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Volume 16, Issue 1, 2015
Ethical and Legal Issues
Introduction: New medical technology brings the potential of lawsuits related to the usage of that new technology. In recent years the use of point-of-care (POC) ultrasound has increased rapidly in the emergency department (ED). POC ultrasound creates potential legal risk to an emergency physician (EP) either using or not using this tool. The aim of this study was to quantify and characterize reported decisions in lawsuits related to EPs performing POC ultrasound.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of all United States reported state and federal cases in the Westlaw database. We assessed the full text of reported cases between January 2008 and December 2012. EPs with emergency ultrasound fellowship training reviewed the full text of each case. Cases were included if an EP was named, the patient encounter was in the emergency department, the interpretation or failure to perform an ultrasound was a central issue and the application was within the American College of Emergency Physician (ACEP) ultrasound core applications. In order to assess deferred risk, cases that involved ultrasound examinations that could have been performed by an EP but were deferred to radiology were included.
Results: We identified five cases. All reported decisions alleged a failure to perform an ultrasound study or a failure to perform it in a timely manner. All studies were within the scope of emergency medicine and were ACEP emergency ultrasound core applications. A majority of cases (n=4) resulted in a patient death. There were no reported cases of failure to interpret or misdiagnoses.
Conclusion: In a five-year period from January 2008 through December 2012, five malpractice cases involving EPs and ultrasound examinations that are ACEP core emergency ultrasound applications were documented in the Westlaw database. All cases were related to failure to perform an ultrasound study or failure to perform a study in a timely manner and none involved failure to interpret or misdiagnosis when using of POC ultrasound. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome in the Emergency Department: Case Series and Literature Review
Introduction: Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome (PRES) often has variable presentations and causes, with common radiographic features—namely posterior white matter changes on magnetic resonance (MRI). As MRI becomes a more frequently utilized imaging modality in the Emergency Department, PRES will become an entity that the Emergency Physician must be aware of and be able to diagnose.
Case Report: We report three cases of PRES, all of which presented to the emergency department of a single academic medical center over a short period of time, including a 53-year-old woman with only relative hypertension, a 69-year-old woman who ultimately died, and a 46-year-old woman who had a subsequent intraparenchymal hemorrhage.
Conclusion: PRES is likely much more common than previously thought and is a diagnosis that should be considered in a wide variety of emergency department patient presentations. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Historically, most patients who required parenteral anticoagulation received heparin, whereas those patients requiring oral anticoagulation received warfarin. Due to the narrow therapeutic index and need for frequent laboratory monitoring associated with warfarin, there has been a desire to develop newer, more effective anticoagulants. Consequently, in recent years many novel anticoagulants have been developed.
The emergency physician may institute anticoagulation therapy in the short term (e.g. heparin) for a patient being admitted, or may start a novel anticoagulation for a patient being discharged. Similarly, a patient on a novel anticoagulant may present to the emergency department due to a hemorrhagic complication. Consequently, the emergency physician should be familiar with the newer and older anticoagulants. This review emphasizes the indication, mechanism of action, adverse effects, and potential reversal strategies for various anticoagulants that the emergency physician will likely encounter. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Population Health Research Design
Introduction: Tablet computer-based screening may have the potential for detecting patients at risk for opioid abuse in the emergency department (ED). Study objectives were a) to determine if the revised Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain (SOAPP®-R), a 24-question previously paper-based screening tool for opioid abuse potential, could be administered on a tablet computer to an ED patient population; b) to demonstrate that >90% of patients can complete the electronic screener without assistance in <5 minutes and; c) to determine patient ease of use with screening on a tablet computer.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional convenience sample study of patients seen in an urban academic ED. SOAPP®-R was programmed on a tablet computer by study investigators. Inclusion criteria were patients ages ≥18 years who were being considered for discharge with a prescription for an opioid analgesic. Exclusion criteria included inability to understand English or physical disability preventing use of the tablet.
Results: 93 patients were approached for inclusion and 82 (88%) provided consent. Fifty-two percent (n=43) of subjects were male; 46% (n=38) of subjects were between 18-35 years, and 54% (n=44) were >35 years. One hundred percent of subjects completed the screener. Median time to completion was 148 (interquartile range 117.5-184.3) seconds, and 95% (n=78) completed in <5 minutes. 93% (n=76) rated ease of completion as very easy.
Conclusions: It is feasible to administer a screening tool to a cohort of ED patients on a tablet computer. The screener administration time is minimal and patient ease of use with this modality is high. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Introduction: Several studies have attempted to demonstrate that the Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) risk score has the ability to risk stratify emergency department (ED) patients with potential acute coronary syndromes (ACS). Most of the studies we reviewed relied on trained research investigators to determine TIMI risk scores rather than ED providers functioning in their normal work capacity. We assessed whether TIMI risk scores obtained by ED providers in the setting of a busy ED differed from those obtained by trained research investigators.
Methods: This was an ED-based prospective observational cohort study comparing TIMI scores obtained by 49 ED providers admitting patients to an ED chest pain unit (CPU) to scores generated by a team of trained research investigators. We examined provider type, patient gender, and TIMI elements for their effects on TIMI risk score discrepancy.
Results: Of the 501 adult patients enrolled in the study, 29.3% of TIMI risk scores determined by ED providers and trained research investigators were generated using identical TIMI risk score variables. In our low-risk population the majority of TIMI risk score differences were small; however, 12% of TIMI risk scores differed by two or more points.
Conclusion: TIMI risk scores determined by ED providers in the setting of a busy ED frequently differ from scores generated by trained research investigators who complete them while not under the same pressure of an ED provider. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Emergency Department Operations
Introduction: Mandated patient surveys have become an integral part of Medicare remuneration, putting hundreds of millions of dollars in funding at risk. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced a patient experience survey for the emergency department (ED). Development of an ED Fast Track, where lower acuity patients are rapidly seen, has been shown to improve many of the metrics that CMS examines. This is the first study examining if ED Fast Track implementation affects Press-Ganey scores of patient satisfaction.
