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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 16, Issue 7, 2015

Vol 16, Iss 7 (2015)

Ethical and Legal Issues

Epidemiology of Advance Directives in Extended Care Facility Patients Presenting to the Emergency Department

Introduction: We conducted an epidemiologic evaluation of advance directives and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) prevalence among residents of extended care facilities (ECF) presenting to the emergency department (ED).

Methods: We performed a retrospective medical record review on ED patients originating from an ECF. Data were collected on age, sex, race, triage acuity, ED disposition, DNR status, power-of attorney (POA) status, and living will (LW) status. We generated descriptive statistics, and used logistic regression to evaluate predictors of DNR status.

Results: A total of 754 patients over 20 months met inclusion criteria; 533 (70.7%) were white, 351 (46.6%) were male, and the median age was 66 years (IQR 54-78). DNR orders were found in 124 (16.4%, 95% CI [13.9-19.1%]) patients. In univariate analysis, there was a significant difference in DNR by gender (10.5% female vs. 6.0% male with DNR, p=0.013), race (13.4% white vs. 3.1% non-white with DNR, p=0.005), and age (4.0% <65 years; 2.9% 65-74 years, p=0.101; 3.3% 75-84 years, p=0.001; 6.2% >84 years, p<0.001). Using multivariate logistic regression, we found that factors associated with DNR status were gender (OR 1.477, p=0.358, note interaction term), POA status (OR 6.612, p<0.001), LW (18.032, p<0.001), age (65-74 years OR 1.261, p=0.478; 75-84 years OR 1.737, p=0.091, >84 years OR 5.258, P<0.001), with interactions between POA and gender (OR 0.294, P=0.016) and between POA and LW (OR 0.227, p<0.005). Secondary analysis demonstrated that DNR orders were not significantly associated with death during admission (p=0.084).

Conclusion: Age, gender, POA, and LW use are predictors of ECF patient DNR use. Further, DNR presence is not a predictor of death in the hospital.

Treatment Protocol Assessment

Abdominal CT Does Not Improve Outcome for Children with Suspected Acute Appendicitis

Introduction: Acute appendicitis in children is a clinical diagnosis, which often requires preoperative confirmation with either ultrasound (US) or computed tomography (CT) studies. CTs expose children to radiation, which may increase the lifetime risk of developing malignancy. US in the pediatric population with appropriate clinical follow up and serial exam may be an effective diagnostic modality for many children without incurring the risk of radiation. The objective of the study was to compare the rate of appendiceal rupture and negative appendectomies between children with and without abdominal CTs; and to evaluate the same outcomes for children with and without USs to determine if there were any associations between imaging modalities and outcomes.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review including emergency department (ED) and inpatient records from 1/1/2009–2/31/2010 and included patients with suspected acute appendicitis.

Results: 1,493 children, aged less than one year to 20 years, were identified in the ED with suspected appendicitis. These patients presented with abdominal pain who had either a surgical consult or an abdominal imaging study to evaluate for appendicitis, or were transferred from an outside hospital or primary care physician office with the stated suspicion of acute appendicitis. Of these patients, 739 were sent home following evaluation in the ED and did not return within the subsequent two weeks and were therefore presumed not to have appendicitis. A total of 754 were admitted and form the study population, of which 20% received a CT, 53% US, and 8% received both. Of these 57%, 95% CI [53.5,60.5] had pathology-proven appendicitis. Appendicitis rates were similar for children with a CT (57%, 95% CI [49.6,64.4]) compared to those without (57%, 95% CI [52.9,61.0]). Children with perforation were similar between those with a CT (18%, 95% CI [12.3,23.7]) and those without (13%, 95% CI [10.3,15.7]). The proportion of children with a negative appendectomy was similar in both groups: CT (7%, 95% CI [2.1,11.9]), US (8%, 95% CI [4.7,11.3]) and neither (12%, 95% CI [5.9,18.1]).

Conclusion: In this uncontrolled study, the accuracy of preoperative diagnosis of appendicitis and the incidence of pathology-proven perforation appendix were similar for children with suspected acute appendicitis whether they had CT, US or neither imaging, in conjunction with surgical consult. The imaging modality of CT was not associated with better outcomes for children presenting to the ED with suspected appendicitis.

Prehospital Care

Chest Pain of Suspected Cardiac Origin: Current Evidence-based Recommendations for Prehospital Care

Introduction: In the United States, emergency medical services (EMS) protocols vary widely across jurisdictions. We sought to develop evidence-based recommendations for the prehospital evaluation and treatment of chest pain of suspected cardiac origin and to compare these recommendations against the current protocols used by the 33 EMS agencies in the state of California.

Methods: We performed a literature review of the current evidence in the prehospital treatment of chest pain and augmented this review with guidelines from various national and international societies to create our evidence-based recommendations. We then compared the chest pain protocols of each of the 33 EMS agencies for consistency with these recommendations. The specific protocol components that we analyzed were use of supplemental oxygen, aspirin, nitrates, opiates, 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) regionalization systems, prehospital fibrinolysis and β-blockers.

Results: The protocols varied widely in terms of medication and dosing choices, as well as listed contraindications to treatments. Every agency uses oxygen with 54% recommending titrated dosing. All agencies use aspirin (64% recommending 325mg, 24% recommending 162mg and 15% recommending either), as well as nitroglycerin and opiates (58% choosing morphine). Prehospital 12-Lead ECGs are used in 97% of agencies, and all but one agency has some form of regionalized care for their STEMI patients. No agency is currently employing prehospital fibrinolysis or β-blocker use.

Conclusion: Protocols for chest pain of suspected cardiac origin vary widely across California. The evidence-based recommendations that we present for the prehospital diagnosis and treatment of this condition may be useful for EMS medical directors tasked with creating and revising these protocols.

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Provider Workforce

Impact of Burnout on Self-Reported Patient Care Among Emergency Physicians

Introduction: Burnout is a syndrome of depersonalization, emotional exhaustion and sense of low personal accomplishment. Emergency physicians (EPs) experience the highest levels of burnout among all physicians. Burnout is associated with greater rates of self-reported suboptimal care among surgeons and internists. The association between burnout and suboptimal care among EPs is unknown. The objective of the study was to evaluate burnout rates among attending and resident EPs and examine their relationship with self-reported patient care practices. 

