinician judgment when used as a screening test in the rapid identification and assessment of patients with the potential for sepsis. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):329–336.]

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Injury Prevention and Population Health

Readiness to Change and Reasons for Intended Reduction of Alcohol Consumption in Emergency Department versus Trauma Population

Introduction: The primary objective was to identify the most common reasons for intending to cut back on alcohol use, in emergency department (ED) and trauma patient populations. The secondary objective was to determine the association between reason to cut back on alcohol and education level.

Methods: We conducted the study at a level one trauma center in California between 2008 and 2012. This was a retrospective analysis of data collected from computerized alcohol screening and intervention (CASI). We excluded patients who drank too little, and those whose scores were consistent with dependency (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test [AUDIT]>19). The CASI database includes the patient’s age, gender, language, education level, an AUDIT score (1-40 scale), a readiness to change score (1-10), and the option to choose any of 10 “reasons to cut back” on their alcohol consumption.

Results: From 10,537 patients, 1,202 met criteria for the study (848 ED, 354 trauma). Overall, the most common reasons cited for cutting back on alcohol were “To avoid health problems” (68.5%), “To avoid getting a DUI” (43.6%), “It could save me money” (42.0%), and “To avoid situations where I could get hurt” (41.0%). Trauma patients cited the following reasons significantly more than ED patients: “To avoid situations where I could get hurt” (46.3% versus 38.8%, respectively), “So I can be in control of my behavior” (40.7% versus 32.2%), and “My partner or spouse wants me to stop” (20.1% versus 15.0%). Additionally, those patients who cited “To avoid health problems” reported 1.2 points higher than average (p<0.001) on the 10-point readiness to change scale. Those who have completed some college or an associate degree cited “To avoid health problems” less often than high school graduates (odds ratio [OR] 0.45), while they cited “To avoid situations where I could get hurt” (OR 2.5) and “To avoid being in a car crash caused by alcohol use” (OR 3.8) more often than high school graduates.

Conclusion: Health, injury, finances, and legal issues remain top concerns for patients, while trauma patients specifically had proportionately more concerns with situations where they could get hurt. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):337–344.]