Methods: We analyzed returned Press-Ganey questionnaires from all ESI 4 and 5 patients seen 11AM - 11PM, August-December 2011 (pre-fast track), and during the identical hours of fast track, August-December 2012. Raw ordinal scores were converted to continuous scores for paired student t-test analysis. We calculated an odds ratio with 100% satisfaction considered a positive response.
Results: An academic ED with 52,000 annual visits had 140 pre-fast track and 85 fast track respondents. Implementation of a fast track significantly increased patient satisfaction with the following: wait times (68% satisfaction to 88%, OR 4.13, 95% CI [2.32-7.33]), doctor courtesy (90% to 95%, OR 1.97, 95% CI [1.04-3.73]), nurse courtesy (87% to 95%, OR 2.75, 95% CI [1.46-5.15]), pain control (79% to 87%, OR 2.13, 95% CI [1.16-3.92]), likelihood to recommend (81% to 90%, OR 2.62, 95% CI [1.42-4.83]), staff caring (82% to 91%, OR 2.82, 95% CI [1.54-5.19]), and staying informed about delays (66% to 83%, OR 3.00, 95% CI [1.65-5.44]).
Conclusion: Implementation of an ED Fast Track more than doubled the odds of significant improvements in Press-Ganey patient satisfaction metrics and may play an important role in improving ED performance on CMS benchmarks.[West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Introduction: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires reporting of multiple time-sensitive metrics. Most facilities use triage time as the time of arrival. Little is known about how long patients wait prior to triage. As reimbursement to the hospital may be tied to these metrics, it is essential to accurately record the time of arrival. Our objective was to quantify the time spent waiting to be triaged for patients arriving to the emergency department (ED).
Methods: We conducted this study in an urban, academic, tertiary care center with approximately 54,000 annual ED visits. All patients arriving to the ED from November 1, 2012, to October 1, 2013, were enrolled. If patients didn’t go directly to a bed or triage, an observer greeted patients as they entered the ED and recorded the time of arrival. The triage time was recorded as normal. We calculated the difference between the arrival time and triage time.
Results: There were 50,576 patient visits during the study period. Of these, 7,795 (15.4%) patients did not go directly to a bed or triage. For patients who waited for triage, median time from arrival to triage was 11 minutes (IQR 5-19, range 1-105). When stratified by the number of new patients who arrived in the ED in the previous hour, the percentage of greeted patients who waited more than 10 minutes for triage was: 0-5 new patients – 12.4%; 6-10 new patients – 48.8%; 11-15 new patients – 64.4%; 16+ new patients – 68%.
Conclusion: Patients often waited more than 10 minutes to be triaged. As the number of patients registered in the previous hour increased, the percentage of patients who waited more than 10 minutes for triage increased significantly. During times of peak volume, 8.5% of all patients arriving to the ED waited more than 10 minutes for triage. This wait is not accounted for in the normal reporting of ED throughput times and metrics. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Routine Repeat Head CT may not be Indicated in Patients on Anticoagulant/Antiplatelet Therapy Following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Introduction: Evaluation recommendations for patients on anticoagulant and antiplatelet (ACAP) therapy that present after mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) are controversial. At our institution, an initial noncontrast head computed tomography (HCT) is performed, with a subsequent HCT performed six hours later to exclude delayed intracranial hemorrhage (ICH). This study was performed to evaluate the yield and advisability of this approach.
Methods: We performed a retrospective review of subjects undergoing evaluation for ICH after mild TBI in patients on ACAP therapy between January of 2012 and April of 2013. We assessed for the frequency of ICH on both the initial noncontrast HCT and on the routine six-hour follow-up HCT. Additionally, chart review was performed to evaluate the clinical implications of ICH, when present, and to interrogate whether pertinent clinical and laboratory data may predict the presence of ICH prior to imaging. We used multivariate generalized linear models to assess whether presenting Glasgow Coma Score (GCS), loss of consciousness (LOC), neurological or physical examination findings, international normalized ratio, prothrombin time, partial thromboplastin time, platelet count, or specific ACAP regimen predicted ICH.
Results: 144 patients satisfied inclusion criteria. Ten patients demonstrated initial HCT positive for ICH, with only one demonstrating delayed ICH on the six-hour follow-up HCT. This patient was discharged without any intervention required or functional impairment. Presenting GCS deviation (p<0.001), LOC (p=0.04), neurological examination findings (p<0.001), clopidogrel (p=0.003), aspirin (p=0.03) or combination regimen (p=0.004) use were more commonly seen in patients with ICH.
Conclusion: Routine six-hour follow-up HCT is likely not indicated in patients on ACAP therapy, as our study suggests clinically significant delayed ICH does not occur. Additionally, presenting GCS deviation, LOC, neurological examination findings, clopidogrel, aspirin or combination regimen use may predict ICH, and, in the absence of these findings, HCT may potentially be forgone altogether. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):-0.]
Do Emergency Department Patients Receive a Pathological Diagnosis? A Nationally-Representative Sample
Introduction: Understanding the cause of patients’ symptoms often requires identifying a pathological diagnosis. A single-center study found that many patients discharged from the emergency department (ED) do not receive a pathological diagnosis. We analyzed 17 years of data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) to identify the proportion of patients who received a pathological diagnosis at ED discharge. We hypothesized that many patients do not receive a pathological diagnosis, and that the proportion of pathological diagnoses increased between 1993 and 2009.