Methods: In this cross-sectional study burnout was measured at two university-based emergency medicine residency programs with the Maslach Burnout Inventory. We also measured depression, quality of life (QOL) and career satisfaction using validated questionnaires. Six items assessed suboptimal care and the frequency with which they were performed.

Results: We included 77 out of 155 (49.7%) responses. The EP burnout rate was 57.1%, with no difference between attending and resident physicians. Residents were more likely to screen positive for depression (47.8% vs 18.5%, p=0.012) and report lower QOL scores (6.7 vs 7.4 out of 10, p=0.036) than attendings. Attendings and residents reported similar rates of career satisfaction (85.2% vs 87.0%, p=0.744). Burnout was associated with a positive screen for depression (38.6% vs 12.1%, p=0.011) and lower career satisfaction (77.3% vs 97.0%, p=0.02). EPs with high burnout were significantly more likely to report performing all six acts of suboptimal care.

Conclusion: A majority of EPs demonstrated high burnout. EP burnout was significantly associated with higher frequencies of self-reported suboptimal care. Future efforts to determine if provider burnout is associated with negative changes in actual patient care are necessary.

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Health Outcomes

Outcomes of Patients Requiring Blood Pressure Control Before Thrombolysis with tPA for Acute Ischemic Stroke

Introduction: The purpose of this study was to assess safety and efficacy of thrombolysis in the setting of aggressive blood pressure (BP) control as it compares to standard BP control or no BP control prior to thrombolysis.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of patients treated with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) for acute ischemic stroke (AIS) between 2004-2011. We compared the outcomes of patients treated with tPA for AIS who required aggressive BP control prior to thrombolysis to those requiring standard or no BP control prior to thrombolysis. The primary outcome of interest was safety, defined by all grades of hemorrhagic transformation and neurologic deterioration. The secondary outcome was efficacy, determined by functional status at discharge, and in-hospital deaths.

Results: Of 427 patients included in the analysis, 89 received aggressive BP control prior to thrombolysis, 65 received standard BP control, and 273 required no BP control prior to thrombolysis. Patients requiring BP control had more severe strokes, with median arrival National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale of 10 (IQR [6-17]) in patients not requiring BP control versus 11 (IQR [5-16]) and 13 (IQR [7-20]) in patients requiring standard and aggressive BP lowering therapies, respectively (p=0.048). In a multiple logistic regression model adjusting for baseline differences, there were no statistically significant differences in adverse events between the three groups (P>0.10).

Conclusion: We observed no association between BP control and adverse outcomes in ischemic stroke patients undergoing thrombolysis. However, additional study is necessary to confirm or refute the safety of aggressive BP control prior to thrombolysis.

Troponin Marker for Acute Coronary Occlusion and Patient Outcome Following Cardiac Arrest

Introduction: The utility of troponin as a marker for acute coronary occlusion and patient outcome after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is unclear. We sought to determine whether initial or peak troponin was associated with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), OHCA survival or neurological outcome. 

Methods: Single-center retrospective-cohort study of OHCA patients treated in a comprehensive clinical pathway from November 2007 to October 2012. Troponin I levels were acquired at presentation, four and eight hours after arrest, and then per physician discretion. Cardiac catheterization was at the cardiologist’s discretion. Survival and outcome were determined at hospital discharge, with cerebral performance category score 1-2 defined as a good neurological outcome. 

Results: We enrolled 277 patients; 58% had a shockable rhythm, 44% survived, 41% good neurological outcome. Of the 107 (38%) patients who underwent cardiac catheterization, 30 (28%) had PCI. Initial ED troponin (median, ng/mL) was not different in patients requiring PCI vs no PCI (0.32 vs 0.09, p=0.06), although peak troponin was higher (4.19 versus 1.57, p=0.02). Of the 85 patients who underwent cardiac catheterization without STEMI (n=85), there was no difference in those who received PCI vs no PCI in initial troponin (0.22 vs 0.06, p=0.40) or peak troponin (2.58 vs 1.43, p=0.27). Regarding outcomes, there was no difference in initial troponin in survivors versus non-survivors (0.09 vs 0.22, p=0.11), or those with a good versus poor neurological outcome (0.09 vs 0.20, p=0.11). Likewise, there was no difference in peak troponin in survivors versus non-survivors (1.64 vs 1.23, p=0.07), or in those with a good versus poor neurological outcome (1.57 vs 1.26, p=0.14).

Conclusion: In our single-center patient cohort, peak troponin, but not initial troponin, was associated with higher likelihood of PCI, while neither initial nor peak troponin were associated with survival or neurological outcome in OHCA patients.

Healthcare Utilization

Written Informed Consent for Computed Tomography of the Abdomen/Pelvis is Associated with Decreased CT Utilization in Low-Risk Emergency Department Patients

Introduction: The increasing rate of patient exposure to radiation from computerized tomography (CT) raises questions about appropriateness of utilization. There is no current standard to employ informed consent for CT (ICCT). Our study assessed the relationship between informed consent and CT utilization in emergency department (ED) patients.

Methods: An observational multiphase before-after cohort study was completed from 4/2010-5/2011. We assessed CT utilization before and after (Time I/ Time II) the implementation of an informed consent protocol. Adult patients were included if they presented with symptoms of abdominal/pelvic pathology or completed ED CT. We excluded patients with pregnancy, trauma, or altered mental status. Data on history, exam, diagnostics, and disposition were collected via standard abstraction tool. We generated a multivariate logistic model via stepwise regression, to assess CT utilization across risk groups. Logistic models, stratified by risk, were generated to include study phase and a propensity score that controlled for potential confounders of CT utilization.

Results: 7,684 patients met inclusion criteria. In PHASE 2, there was a 24% (95% CI [10-36%]) reduction in CT utilization in the low-risk patient group (p<0.002). ICCT did not affect CT utilization in the high-risk group (p=0.16). In low-risk patients, the propensity score was significant (p<0.001). There were no adverse events reported during the study period.