Methods: Using the NHAMCS data from 1993-2009, we analyzed visits of patients age ≥18 years, discharged from the ED, who had presented with the three most common chief complaints: chest pain, abdominal pain, and headache. Discharge diagnoses were coded as symptomatic versus pathological based on a pre-defined coding system. We compared weighted annual proportions of pathological discharge diagnoses with 95% CIs and used logistic regression to test for trend.
Results: Among 299,919 sampled visits, 44,742 met inclusion criteria, allowing us to estimate that there were 164 million adult ED visits presenting with the three chief complaints and then discharged home. Among these visits, the proportions with pathological discharge diagnosis were 55%, 71%, and 70% for chest pain, abdominal pain, and headache, respectively. The total proportion of those with a pathological discharge diagnosis decreased between 1993 and 2009, from 72% (95% CI, 69-75%) to 63% (95% CI, 59-66%). In the multivariable logistic regression model, those more likely to receive pathological diagnoses were females, African-American as compared to Caucasian, and self-pay patients. Those more likely to receive a symptomatic diagnosis were patients aged 30-79 years, with visits to EDs in the South or West regions, and seen by a physician in the ED.
Conclusion: In this analysis of a nationally-representative database of ED visits, many patients were discharged from the ED without a pathological diagnosis that explained the likely cause of their symptoms. Despite advances in diagnostic testing, the proportion of pathological discharge diagnoses decreased. Future studies should investigate reasons for not providing a pathological diagnosis and how this may affect clinical outcomes. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Introduction: Historically, emergency department (ED) patients with pulmonary embolism (PE) have been admitted for several days of inpatient care. Growing evidence suggests that selected ED patients with PE can be safely discharged home after a short length of stay. However, the optimal timing of follow up is unknown. We hypothesized that higher-risk patients with short length of stay (<24 hours from ED registration) would more commonly receive expedited follow up (≤3 days).
Methods: This retrospective cohort study included adults treated for acute PE in six community EDs. We ascertained the PE Severity Index risk class (for 30-day mortality), facility length of stay, the first follow-up clinician encounter, unscheduled return ED visits ≤3 days, 5-day PE-related readmissions, and 30-day all-cause mortality. Stratifying by risk class, we used multivariable analysis to examine age- and sex-adjusted associations between length of stay and expedited follow up.
Results: The mean age of our 175 patients was 63.2 (±16.8) years. Overall, 93.1% (n=163) of our cohort received follow up within one week of discharge. Fifty-six patients (32.0%) were sent home within 24 hours and 100 (57.1%) received expedited follow up, often by telephone (67/100). The short and longer length-of-stay groups were comparable in age and sex, but differed in rates of low-risk status (63% vs 37%; p<0.01) and expedited follow up (70% vs 51%; p=0.03). After adjustment, we found that short length of stay was independently associated with expedited follow up in higher-risk patients (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 3.5; 95% CI [1.0-11.8]; p=0.04), but not in low-risk patients (aOR 2.2; 95% CI [0.8-5.7]; p=0.11). Adverse outcomes were uncommon (<2%) and were not significantly different between the two length-of-stay groups.
Conclusion: Higher-risk patients with acute PE and short length of stay more commonly received expedited follow up in our community setting than other groups of patients. These practice patterns are associated with low rates of 30-day adverse events. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Injury Prevention and Population Health
Descriptive Study of Prescriptions for Opioids from a Suburban Academic Emergency Department Before New York’s I-STOP Act
Introduction: Controlled prescription opioid use is perceived as a national problem attributed to all specialties. Our objective was to provide a descriptive analysis of prescriptions written for controlled opioids from a database of emergency department (ED) visits prior to the enactment of the I-STOP law, which requires New York prescribers to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) prior to prescribing Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances for prescriptions of greater than five days duration.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective medical record review of patients 21 years of age and older, who presented to the ED between July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012 and were given a prescription for a controlled opioid. Our primary purpose was to characterize each prescription as to the type of controlled substance, the quantity dispensed, and the duration of the prescription. We also looked at outliers, those patients who received prescriptions for longer than five days.
Results: A total of 9,502 prescriptions were written for opioids out of a total 63,143 prescriptions for 69,500 adult patients. Twenty-six (0.27%) of the prescriptions for controlled opioids were written for greater than five days. Most prescriptions were for five days or less (99.7%, 95% CI [99.6 to 99.8%]).
Conclusion: The vast majority of opioid prescriptions in our ED prior to the I-STOP legislature were limited to a five-day or less supply. These new regulations were meant to reduce the ED’s contribution to the rise of opioid related morbidity. This study suggests that the emergency physicians’ usual prescribing practices were negligibly limited by the new restrictive regulations. The ED may not be primarily contributing to the increase in opioid-related overdoses and death. The effect of the I-STOP regulation on future prescribing patterns in the ED remains to be determined. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Prescription drug abuse is a leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are a popular initiative among policy makers and a key tool to combat the prescription drug epidemic. This editorial discusses the limitations of PDMPs, future approaches needed to improve the effectiveness of PDMPs, and other approaches essential to curbing the rise of drug abuse and overdose. [West J Emerg Med. 2015(1):–0.]
Introduction: The emergency psychiatric care is system is overburdened in the United States. Patients experiencing psychiatric emergencies often require resources not available at the initial treating facility and frequently require transfer to an appropriate psychiatric facility. Boarding of psychiatric patients, defined as a length of stay greater than four hours after medical clearance, is ubiquitous throughout emergency departments (EDs) nationwide. Boarding is recognized as a major cause of ambulance diversions and ED crowding and has a significant adverse impact on healthcare providers, patient satisfaction, and hospital costs. We sought to identify differences between patients who boarded versus patients who did not board, to identify factors amenable to change and identify interventions that could lead to a decrease in overall psychiatric patient length of stay and improve patient care.