Conclusion: The implementation of ICCT was associated with reduced CT utilization in low-risk ED patients. ICCT has the potential to increase informed, shared decision making with patients, as well as to reduce the risks and cost associated with CT.

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Inpatient Readmissions and Emergency Department Visits within 30 Days of a Hospital Admission

Introduction: Inpatient hospital readmissions have become a focus for healthcare reform and cost-containment efforts. Initiatives targeting unanticipated readmissions have included care coordination for specific high readmission diseases and patients and health coaching during the post-discharge transition period. However, little research has focused on emergency department (ED) visits following an inpatient admission. The objective of this study was to assess 30-day ED utilization and all-cause readmissions following a hospital admission.

Methods: This was a retrospective study using inpatient and ED utilization data from two hospitals with a shared patient population in 2011. We assessed the 30-day ED visit rate and 30-day readmission rate and compared patient characteristics among individuals with 30-day inpatient readmissions, 30-day ED discharges, and no 30-day visits.

Results: There were 13,449 patients who met the criteria of an index visit. Overall, 2,453 (18.2%) patients had an ED visit within 30 days of an inpatient stay. However, only 55.6% (n=1,363) of these patients were admitted at one of these 30-day visits, resulting in a 30-day all-cause readmission rate of 10.1%.

Conclusion: Approximately one in five patients presented to the ED within 30 days of an inpatient hospitalization and over half of these patients were readmitted. Readmission measures that incorporate ED visits following an inpatient stay might better inform interventions to reduce avoidable readmissions.

Injury Prevention and Population Health

Distracted Driving, A Major Preventable Cause of Motor Vehicle Collisions: “Just Hang Up and Drive”

For years, public health experts have been concerned about the effect of cell phone use on motor vehicle collisions, part of a phenomenon known as “distracted driving.” The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) article “Mobile Device Use While Driving - United States and Seven European Countries 2011” highlights the international nature of these concerns. Recent (2011) estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are that 10% of fatal crashes and 17% of injury crashes were reported as distraction-affected. Of 3,331 people killed in 2011 on roadways in the U.S. as a result of driver distraction, 385 died in a crash where at least one driver was using a cell phone. For drivers 15-19 years old involved in a fatal crash, 21% of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones. Efforts to reduce cell phone use while driving could reduce the prevalence of automobile crashes related to distracted driving. The MMWR report shows that there is much ground to cover with distracted driving. Emergency physicians frequently see the devastating effects of distracted driving on a daily basis and should take a more active role on sharing the information with patients, administrators, legislators, friends and family.

Screening for Fall Risks in the Emergency Department: A Novel Nursing-Driven Program

Introduction: Seniors represent the fasting growing population in the U.S., accounting for 20.3 million visits to emergency departments (EDs) annually. The ED visit can provide an opportunity for identifying seniors at high risk of falls. We sought to incorporate the Timed Up & Go Test (TUGT), a commonly used falls screening tool, into the ED encounter to identify seniors at high fall risk and prompt interventions through a geriatric nurse liaison (GNL) model.

Methods: Patients aged 65 and older presenting to an urban ED were evaluated by a team of ED nurses trained in care coordination and geriatric assessment skills. They performed fall risk screening with the TUGT. Patients with abnormal TUGT results could then be referred to physical therapy (PT), social work or home health as determined by the GNL.

Results: Gait assessment with the TUGT was performed on 443 elderly patients between 4/1/13 and 5/31/14. A prior fall was reported in 37% of patients in the previous six months. Of those screened with the TUGT, 368 patients experienced a positive result. Interventions for positive results included ED-based PT (n=63, 17.1%), outpatient PT referrals (n=56, 12.2%) and social work consultation (n=162, 44%). 

Conclusion: The ED visit may provide an opportunity for older adults to be screened for fall risk. Our results show ED nurses can conduct the TUGT, a validated and time efficient screen, and place appropriate referrals based on assessment results. Identifying and intervening on high fall risk patients who visit the ED has the potential to improve the trajectory of functional decline in our elderly population.

Systematic Review of ED-based Intimate Partner Violence Intervention Research

Introduction: Assessment reactivity may be a factor in the modest results of brief interventions for substance use in the emergency department (ED). The presence of assessment reactivity in studies of interventions for intimate partner violence (IPV) has not been studied. Our objectives were to identify ED IPV intervention studies and evaluate the presence of a consistently positive effect on the control groups. 

Methods: We performed a systematic search of electronic databases for English=language intervention studies addressing IPV in the ED published since 1990. Study selection and assessment of methodologic quality were performed by two independent reviewers. Data extraction was performed by one reviewer and then independently checked for completeness and accuracy by a second reviewer. 

Results: Of 3,620 unique manuscripts identified by database search, 667 underwent abstract review and 12 underwent full-text review. Only three met full eligibility criteria; data on the control arm were available for two studies. In these two studies, IPV-related outcomes improved for both the experimental and control condition.

Conclusion: The paucity of controlled trials of IPV precluded a robust evaluation for assessment reactivity. This study highlighted a critical gap in ED research on IPV.

Technology in Emergency Medicine

Impact of Health Information Exchange on Emergency Medicine Clinical Decision Making

Introduction: The objective of the study was to understand the immediate utility of health information exchange (HIE) on emergency department (ED) providers by interviewing them shortly after the information was retrieved. Prior studies of physician perceptions regarding HIE have only been performed outside of the care environment. 

Methods: Trained research assistants interviewed resident physicians, physician assistants and attending physicians using a semi-structured questionnaire within two hours of making a HIE request. The responses were recorded, then transcribed for qualitative analysis. The transcribed interviews were analyzed for emerging qualitative themes.

Results: We analyzed 40 interviews obtained from 29 providers. Primary qualitative themes discovered included the following: drivers for requests for outside information; the importance of unexpected information; historical lab values as reference points; providing context when determining whether to admit or discharge a patient; the importance of information in refining disposition; improved confidence of provider; and changes in decisions for diagnostic imaging.

Conclusion: ED providers are driven to use HIE when they’re missing a known piece of information. This study finds two additional impacts not previously reported. First, providers sometimes find additional unanticipated useful information, supporting a workflow that lowers the threshold to request external information. Second, providers sometimes report utility when no changes to their existing plan are made as their confidence is increased based on external records. Our findings are concordant with previous studies in finding exchanged information is useful to provide context for interpreting lab results, making admission decisions, and prevents repeat diagnostic imaging.

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Direct Versus Video Laryngoscopy for Intubating Adult Patients with Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Introduction: Video laryngoscopy (VL) has been advocated for several aspects of emergency airway management; however, there are still concerns over its use in select patient populations such as those with large volume hematemesis secondary to gastrointestinal (GI) bleeds. Given the relatively infrequent nature of this disease process, we sought to compare intubation outcomes between VL and traditional direct laryngoscopy (DL) in patients intubated with GI bleeding, using the third iteration of the National Emergency Airway Registry (NEARIII).

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of a prospectively collected national database (NEARIII) of intubations performed in United States emergency departments (EDs) from July 1, 2002, through December 31, 2012. All cases where the indication for intubation was “GI bleed” were analyzed. We included patient, provider and intubation characteristics. We compared data between intubation attempts initiated as DL and VL using parametric and non-parametric tests when appropriate.

Results: We identified 325 intubations, 295 DL and 30 VL. DL and VL cases were similar in terms of age, sex, weight, difficult airway predictors, operator specialty (emergency medicine, anesthesia or other) and level of operator training (post-graduate year 1, 2, etc). Proportion of successful first attempts (DL 261/295 (88.5%) vs. VL 28/30 (93.3%) p=0.58) and Cormack-Lehane grade views (p=0.89) were similar between devices. The need for device change was similar between DL [2/295 (0.7%) and VL 1/30 (3.3%); p=0.15].

Conclusion: In this national registry of intubations performed in the ED for patients with GI bleeds, both DL and VL had similar rates of success, glottic views and need to change devices.

Patient Safety

Derivation and Validation of Predictive Factors for Clinical Deterioration after Admission in Emergency Department Patients Presenting with Abnormal Vital Signs Without Shock

Introduction: Strategies to identify high-risk emergency department (ED) patients often use markedly abnormal vital signs and serum lactate levels. Risk stratifying such patients without using the presence of shock is challenging. The objective of the study is to identify independent predictors of in-hospital adverse outcomes in ED patients with abnormal vital signs or lactate levels, but who are not in shock.

Methods: We performed a prospective observational study of patients with abnormal vital signs or lactate level defined as heart rate ≥130 beats/min, respiratory rate ≥24 breaths/min, shock index ≥1, systolic blood pressure <90mm/Hg, or lactate ≥4mmole/L. We excluded patients with isolated atrial tachycardia, seizure, intoxication, psychiatric agitation, or tachycardia due to pain (ie: extremity fracture). The primary outcome was deterioration, defined as development of acute renal failure (creatinine 2x baseline), non-elective intubation, vasopressor requirement, or mortality. Independent predictors of deterioration after hospitalization were determined using logistic regression.

Results: Of 1,152 consecutive patients identified with abnormal vital signs or lactate level, 620 were excluded, leaving 532 for analysis. Of these, 53/532 (9.9±2.5%) deteriorated after hospital admission. Independent predictors of in-hospital deterioration were: lactate >4.0mmol/L (OR 5.1, 95% CI [2.1–12.2]), age ≥80 yrs (OR 1.9, CI [1.0–3.7]), bicarbonate <21mEq/L (OR 2.5, CI [1.3–4.9]), and initial HR≥130 (OR 3.1, CI [1.5–6.1]).

Conclusion: Patients exhibiting abnormal vital signs or elevated lactate levels without shock had significant rates of deterioration after hospitalization. ED clinical data predicted patients who suffered adverse outcomes with reasonable reliability.

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Association of Emergency Department Length of Stay and Crowding for Patients with ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction

Introduction: With the majority of U.S. hospitals not having primary percutaneous coronary intervention (pPCI) capabilities, the time spent at transferring emergency departments (EDs) is predictive of clinical outcomes for patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Compounding the challenges of delivering timely emergency care are the known delays caused by ED crowding. However, the association of ED crowding with timeliness for patients with STEMI is unknown. We sought to examine the relationship between ED crowding and time spent at transferring EDs for patients with STEMI.

Methods: We analyzed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) quality data. The outcome was time spent at a transferring ED (i.e., door-in-door-out [DIDO]), was CMS measure OP-3b for hospitals with ≥10 acute myocardial infarction (AMI) cases requiring transfer (i.e., STEMI) annually: Time to Transfer an AMI Patient for Acute Coronary Intervention. We used four CMS ED timeliness measures as surrogate measures of ED crowding: admitted length of stay (LOS), discharged LOS, boarding time, and waiting time. We analyzed bivariate associations between DIDO and ED timeliness measures. We used a linear multivariable regression to evaluate the contribution of hospital characteristics (academic, trauma, rural, ED volume) to DIDO.

Results: Data were available for 405 out of 4,129 hospitals for the CMS DIDO measure. These facilities were primarily non-academic (99.0%), non-trauma centers (65.4%), and in urban locations (68.5%). Median DIDO was 54.0 minutes (IQR 42.0,68.0). Increased DIDO time was associated with longer admitted LOS and boarding times. After adjusting for hospital characteristics, a one-minute increase in ED LOS at transferring facilities was associated with DIDO (coefficient, 0.084 [95% CI [0.049,0.119]]; p<0.001). This translates into a five-minute increase in DIDO for every one-hour increase in ED LOS for admitted patients.

Conclusion: Among patients with STEMI presenting to U.S. EDs, we found that ED crowding has a small but operationally insignificant effect on time spent at the transferring ED.

Voluntary Medical Incident Reporting Tool to Improve Physician Reporting of Medical Errors in an Emergency Department

Introduction: Medical errors are frequently under-reported, yet their appropriate analysis, coupled with remediation, is essential for continuous quality improvement. The emergency department (ED) is recognized as a complex and chaotic environment prone to errors. In this paper, we describe the design and implementation of a web-based ED-specific incident reporting system using an iterative process.