Methods: This study is a retrospective multicenter cohort study of all patients assessed to require inpatient psychiatric hospitalization at two community EDs in Illinois from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2012. We identified 671 patients and collected insurance status, sex, age, time of arrival, time of disposition and time of transfer.
Results: There was a statistically significant difference in the insurance status between the cohort of patients boarding in the ED compared to non-boarders prior to inpatient psychiatric admission. Our study identified 95.4% of uninsured patients who were boarded in the ED, compared to 71.8% of Medicare/Medicaid patients and 78.3% of patients with private insurance (χ2=50.6, df=2, p<0.001). We found the length of stay to be longer for patients transferred to publicly funded psychiatric facilities compared to those transferred to private facilities, with a mean time spent in the ED of 1,661 minutes and 705 minutes, respectively (p<0.001). Patients with Medicare/Medicaid were nearly twice as likely to return to the ED for psychiatric emergencies than self-pay and privately insured patients, requiring repeat inpatient psychiatric admission (estimate=0.649, p=0.035, OR=1.914).
Conclusion: This study found that unfunded patients boarded significantly longer than Medicare/Medicaid and privately insured patients. Patients with private insurance boarded longer than those with Medicare/Medicaid. Patients transferred to publicly funded facilities had significantly longer ED length of stay than patients transferred to private facilities. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Polysubstance Abuse: Alcohol, Opioids and Benzodiazepines Require Coordinated Engagement by Society, Patients, and Physicians
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published significant data trends related to substance abuse involving opioid pain relievers (OPR), benzodiazepines and alcohol in the United States. The CDC describes opioid misuse and abuse as an epidemic, with the use of OPR surpassing that of illicit drugs. Alcohol has also been a persistent problem and is associated with a number of emergency department visits and deaths independent of other substances. The use of these drugs in combination creates an additive effect with increased central nervous system suppression and a heightened risk of an overdose. We present a summary of the findings from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) with commentary on strategies to combat prescription drug and alcohol abuse. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Introduction: Our goal was to explore whether emergency department (ED) patients would disclose their sexual orientation in a research evaluation and to examine demographic and clinical characteristics of patients by self-identified sexual orientation.
Methods: Participants (n=177) presented for psychiatric treatment at three urban EDs in New York City, Rochester, NY, and Philadelphia, PA. Participants were interviewed in the context of a larger study of a standardized suicide risk assessment. We assessed participants’ willingness to answer questions regarding sexual orientation along three dimensions: a self-description of sexual orientation, a self-description of sexual attraction, and the gender of any prior sexual partners.
Results: No participants (0/177) refused to respond to the categorical question about sexual orientation, 168/177 (94.9%) agreed to provide information about prior sexual partners, and 100/109 (91.7%) provided information about current sexual attraction toward either gender. Of all 177 participants, 154 (87.0%) self-identified as heterosexual, 11 (6.2%) as bisexual, 10 (5.6%) as gay or lesbian, and 2 (1.1%) indicated they were not sure. As compared with heterosexual patients, lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) patients were significantly younger and more likely to be non-white, but did not differ significantly in terms of education, income, employment, or religious affiliation or participation. Further, LGB participants did not differ from self-identified heterosexual participants for lifetime suicide attempt rate or lifetime history of any mood, substance-related, psychotic spectrum, or other Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) Axis I disorder. Of self-identified heterosexual participants 5.6% (5/89) reported sexual attraction as other than ‘only opposite sex,’ and 10.3% (15/142) of sexually active ‘heterosexual’ participants reported previous same-gender sexual partners.
Conclusion: Assessing patients’ sexual orientation in the ED by a three-question approach appeared feasible in the ED and acceptable to ED patients. However, since many patients have sexual experiences not suggested by simple labels, self-report of sexual identity alone may not inform clinicians of health risks inherent in same or opposite gender sexual contact. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Factors Associated with the Decision to Hospitalize Emergency Department Patients with a Skin and Soft Tissue Infection
Introduction: Emergency department (ED) hospitalizations for skin and soft tissue infection (SSTI) have increased, while concern for costs has grown and outpatient parenteral antibiotic options have expanded. To identify opportunities to reduce admissions, we explored factors that influence the decision to hospitalize an ED patient with a SSTI.
Methods: We conducted a prospective study of adults presenting to 12 U.S. EDs with a SSTI in which physicians were surveyed as to reason(s) for admission, and clinical characteristics were correlated with disposition. We employed chi-square binary recursive partitioning to assess independent predictors of admission. Serious adverse events were recorded.
Results: Among 619 patients, median age was 38.7 years. The median duration of symptoms was 4.0 days, 96 (15.5%) had a history of fever, and 46 (7.5%) had failed treatment. Median maximal length of erythema was 4.0cm (IQR, 2.0-7.0). Upon presentation, 39 (6.3%) had temperature >38oC, 81 (13.1%) tachycardia, 35 (5.7%), tachypnea, and 5 (0.8%) hypotension; at the time of the ED disposition decision, these findings were present in 9 (1.5%), 11 (1.8%), 7 (1.1%), and 3 (0.5%) patients, respectively. Ninety-four patients (15.2%) were admitted, 3 (0.5%) to the intensive care unit (ICU). Common reasons for admission were need for intravenous antibiotics in 80 (85.1%; the only reason in 41.5%), surgery in 23 (24.5%), and underlying disease in 11 (11.7%). Hospitalization was significantly associated with the following factors in decreasing order of importance: history of fever (present in 43.6% of those admitted, and 10.5% discharged; maximal length of erythema >10cm (43.6%, 11.3%); history of failed treatment (16.1%, 6.0%); any co-morbidity (61.7%, 27.2%); and age >65 years (5.4%, 1.3%). Two patients required amputation and none had ICU transfer or died.