Methods: A web-based, password-protected tool was developed by members of a quality assurance committee for ED providers to report incidents that they believe could impact patient safety.

Results: The utilization of this system in one residency program with two academic sites resulted in an increase from 81 reported incidents in 2009, the first year of use, to 561 reported incidents in 2012. This is an increase in rate of reported events from 0.07% of all ED visits to 0.44% of all ED visits. In 2012, faculty reported 60% of all incidents, while residents and midlevel providers reported 24% and 16% respectively. The most commonly reported incidents were delays in care and management concerns.

Conclusion: Error reporting frequency can be dramatically improved by using a web-based, user-friendly, voluntary, and non-punitive reporting system.

Societal Impact on Emergency Care

The Changing Use of Intravenous Opioids in an Emergency Department

Introduction: Government agencies are increasingly emphasizing opioid safety in hospitals. In 2012, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) started a sentinel event program, the “Safe Use of Opioids in Hospitals.” We sought to determine if opioid use patterns in our emergency department (ED) changed from 2011, before the program began, to 2013, after start of the program.

Methods: This was a retrospective study of all adult ED patients who received an intravenous opioid and had a serum creatinine measured. We recorded opioids used, dose prescribed, and serum creatinine. As an index of the safety of opioids, uses of naloxone after administration of an opioid was recorded.

Results: Morphine is still the most commonly used opioid by doses given, but its percentage of opioids used decreased from 68.9% in 2011 to 52.8% in 2013. During the same period, use of hydromorphone increased from 27.5% to 42.9%, while the use of fentanyl changed little (3.6% to 4.3%). Naloxone administration was rare after an opioid had been given. Opioids were not dosed in an equipotent manner.

Conclusion: The use of hydromorphone in our ED increased by 56% (absolute increase of 15.4%), while the use of morphine decreased by 30.5% (absolute decrease 16.1%) of total opioid use from 2011 to 2013. The JCAHO program likely was at least indirectly responsible for this change in relative dosing of the opioids. Based on frequency of naloxone administered after administration of an opioid, the use of opioids was safe.

Patient Communication

Inability of Physicians and Nurses to Predict Patient Satisfaction in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Patient satisfaction is a commonly assessed dimension of emergency department (ED) care quality. The ability of ED clinicians to estimate patient satisfaction is unknown. We sought to evaluate the ability of emergency medicine resident physicians and nurses to predict patient-reported satisfaction with physician and nursing care, pain levels, and understanding of discharge instructions. 

Methods: We studied a convenience sample of 100 patients treated at an urban academic ED. Patients rated satisfaction with nursing care, physician care, pain level at time of disposition and understanding of discharge instructions. Resident physicians and nurses estimated responses for each patient. We compared patient, physician and nursing responses using Cohen’s kappa, weighting the estimates to account for the ordinal responses.

Results: Overall, patients had a high degree of satisfaction with care provided by the nurses and physicians, although this was underestimated by providers. There was poor agreement between physician estimation of patient satisfaction (weighted κ=0.23, standard error: 0.078) and nursing estimates of patient satisfaction (weighted κ=0.11, standard error: 0.043); physician estimation of patient pain (weighted κ=0.43, standard error: 0.082) and nursing estimates (weighted κ=0.39, standard error: 0.081); physician estimates of patient comprehension of discharge instruction (weighted κ=0.19, standard error: 0.082) and nursing estimates (weighted κ=0.13, standard error: 0.078). Providers underestimated pain and patient comprehension of discharge instructions. 

Conclusion: ED providers were not able to predict patient satisfaction with nurse or physician care, pain level, or understanding of discharge instructions.

The Need for More Prehospital Research on Language Barriers: A Narrative Review

Introduction: Despite evidence from other healthcare settings that language barriers negatively impact patient outcomes, the literature on language barriers in emergency medical services (EMS) has not been previously summarized. The objective of this study is to systematically review existing studies of the impact of language barriers on prehospital emergency care and identify opportunities for future research. 

Methods: A systematic review with narrative synthesis of publications with populations specific to the prehospital setting and outcome measures specific to language barriers was conducted. A four-prong search strategy of academic databases (PubMed, Academic Search Complete, and Clinical Key) through March 2015, web-based search for gray literature, search of citation lists, and review of key conference proceedings using pre-defined eligibility criteria was used. Language-related outcomes were categorized and reported as community-specific outcomes, EMS provider-specific outcomes, patient-specific outcomes, or health system-specific outcomes.

Results: Twenty-two studies met eligibility criteria for review. Ten publications (45%) focused on community-specific outcomes. Language barriers are perceived as a barrier by minority language speaking communities to activating EMS. Eleven publications (50%) reported outcomes specific to EMS providers, with six of these studies focused on EMS dispatch. EMS dispatchers describe less accurate and delayed dispatch of resources when confronted with language discordant callers, as well as limitations in the ability to provide medical direction to callers. There is a paucity of research on EMS treatment and transport decisions, and no studies provided patient-specific or health system-specific outcomes. Key research gaps include identifying the mechanisms by which language barriers impact care, the effect of language barriers on EMS utilization and clinically significant outcomes, and the cost implications of addressing language barriers.

Conclusion: The existing research on prehospital language barriers is largely exploratory, and substantial gaps in understanding the interaction between language barriers and prehospital care have yet to be addressed. Future research should be focused on clarifying the clinical and cost implications of prehospital language barriers.

A Delphi Method Analysis to Create an Emergency Medicine Educational Patient Satisfaction Survey

Introduction: Feedback on patient satisfaction (PS) as a means to monitor and improve performance in patient communication is lacking in residency training. A physician’s promotion, compensation and job satisfaction may be impacted by his individual PS scores, once he is in practice. Many communication and satisfaction surveys exist but none focus on the emergency department setting for educational purposes. The goal of this project was to create an emergency medicine-based educational PS survey with strong evidence for content validity. 

Methods: We used the Delphi Method (DM) to obtain expert opinion via an iterative process of surveying. Questions were mined from four PS surveys as well as from group suggestion. The DM analysis determined the structure, content and appropriate use of the tool. The group used four-point Likert-type scales and Lynn’s criteria for content validity to determine relevant questions from the stated goals. 

Results: Twelve recruited experts participated in a series of seven surveys to achieve consensus. A 10-question, single-page survey with an additional page of qualitative questions and demographic questions was selected. Thirty one questions were judged to be relevant from an original 48-question list. Of these, the final 10 questions were chosen. Response rates for individual survey items was 99.5%. 

Conclusion: The DM produced a consensus survey with content validity evidence. Future work will be needed to obtain evidence for response process, internal structure and construct validity.

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Critical Care

The Physiologically Difficult Airway

Airway management in critically ill patients involves the identification and management of the potentially difficult airway in order to avoid untoward complications. This focus on difficult airway management has traditionally referred to identifying anatomic characteristics of the patient that make either visualizing the glottic opening or placement of the tracheal tube through the vocal cords difficult. This paper will describe the physiologically difficult airway, in which physiologic derangements of the patient increase the risk of cardiovascular collapse from airway management. The four physiologically difficult airways described include hypoxemia, hypotension, severe metabolic acidosis, and right ventricular failure. The emergency physician should account for these physiologic derangements with airway management in critically ill patients regardless of the predicted anatomic difficulty of the intubation.

Lactate Clearance Predicts Survival Among Patients in the Emergency Department with Severe Sepsis

Introduction: Lactate clearance has been implicated as a predictor of mortality among emergency department (ED) patients with severe sepsis or septic shock. We aimed to validate prior studies showing that lactate clearance during the ED stay is associated with decreased mortality.

Methods: Retrospective dual-centered cross-sectional study using patients identified in the Yale-New Haven Hospital Emergency Medicine sepsis registry with severe sepsis or septic shock who had initial lactate levels measured in the ED and upon arrival (<24 hours) to the hospital floor. Lactate clearance was calculated as percent of serum lactate change from ED to floor measurement. We compared mortality and hospital interventions between patients who cleared lactate and those who did not. 

Results: 207 patients (110 male; 63.17±17.9 years) were included. Two reviewers extracted data with 95% agreement. One hundred thirty-six patients (65.7%) had severe sepsis and 71 patients (34.3%) had septic shock. There were 171 patients in the clearance group and 36 patients in the non-clearance group. The 28-day mortality rates were 15.2% in the lactate clearance group and 36.1% in the non-clearance group (p<0.01). Vasopressor support was initiated more often in the non-clearance group (61.1%) than in the clearance group (36.8%, p<0.01) and mechanical ventilation was used in 66.7% of the non-clearance group and 36.3% of the clearance group (p=0.001). 

Conclusion: Patients who do not clear their lactate in the ED have significantly higher mortality than those with decreasing lactate levels. Our results are confirmatory of other literature supporting that lactate clearance may be used to stratify mortality-risk among patients with severe sepsis or septic shock.


Evidence-based Comprehensive Approach to Forearm Arterial Laceration

Introduction: Penetrating injury to the forearm may cause an isolated radial or ulnar artery injury, or a complex injury involving other structures including veins, tendons and nerves. The management of forearm laceration with arterial injury involves both operative and nonoperative strategies. An evolution in management has emerged especially at urban trauma centers, where the multidisciplinary resource of trauma and hand subspecialties may invoke controversy pertaining to the optimal management of such injuries. The objective of this review was to provide an evidence-based, systematic, operative and nonoperative approach to the management of isolated and complex forearm lacerations. A comprehensive search of MedLine, Cochrane Library, Embase and the National Guideline Clearinghouse did not yield evidence-based management guidelines for forearm arterial laceration injury. No professional or societal consensus guidelines or best practice guidelines exist to our knowledge.

Discussion: The optimal methods for achieving hemostasis are by a combination approach utilizing direct digital pressure, temporary tourniquet pressure, compressive dressings followed by wound closure. While surgical hemostasis may provide an expedited route for control of hemorrhage, this aggressive approach is often not needed (with a few exceptions) to achieve hemostasis for most forearm lacerations. Conservative methods mentioned above will attain the same result. Further, routine emergent or urgent operative exploration of forearm laceration injuries are not warranted and not cost-beneficial. It has been widely accepted with ample evidence in the literature that neither injury to forearm artery, nerve or tendon requires immediate surgical repair. Attention should be directed instead to control of bleeding, and perform a complete physical examination of the hand to document the presence or absence of other associated injuries. Critical ischemia will require expeditious surgical restoration of arterial perfusion. In a well-perfused hand, however, the presence of one intact artery is adequate to sustain viability without long-term functional disability, provided the palmar arch circulation is intact. Early consultation with a hand specialist should be pursued, and follow-up arrangement made for delayed primary repair in cases of complex injury.

Conclusion: Management in accordance with well-established clinical principles will maximize treatment efficacy and functional outcome while minimizing the cost of medical care.

A Simulation-based Randomized Controlled Study of Factors Influencing Chest Compression Depth

Introduction: Current resuscitation guidelines emphasize a systems approach with a strong emphasis on quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Despite the American Heart Association (AHA) emphasis on quality CPR for over 10 years, resuscitation teams do not consistently meet recommended CPR standards. The objective is to assess the impact on chest compression depth of factors including bed height, step stool utilization, position of the rescuer’s arms and shoulders relative to the point of chest compression, and rescuer characteristics including height, weight, and gender.

Methods: Fifty-six eligible subjects, including physician assistant students and first-year emergency medicine residents, were enrolled and randomized to intervention (bed lowered and step stool readily available) and control (bed raised and step stool accessible, but concealed) groups. We instructed all subjects to complete all interventions on a high-fidelity mannequin per AHA guidelines. Secondary end points included subject arm angle, height, weight group, and gender.

Results: Using an intention to treat analysis, the mean compression depths for the intervention and control groups were not significantly different. Subjects positioning their arms at a 90-degree angle relative to the sagittal plane of the mannequin’s chest achieved a mean compression depth significantly greater than those compressing at an angle less than 90 degrees. There was a significant correlation between using a step stool and achieving the correct shoulder position. Subject height, weight group, and gender were all independently associated with compression depth. 