Conclusion: ED SSTI patients with fever, larger lesions, and co-morbidities tend to be hospitalized, almost all to non-critical areas and rarely do they suffer serious complications. The most common reason for admission is administration of intravenous antibiotics, which is frequently the only reason for hospitalization. With the increasing outpatient intravenous antibiotic therapy options, these results suggest that many hospitalized patients with SSTI could be managed safely and effectively as outpatients. [West J Emerg Med.–0.]
Trauma Center Staffing, Infrastructure, and Patient Characteristics that Influence Trauma Center Need
Introduction: The most effective use of trauma center resources helps reduce morbidity and mortality, while saving costs. Identifying critical infrastructure characteristics, patient characteristics and staffing components of a trauma center associated with the proportion of patients needing major trauma care will help planners create better systems for patient care.
Methods: We used the 2009 National Trauma Data Bank-Research Dataset to determine the proportion of critically injured patients requiring the resources of a trauma center within each Level I-IV trauma center (n=443). The outcome variable was defined as the portion of treated patients who were critically injured. We defined the need for critical trauma resources and interventions (“trauma center need”) as death prior to hospital discharge, admission to the intensive care unit, or admission to the operating room from the emergency department as a result of acute traumatic injury. Generalized Linear Modeling (GLM) was used to determine how hospital infrastructure, staffing Levels, and patient characteristics contributed to trauma center need.
Results: Nonprofit Level I and II trauma centers were significantly associated with higher levels of trauma center need. Trauma centers that had a higher percentage of transferred patients or a lower percentage of insured patients were associated with a higher proportion of trauma center need. Hospital infrastructure characteristics, such as bed capacity and intensive care unit capacity, were not associated with trauma center need. A GLM for Level III and IV trauma centers showed that the number of trauma surgeons on staff was associated with trauma center need.
Conclusion: Because the proportion of trauma center need is predominantly influenced by hospital type, transfer frequency, and insurance status, it is important for administrators to consider patient population characteristics of the catchment area when planning the construction of new trauma centers or when coordinating care within state or regional trauma systems. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Introduction: Practitioners need more information about intimate partner violence (IPV) victims’ healthcare use trends. We used a novel data-linkage method and complaint categorization allowing us to evaluate IPV victims healthcare use trends compared to the date of their victimization.
Methods: This was a retrospective case series using data-linking techniques cross-referencing databases of Medicaid-eligible women between the ages of 16 and 55 years, an IPV Case Database for 2007 and the Florida State Agency for Healthcare Administration, which tracks hospital inpatient, ambulatory and emergency department (ED) use within the State of Florida. We analyzed resulting healthcare visits 1.5 years before and 1.5 years after the women’s reported IPV offense. Using all available claims data a ‘complaint category’ representing categories of presenting chief complaints was assigned to each healthcare visit. Analysis included descriptive statistics, correlation coefficients between time of offense and visits, and a logistic regression analysis.
Results: The 695 victims were linked with 4,344 healthcare visits in the four-year study period. The victims were young (46% in the 16-25 age group and 79% were younger than 35). Healthcare visits were in the ED (83%) rather than other healthcare sites. In the ED, IPV victims mostly had complaint categories of obstetrics and gynaecology-related visits (28.7%), infection-related visits (18.9%), and trauma-related visits (16.3%). ED use escalated approaching the victim’s date of offense (r=0.59, p<0.0001) compared to use of non-ED sites of healthcare use (r=0.07,p=0.5817). ED use deescalated significantly after date of reported offense for ED visits (r=0.50,p<0.0001) versus non-ED use (r=0.00,p=0.9958). The victims’ age group more likely to use the ED than any other age group was the 36-45 age group (OR 4.67, CI [3.26- 6.68]).
Conclusion: IPV victims use the ED increasingly approaching their date of offense. Presenting complaints were varied and did not reveal unique identifiers of IPV victims. This novel method of database matching between claims data and government records has been shown to be a valid way to evaluate healthcare utilization of at-risk populations. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):-0.]
Low-Cost Alternative External Rotation Shoulder Brace and Review of Treatment in Acute Shoulder Dislocations
Traumatic dislocations of the shoulder commonly present to emergency departments (EDs). Immediate closed reduction of both anterior and posterior glenohumeral dislocations is recommended and is frequently performed in the ED. Recurrence of dislocation is common, as anteroinferior labral tears (Bankart lesions) are present in many anterior shoulder dislocations.14,15,18,23 Immobilization of the shoulder following closed reduction is therefore recommended; previous studies support the use of immobilization with the shoulder in a position of external rotation, for both anterior and posterior shoulder dislocations.7-11,19 In this study, we present a technique for assembling a low-cost external rotation shoulder brace using materials found in most hospitals: cotton roll, stockinette, and shoulder immobilizers. This brace is particularly suited for the uninsured patient, who lacks the financial resources to pay for a pre-fabricated brace out of pocket. We also performed a cost analysis for our low-cost external rotation shoulder brace, and a cost comparison with pre-fabricated brand name braces. At our institution, the total materials cost for our brace was $19.15. The cost of a pre-fabricated shoulder brace at our institution is $150 with markup, which is reimbursed on average at $50.40 according to our hospital billing data. The low-cost external rotation shoulder brace is therefore a more affordable option for the uninsured patient presenting with acute shoulder dislocation. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
- 1 supplemental video
Objective Structured Clinical Examinations Provide Valid Clinical Skills Assessment in Emergency Medicine Education
Introduction: Evaluation of emergency medicine (EM) learners based on observed performance in the emergency department (ED) is limited by factors such as reproducibility and patient safety. EM educators depend on standardized and reproducible assessments such as the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE). The validity of the OSCE as an evaluation tool in EM education has not been previously studied. The objective was to assess the validity of a novel management-focused OSCE as an evaluation instrument in EM education through demonstration of performance correlation with established assessment methods and case item analysis.