Conclusion: Rescuer arm position relative to the patient’s chest and step stool utilization during CPR are modifiable factors facilitating improved chest compression depth.

Behavioral Health

Emergency Department Visits by Older Adults with Mental Illness in North Carolina

Introduction: We analyzed emergency department (ED) visits by patients with mental health disorders (MHDs) in North Carolina from 2008-2010 to determine frequencies and characteristics of ED visits by older adults with MHDs.

Methods: We extracted ED visit data from the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT). We defined mental health visits as visits with a mental health ICD-9-CM diagnostic code, and organized MHDs into clinically similar groups for analysis.

Results: Those ≥65 with MHDs accounted for 27.3% of all MHD ED visits, and 51.2% were admitted. The most common MHD diagnoses for this age group were psychosis, and stress/anxiety/depression.

Conclusion: Older adults with MHDs account for over one-quarter of ED patients with MHDs, and their numbers will continue to increase as the “boomer” population ages. We must anticipate and prepare for the MHD-related needs of the elderly.

Alcohol Use as Risk Factors for Older Adults’ Emergency Department Visits: A Latent Class Analysis

Introduction: Late middle-aged and older adults’ share of emergency department (ED) visits is increasing more than other age groups. ED visits by individuals with substance-related problems are also increasing. This paper was intended to identify subgroups of individuals aged 50+ by their risk for ED visits by examining their health/mental health status and alcohol use patterns.

Methods: Data came from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey’s Sample Adult file (n=15,713). Following descriptive analysis of sample characteristics by alcohol use patterns, latent class analysis (LCA) modeling was fit using alcohol use pattern (lifetime abstainers, ex-drinkers, current infrequent/light/moderate drinkers, and current heavy drinkers), chronic health and mental health status, and past-year ED visits as indicators.

Results: LCA identified a four-class model. All members of Class 1 (35% of the sample; lowest-risk group) were infrequent/light/moderate drinkers and exhibited the lowest probabilities of chronic health/mental health problems; Class 2 (21%; low-risk group) consisted entirely of lifetime abstainers and, despite being the oldest group, exhibited low probabilities of health/mental health problems; Class 3 (37%; moderate-risk group) was evenly divided between ex-drinkers and heavy drinkers; and Class 4 (7%; high-risk group) included all four groups of drinkers but more ex-drinkers. In addition, Class 4 had the highest probabilities of chronic health/mental problems, unhealthy behaviors, and repeat ED visits, with the highest proportion of Blacks and the lowest proportions of college graduates and employed persons, indicating significant roles of these risk factors.

Conclusion: Alcohol nonuse/use (and quantity of use) and chronic health conditions are significant contributors to varying levels of ED visit risk. Clinicians need to help heavy-drinking older adults reduce unhealthy alcohol consumption and help both heavy drinkers and ex-drinkers improve chronic illnesses self-management.


Correlation of the National Emergency Medicine M4 Clerkship Examination with USMLE Examination Performance

Introduction: Assessment of medical students’ knowledge in clinical settings is complex yet essential to the learning process. Clinical clerkships use various types of written examinations to objectively test medical knowledge within a given discipline. Within emergency medicine (EM), a new national standardized exam was developed to test medical knowledge in this specialty. Evaluation of the psychometric properties of a new examination is an important issue to address during test development and use. Studies have shown that student performance on selected standardized exams will reveal students’ strengths and/or weaknesses, so that effective remedial efforts can be implemented. Our study sought to address these issues by examining the association of scores on the new EM national exam with other standardized exam scores.

Methods: From August 2011 to April 2013, average National EM M4 examination scores of fourth-year medical students taken at the end of a required EM clerkship were compiled. We examined the correlation of the National EM M4 examination with the scores of initial attempts of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) examinations. Correlation coefficients and 95% confidence intervals of correlation coefficients are reported. We also examined the association between the national EM M4 examination score, final grades for the EM rotation, and USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores.

Results: 133 students were included in the study and achieved a mean score of 79.5 SD 8.0 on the National EM M4 exam compared to a national mean of 79.7 SD 3.89. The mean USMLE Step 1 score was 226.8 SD 19.3. The mean USMLE Step 2 CK score was 238.5 SD 18.9. National EM M4 examination scores showed moderate correlation with both USMLE Step 1 (mean score=226.8; correlation coefficient=0.50; 95% CI [0.28-0.67]) and USMLE Step 2 CK (mean score=238.5; correlation coefficient=0.47; 95% CI [0.25-0.65]). Students scoring below the median on the national EM M4 exam also scored well below their colleagues on USMLE exams.

Conclusion: The moderate correlation of the national EM M4 examination and USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores provides support for the utilization of the CDEM National EM M4 examination as an effective means of assessing medical knowledge for fourth-year medical students. Identification of students scoring lower on standardized exams allows for effective remedial efforts to be undertaken throughout the medical education process.

Simulation in Pre-departure Training for Residents Planning Clinical Work in a Low-Income Country

Introduction: Increasingly, pediatric and emergency medicine (EM) residents are pursuing clinical rotations in low-income countries. Optimal pre-departure preparation for such rotations has not yet been established. High-fidelity simulation represents a potentially effective modality for such preparation. This study was designed to assess whether a pre-departure high-fidelity medical simulation curriculum is effective in helping to prepare residents for clinical rotations in a low-income country. 

Methods: 43 pediatric and EM residents planning clinical rotations in Liberia, West Africa, participated in a simulation-based curriculum focused on severe pediatric malaria and malnutrition and were then assessed by survey at three time points: pre-simulation, post-simulation, and after returning from work abroad.

Results: Prior to simulation, 1/43 (2%) participants reported they were comfortable with the diagnosis and management of severe malnutrition; this increased to 30/42 (71%) after simulation and 24/31 (77%) after working abroad. Prior to simulation, 1/43 (2%) of residents reported comfort with the diagnosis and management of severe malaria; this increased to 26/42 (62%) after simulation and 28/31 (90%) after working abroad; 36/42 (86%) of residents agreed that a simulation-based global health curriculum is more useful than a didactic curriculum alone, and 41/42 (98%) felt a simulator-based curriculum should be offered to all residents planning a clinical trip to a low-income country.