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of fourth-year medical students enrolled in a required EM clerkship. Students enrolled in the clerkship completed a five-station EM OSCE. We used Pearson’s coefficient to correlate OSCE performance with performance in the ED based on completed faculty evaluations. Indices of difficulty and discrimination were computed for each scoring item.
Results: We found a moderate and statistically-significant correlation between OSCE score and ED performance score [r(239) =0.40, p<0.001]. Of the 34 OSCE testing items the mean index of difficulty was 63.0 (SD =23.0) and the mean index of discrimination was 0.52 (SD =0.21).
Conclusion: Student performance on the OSCE correlated with their observed performance in the ED, and indices of difficulty and differentiation demonstrated alignment with published best-practice testing standards. This evidence, along with other attributes of the OSCE, attest to its validity. Our OSCE can be further improved by modifying testing items that performed poorly and by examining and maximizing the inter-rater reliability of our evaluation instrument. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Introduction: Residency interview apparel has traditionally been the dark business suit. We changed the interview dress code from a traditionally established unwritten ‘formal’ attire to an explicitly described ‘informal’ attire. We sought to assess if the change in dress code attire changed applicants’ perceptions of the residency program or decreased costs.
Methods: The authors conducted an anonymous survey of applicants applying to one emergency medicine residency program during two application cycles ending in 2012 and 2013. Applicants were asked if the change in dress code affected their perception of the program, comfort level, overall costs and how it affected their rank lists.
Results: We sent the survey to 308 interviewed applicants over two years. Of those, 236 applicants completed the survey for a combined response rate of 76.6% (236/308). Among respondents, 85.1% (200 of 235) stated they appreciated the change; 66.7% (154 of 231) stated the change caused them to worry more about what to wear. Males were more uncomfortable than females due to the lack of uniformity on the interview day (18.5% of males [25/135] vs. 7.4% of females [7/95], collapsed results p-value 0.008). A total of 27.7% (64/231) agreed that the costs were less overall. The change caused 50 of 230 (21.7%) applicants to rank the program higher on their rank list and only one applicant to rank the program lower.
Conclusion: A change to a more informal dress code resulted in more comfort and fewer costs for applicants to a single residency program. The change also resulted in some applicants placing the program higher on their rank order list. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):-0.]
Educational Technology Improves ECG Interpretation of Acute Myocardial Infarction among Medical Students and Emergency Medicine Residents
Introduction: Asynchronous online training has become an increasingly popular educational format in the new era of technology-based professional development. We sought to evaluate the impact of an online asynchronous training module on the ability of medical students and emergency medicine (EM) residents to detect electrocardiogram (ECG) abnormalities of an acute myocardial infarction (AMI).
Methods: We developed an online ECG training and testing module on AMI, with emphasis on recognizing ST elevation myocardial infarction (MI) and early activation of cardiac catheterization resources. Study participants included senior medical students and EM residents at all post-graduate levels rotating in our emergency department (ED). Participants were given a baseline set of ECGs for interpretation. This was followed by a brief interactive online training module on normal ECGs as well as abnormal ECGs representing an acute MI. Participants then underwent a post-test with a set of ECGs in which they had to interpret and decide appropriate intervention including catheterization lab activation.
Results: 148 students and 35 EM residents participated in this training in the 2012-2013 academic year. Students and EM residents showed significant improvements in recognizing ECG abnormalities after taking the asynchronous online training module. The mean score on the testing module for students improved from 5.9 (95% CI [5.7-6.1]) to 7.3 (95% CI [7.1-7.5]), with a mean difference of 1.4 (95% CI [1.12-1.68]) (p<0.0001). The mean score for residents improved significantly from 6.5 (95% CI [6.2-6.9]) to 7.8 (95% CI [7.4-8.2]) (p<0.0001).
Conclusion: An online interactive module of training improved the ability of medical students and EM residents to correctly recognize the ECG evidence of an acute MI. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Introduction: Since 2011 two online, validated exams for fourth-year emergency medicine (EM) students have been available (National EM M4 Exams). In 2013 the National Board of Medical Examiners offered the Advanced Clinical Examination in Emergency Medicine (EM-ACE). All of these exams are now in widespread use; however, there are no data on how they correlate. This study evaluated the correlation between the EM-ACE exam and the National EM M4 Exams.
Methods: From May 2013 to April 2014 the EM-ACE and one version of the EM M4 exam were administered sequentially to fourth-year EM students at five U.S. medical schools. Data collected included institution, gross and scaled scores and version of the EM M4 exam. We performed Pearson’s correlation and random effects linear regression.
Results: 303 students took the EM-ACE and versions 1 (V1) or 2 (V2) of the EM M4 exams (279 and 24, respectively). The mean percent correct for the exams were as follows: EM-ACE 74.8 (SD-8.83), V1 83.0 (SD-6.41), V2 78.5 (SD-7.70). Pearson’s correlation coefficient for the V1/EM-ACE was 0.51 (0.42 scaled) and for the V2/EM-ACE was 0.59 (0.41 scaled). The coefficient of determination for V1/EM-ACE was 0.72 and for V2/EM-ACE = 0.71 (0.86 and 0.49 for scaled scores). The R-squared values were 0.25 and 0.30 (0.18 and 0.13, scaled), respectively. There was significant cluster effect by institution.
Conclusion: There was moderate positive correlation of student scores on the EM-ACE exam and the National EM M4 Exams. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Ultrafest: A Novel Approach to Ultrasound in Medical Education Leads to Improvement in Written and Clinical Examinations
Introduction: Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of hands-on training at a bedside ultrasound (US) symposium (“Ultrafest”) to improve both clinical knowledge and image acquisition skills of medical students. Primary outcome measure was improvement in multiple choice questions on pulmonary or Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma (FAST) US knowledge. Secondary outcome was improvement in image acquisition for either pulmonary or FAST.
Methods: Prospective cohort study of 48 volunteers at “Ultrafest,” a free symposium where students received five contact training hours. Students were evaluated before and after training for proficiency in either pulmonary US or FAST. Proficiency was assessed by clinical knowledge through written multiple-choice exam, and clinical skills through accuracy of image acquisition. We used paired sample t-tests with students as their own controls.
Results: Pulmonary knowledge scores increased by a mean of 10.1 points (95% CI [8.9-11.3], p<0.00005), from 8.4 to a posttest average of 18.5/21 possible points. The FAST knowledge scores increased by a mean of 7.5 points (95% CI [6.3-8.7] p<0.00005), from 8.1 to a posttest average of 15.6/ 21. We analyzed clinical skills data on 32 students. The mean score was 1.7 pretest and 4.7 posttest of 12 possible points. Mean improvement was 3.0 points (p<0.00005) overall, 3.3 (p=0.0001) for FAST, and 2.6 (p=0.003) for the pulmonary US exam.
Conclusion: This study suggests that a symposium on US can improve clinical knowledge, but is limited in achieving image acquisition for pulmonary and FAST US assessments. US training external to official medical school curriculum may augment students’ education. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
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Bouveret syndrome is a rare presentation of gastric outlet obstruction caused by a gallstone in the proximal duodenum via a bilioenteric fistula. This is an infrequent although clinically significant cause of abdominal pain, almost exclusively in the elderly. The clinical presentation is similar to that of a small bowel obstruction with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Surgery or endoscopy is often required for definitive diagnosis and therapy. We describe the case of a young woman with this condition who had a delayed diagnosis in part because of her age and the rarity of the condition. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):-0.]
Numerous mandibular pathologies are diagnosed in the emergency department (ED). We present the case of a woman with severe right-sided mandibular pain who was found to have a pathological fracture and osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). The etiology of ONJ was found to be associated to previous use of zoledronic acid to treat osteoporosis. The aim of this case report is to discuss the etiology, diagnosis and treatment of ONJ secondary to the use of zoledronic acid and to outline a clinical condition rarely seen in the ED whose incidence might rise with the increasing use of bisphosphonates. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):-0.]
Acute compartment syndrome (ACS) is a condition typically associated with long bone fractures or severe trauma; however, non-traumatic etiologies also occur. We describe a case of an otherwise healthy female pediatric patient presenting with unilateral forearm pain without an inciting injury. Intracompartmental pressures of the forearm were measured and she was diagnosed with idiopathic compartment syndrome. Our goal is to encourage clinicians to consider acute compartment syndrome even in the absence of trauma. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):-0.]
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Necrotizing Fasciitis Caused by Hypermucoviscous Klebsiella pneumoniae in a Filipino Female in North America
Necrotizing fasciitis caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae has been described in Southeast Asia, but has only recently begun to emerge in North America. The hypermucoviscous strain of K. pneumoniae is a particularly virulent strain known to cause devastatingly invasive infections, including necrotizing fasciitis. Here we present the first known case of necrotizing fasciitis caused by hypermucoviscous K. pneumoniae in North America. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Cervical necrotizing fasciitis (CNF) is an uncommon, yet clinically significant infection that rapidly progresses to involve the deep neck spaces. Early recognition and aggressive surgical intervention and debridement are important, as this disease is associated with a high morbidity and mortality. In this report, we present a case of CNF and descending mediastinitis from a non-odontogenic source in a patient presenting with neck swelling and odynophagia. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Technology in Emergency Medicine
Factors Influencing Rate of Testicular Salvage in Acute Testicular Torsion at a Tertiary Pediatric Center
Introduction: Studies have demonstrated that variables other than duration of symptoms can affect outcomes in children with acute testicular torsion. We examined demographic and logistical factors, including inter-hospital transfer, which may affect outcomes at a tertiary pediatric referral center.
Methods: We reviewed charts of all pediatric patients with acute testicular torsion during a five-year period. Data were collected regarding age, insurance type, socioeconomic status, duration of symptoms prior to presentation, transfer status, time of day, time to surgical exploration, and testicular salvage.
Results: Our study included 114 patients. Testicular salvage was possible in 55.3% of patients. Thirty-one percent of patients included in the study were transferred from another facility. Inter-hospital transfer did not affect testicular salvage rate. Time to surgery and duration of pain were higher among patients who underwent orchiectomy versus orchidopexy. Patients older than eight years of age were more likely to undergo orchidopexy than those younger than eight (61.5% vs. 30.4%, p=0.01). Ethnicity, insurance type, or time of day did not affect the testicular salvage rates. On multivariate analysis, only duration of symptoms less than six hours predicted testicular salvage (OR 22.5, p<0.001).
Conclusion: Even though inter-hospital transfer delays definitive surgical management, it may not affect testicular salvage rates. Time to presentation is the most important factor in predicting outcomes in children with acute testicular torsion. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
A free-floating right heart thrombus is often a harbinger of a massive pulmonary embolism and must be diagnosed and treated rapidly in order to avoid significant adverse sequelae. We present the case of an 84-year-old female who presented with two days of dyspnea and was hypotensive on arrival. Bedside ultrasound was performed by the emergency physician and showed a large, mobile right heart thrombus leading to immediate administration of a thrombolytic. In this case, bedside ultrasound was utilized to help further delineate clinical care in a progressively worsening patient, leading to a potentially lifesaving treatment. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
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Half-dose Alteplase for Sub-massive Pulmonary Embolism Directed by Emergency Department Point-of-care Ultrasound
This report describes a patient with sub-massive pulmonary embolism (PE) who was successfully treated with half-dose thrombolytics guided by the use of point-of-care (POC) ultrasound. In this case, POC ultrasound was the only possible imaging since computed tomography was contraindicated. POC ultrasound demonstrated a deep vein thrombosis and evidence of cardiac strain. In situations or locations where definitive imaging is unobtainable, POC ultrasound can help diagnose submassive PE and direct the use of half-dose tissue plasminogen activator. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
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Introduction: The American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology guidelines recommend rapid door-to-electrocardiography (ECG) times for patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Previous quality improvement research at our institution revealed that we were not meeting this benchmark for walk-in STEMI patients. The objective is to investigate whether simple, directed changes in the emergency department (ED) triage process for potential cardiac patients could decrease door-to-ECG times and secondarily door-to-balloon times.