Conclusion: High-fidelity simulation is effective in increasing residents’ self-rated comfort in management of pediatric malaria and malnutrition and a majority of participating residents feel it should be included as a component of pre-departure training for all residents rotating clinically to low-income countries.

Diagnostic Acumen

Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome (PRES) After Acute Pancreatitis

Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) is an unusual condition typified by acute visual impairment caused by sudden, marked parieto-occipital vasogenic edema. Thought to be inflammatory in origin, it has been described in patients undergoing chemotherapy, with autoimmune disease, and in some infections. We report a case of PRES that occurred one week after an episode of acute pancreatitis in an otherwise healthy 40-year-old female. There was progressive visual impairment over a 24-hour period with almost complete visual loss, with characteristic findings on magnetic resonance imaging. After treatment with steroids, the visual loss recovered. Clinicians should retain an index of suspicion of this rare condition in patients with visual impairment after acute pancreatitis.

Posterior Scleritis with Inflammatory Retinal Detachment

A 14-year-old African American male presented to the emergency department with worsening left eye redness, swelling, and vision loss over the preceding three days. History was notable for similar eye redness and swelling without vision loss four months earlier, which improved following a brief course of prednisone. He endorsed mild eye irritation and tearing with bright lights. There was no history of fever, respiratory symptoms or trauma. Mother was medicating patient with leftover antibiotic eye drops x3 days without improvement. Physical examination on presentation notable for proptosis of left eye, lid, and periorbital swelling, mild scleral injection, and central vision loss in affected eye (20/200 OS, 20/25 OD). Extraocular movements and pupillary exam were normal. No corneal fluorescein uptake, abnormal cell, flare, or siedel sign were seen during slit lamp exam. Eye pressures were 24 mmHg in both eyes. Bedside ultrasonography was performed (Figure 1 showing retinal detachment, Ultrasound Video 2 showing detachment in orbital scan).

  • 1 supplemental video

A Massive Overdose of Dalfampridine

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune mediated inflammatory disease that attacks myelinated axons in the central nervous system. Dalfampridine (4-aminopyridine) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in January 2010 for treatment of MS. Our patient was a 34-year-old male with a history of MS, who was brought to the emergency department after being found unresponsive. His current medications were valacyclovir, temazepam, dalfampridine (4-AP) and a tysabri intravenous (IV) infusion. Fifteen minutes after arrival the patient seized. The seizures were refractory to benzodiazepines, barbiturates and phenytoin. The 4-AP level was 530ng/mL (25ng/mL and 49ng/mL). The patient stopped seizing on hospital day 3 and was discharged 14 days later with normal mental status and neurologic exam. 4-AP is a potassium channel blocker that blocks the potassium ion current of repolarization following an action potential. The blockade of the potassium channel at the level of the membrane widens the action potential and enhances the release of acetylcholine, thus increasing post-synaptic action potentials. The treatment of patients with 4-AP overdose is supportive. Animal data suggest that patients with toxic levels of 4-AP may respond to phenytoin. Our case illustrates the highest recorded level of 4-AP in an overdose. Our patient appeared to be refractory to a combination of high doses of anticonvulsants and only improved with time.

An Unusual Case of Angiotensin-Converting-Enzyme Inhibitor-Related Penile Angioedema with Evolution to the Oropharynx

A 52-year-old African American male with a long history of poorly controlled hypertension presented to the emergency department (ED) with two days of genital edema and pain. During ED work-up, the patient developed sudden onset of non-pitting, non-pruritic, and non-urticarial upper lip edema. Review of his antihypertensive medication list revealed that he normally took benazepril, highly suggestive of a diagnosis of angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor-related angioedema (ACEI-RA). We present the first reported case of penile ACEI-RA that progressed to involve the oropharynx. The ED management of the condition and some of the newer treatment options available for ACEI-RA is also briefly discussed.

Single Fascia Iliaca Compartment Block is Safe and Effective for Emergency Pain Relief in Hip-fracture Patients

Introduction: Currently, it is common practice in the emergency department (ED) for pain relief in hip-fracture patients to administer pain medication, commonly systemic opioids. However, with these pain medications come a high risk of side effects, especially in elderly patients. This study investigated the safety profile and success rate of fascia iliaca compartment block (FICB) in a busy ED. This ED was staffed with emergency physicians (EPs) and residents of varying levels of experience. This study followed patients’ pain levels at various hourly intervals up to eight hours post procedure.

Methods: Between September 2012 and July 2013, we performed a prospective pilot study on hip-fracture patients who were admitted to the ED of a teaching hospital in the Netherlands. These patients were followed and evaluated post FICB for pain relief. Secondary outcome was the use of opioids as rescue medication.

Results: Of the 43 patients in this study, patients overall experienced less pain after the FICB (p=0.04). This reduction in pain was studied in conjunction with the use and non-use of opioids. A clinically meaningful decrease in pain was achieved after 30 minutes in 62% of patients (54% with the use of opioids, 8% without opioids); after 240 minutes in 82% of patients (18% with opioids, 64% without opioids); after 480 minutes in 88% of patients (16% with opioids, 72% without opioids). No adverse events were reported.

Conclusion: In a busy Dutch ED with rotating residents of varying levels of experience, FICB seems to be an efficient, safe and practical method for pain reduction in patients with a hip fracture. Even without the use of opioids, pain reduction was achieved in 64% of patients after four hours and in 72% of patients after eight hours.

Vallecular Varix: A Perplexing Cause of Oral Cavity Bleeding

Often discovered only after an extensive work up for hemoptysis and hematemesis, vallecular varices are a rare cause of oral bleeding that increase patient morbidity due to delay of diagnosis.We describe an 89-year-old male who presented with a week of intermittent oral blood production. A vallecular varix was identified on fiberoptic laryngoscopy after studies for hematemesis and hemoptysis had been performed, including negative esophagogastroduodenoscopy and bronchoscopy. Awareness of this pathology and key points in the patient history can direct the clinician toward the correct diagnosis, expediting treatment and limiting invasive diagnostic procedures for pulmonary or gastric etiologies of bleeding.