Methods: We conducted an interventional study at a large, urban, public teaching hospital from April 2010 to June 2012. All patients who walked into the ED with a confirmed STEMI were enrolled in the study. The primary intervention involved creating a chief complaint-based “cardiac triage” designation that streamlined the evaluation of potential cardiac patients. A secondary intervention involved moving our ECG technician and ECG station to our initial triage area. The primary outcome measure was door-to-ECG time and the secondary outcome measure was door-to-balloon time.
Results: We enrolled 91 walk-in STEMI patients prior to the intervention period and 141 patients after the invention. We observed statistically significant reductions in door-to-ECG time (43±93 to 30±72 minutes, median 23 to 14 minutes p<0.01), ECG-to-activation time (87±134 to 52±82 minutes, median 43 to 31 minutes p<0.01), and door-to-balloon time (134±146 to 84±40 minutes, median 85 -75 minutes p=0.03).
Conclusion: By creating a chief complaint-based cardiac triage protocol and by streamlining ECG completion, walk-in STEMI patients are systematically processed through the ED. This is not only associated with a decrease in door-to-balloon time, but also a decrease in the variability of the time sensitive intervals of door-to-ECG and ECG-to-balloon time. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Introduction: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac dysrhythmia. Current guidelines recommend obtaining thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels in all patients presenting with AF.Our aim was to investigate the utility of TSH levels for emergency department (ED) patients with a final diagnosis of AF while externally validating and potentially refining a clinical decision rule that recommends obtaining TSH levels only in patients with previous stroke, hypertension, or thyroid disease.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective, cross-sectional study of consecutive patients who presented to an ED from January 2011 to March 2014 with a final ED diagnosis of AF. Charts were reviewed for historical features and TSH level. We assessed the sensitivity and specificity of the previously derived clinical decision rule.
Results: Of the 1,964 patients who were eligible, 1,458 (74%) had a TSH level available for analysis. The overall prevalence of a low TSH (<0.3µIU/mL) was 2% (n=36). Elevated TSH levels (>5µIU/mL) were identified in 11% (n=159). The clinical decision rule had a sensitivity of 88.9% (95% CI [73.0-96.4]) and a specificity of 27.5% (95% CI [25.2-29.9]) for identifying a low TSH. When analyzed for its ability to identify any abnormal TSH values (high or low TSH), the sensitivity and specificity were 74.4% (95% CI [67.5-80.2]) and 27.3% (95% CI [24.9-29.9]), respectively.
Conclusion: Low TSH in patients presenting to the ED with a final diagnosis of AF is rare (2%). The sensitivity of a clinical decision rule including a history of thyroid disease, hypertension, or stroke for identifying low TSH levels in patients presenting to the ED with a final diagnosis of atrial fibrillation was lower than originally reported (88.9% vs. 93%). When elevated TSH levels were included as an outcome, the sensitivity was reduced to 74.4%. We recommend that emergency medicine providers not routinely order TSH levels for all patients with a primary diagnosis of AF. Instead, these investigations can be limited to patients with new onset AF or those with a history of thyroid disease with no known TSH level within three months . [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]
Emergency Department Access
Introduction: Previous literature has shown gender disparities in the care of acute ischemic stroke. Compared to men, women wait longer for brain imaging and are less likely to receive intravenous (IV) tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Emergency department (ED) triage is an important step in the rapid assessment of stroke patients and is a possible contributor to disparities. It is unknown whether gender differences exist in ED triage of acute stroke patients. Our primary objective was to determine whether gender disparities exist in the triage of acute stroke patients as defined by Emergency Severity Index (ESI) levels and use of ED critical care beds.
Methods: This was a retrospective, observational study of both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke patients age ≥18 years presenting to a large, urban, academic ED within six hours of symptom onset between January 2010, and December 2012. Primary outcomes were triage to a non-critical ED bed and Emergency Severity Index (ESI) level. Primary outcome data were extracted from electronic medical records by a blinded data manager; secondary outcome data and covariates were abstracted by trained research assistants. We performed bivariate and multivariate analyses. Logistic regression was performed using age, race, insurance status, mode of and time to arrival, National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, and presence of atypical symptoms as covariates.
Results: There were 537 patients included in this study. Women were older (75.6 vs. 69.5, p<0.001), and more women had a history of atrial fibrillation (39.8% vs. 25.3%, p<0.001). Compared to 9.5% of men, 10.3% of women were triaged to a non-critical care ED bed (p=0.77); 92.1% of women were triaged as ESI 1 or 2 vs. 93.6% of men (p=0.53). After adjustment, gender was not associated with triage location or ESI level, though atypical symptoms were associated with higher odds of being triaged to a non-critical care bed (aOR 1.98, 95%CI [1.03 – 3.81]) and 3.04 times higher odds of being triaged as ESI 3 vs. ESI 1 or 2 (95% CI [1.36 – 6.82]).
Conclusion: In a large, urban, academic ED at a primary stroke center, there were no gender differences in triage to critical care beds or ESI levels among acute stroke patients arriving within six hours of symptom onset. These findings suggest that ED triage protocols for stroke patients may be effective in minimizing gender disparities in care. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(1):–0.]