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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 19, Issue 5, 2018

WestJEM Full-Text Issue


Blunt Trauma Abdominal and Pelvic Computed Tomography Has Low Yield for Injuries in More Than One Anatomic Region

Introduction: Most trauma centers order abdominal and pelvic computed tomography (CT) as an automatically paired CT for adult blunt trauma evaluation. However, excessive CT utilization adds risks of excessive exposure to ionizing radiation, the need to work up incidental findings (leading to unnecessary and invasive tests), and greater costs. Examining a cohort of adult blunt trauma patients that received paired abdominal and pelvic (A/P) CT, we sought to determine the diagnostic yield of clinically significant injuries (CSI) in the following: 1) the abdomen alone; 2) the pelvis alone; 3) the lumbosacral spine alone; and 4) more than one of these anatomic regions concomitantly.

Methods: In this retrospective study, we reviewed the imaging and hospital course of a consecutive sample of blunt trauma activation patients older than 14 years of age who received paired A/PCT during their blunt trauma assessments at an urban Level I trauma center from April through October 2014. Categorization of CSI was determined according to an a priori, expert panel-derivedclassification scheme.

Results: The median age of the 689 patients who had A/P CT was 48 years old; 68.1% were male; 64.0% were admitted, and hospital mortality was 3.6%. CSI yields were as follows: abdomen 2.2% (95% confidence interval [CI] [1.3-3.6%]); pelvis 2.9% (95% CI [1.9-4.4%]); lumbosacral spine 0.6% (95% CI [0.2-1.5%]); both abdomen and pelvis 0.3% (95% CI [0.1-1.1%]); both the abdomen andlumbosacral spine 0.6% (0.2-1.5%); both the pelvis and lumbosacral spine 0.1% (0.0-0.8%); all three regions – abdomen, pelvis and lumbosacral spine – 0.1% (0.0-0.8%).

Conclusion: Automatic pairing of A/P CT has very low diagnostic yield for CSI in both the abdomenand pelvis. These data suggest a role for selective CT imaging protocols that image these regions individually instead of automatically as a pair.

Treatment Protocol Assessment

Sepsis Bundle Adherence Is Associated with Improved Survival in Severe Sepsis or Septic Shock

Introduction: There have been conflicting data regarding the relationship between sepsis-bundle adherence and mortality. Moreover, little is known about how this relationship may be moderated by the anatomic source of infection or the location of sepsis declaration.

Methods: This was a multi-center, retrospective, observational study of adult patients with a hospital discharge diagnosis of severe sepsis or septic shock. The study included patients who presented to one of three Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) full-service hospitals January 2012 to December 2014. The primary outcome of interest was the association between sepsis-bundle adherence and in-hospital mortality. Secondary outcome measures included in-hospital mortality by source of infection, and the location of sepsis declaration.

Results: Among the 4,582 patients identified with sepsis, overall mortality was lower among those who received bundle-adherent care compared to those who did not (17.9% vs. 20.4%; p=0.035). Seventy-five percent (n=3,459) of patients first met sepsis criteria in the ED, 9.6% (n=444) in the intensive care unit (ICU) and 14.8% (n=678) on the ward. Bundle adherence was associated with lower mortality for those declaring in the ICU (23.0% adherent [95% confidence interval {CI} {16.8-30.5}] vs. 31.4% nonadherent [95% CI {26.4-37.0}]; p=0.063), but not for those declaring in the ED (17.2% adherent [95%CI {15.8-18.7}] vs. 15.1% non-adherent [95% CI {13.0-17.5}]; p=0.133) or on the ward (24.8% adherent [95% CI {18.6-32.4}] vs. 24.4% non-adherent [95% CI {20.9-28.3}]; p=0.908). Pneumonia was the mostcommon source of sepsis (32.6%), and patients with pneumonia had the highest mortality of all other subsets receiving bundle non-adherent care (28.9%; 95% CI [25.3-32.9]). Although overall mortality was lower among those who received bundle-adherent care compared to those who did not, when divided into subgroups by suspected source of infection, a statistically significant mortality benefit to bundle-adherent sepsis care was only seen in patients with pneumonia.

Conclusion: In a large public healthcare system, adherence with severe sepsis/septic shock management bundles was found to be associated with improved survival. Bundle adherence seems to be most beneficial for patients with pneumonia. The overall improved survival in patients who received bundle-adherent care was driven by patients declaring in the ICU. Adherence was not associated with lower mortality in the large subset of patients who declared in the ED, nor in the smaller subset of patients who declared in the ward.

Practice Variability

Emergency Department Computed Tomography Use for Non-traumatic Abdominal Pain: Minimal Variability

Introduction: Variability in the use of computed tomography (CT) between providers in the emergency department (ED) suggests that CT is ordered on a provider rather than a patient level. We aimed to evaluate the variability of CT ordering practices for non-traumatic abdominal pain (NTAP) across physicians in the ED using patient-visit and physician-level factors.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective study among 6,409 ED visits for NTAP from January 1 to December 31, 2012, at a large, urban, academic, tertiary-care hospital. We used a two-level hierarchical logistic regression model to estimate inter-physician variation. Intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) was calculated. 

Results: The hierarchical logistic regression analyses showed that patient-visit factors including younger age, arrival mode by ambulance, prior CT, >79 ED arrivals in the previous four hours, and ultrasound had statistically significant negative associations with physician CT ordering, while surgical team admission and white blood count (WBC) >12.5 K/millimeter cubed (mm3) had statistically significant positive associations with physician CT ordering. With physician-level factors, only physicians with >21 years experience after medical school graduation showed statistical significance negatively associated with physician CT ordering. Our data demonstrated increased CT ordering from the mean in only one out of 43 providers (2.3%), which indicated limited variation across physicians to order CT. After adjusting for patient-visit and physician-level factors, the calculated ICC was 1.46%.

Conclusion: We found minimal physician variability in CT ordering practices for NTAP. Patient-visit factors such as age, arrival mode, admission team, prior CT, ED arrivals in previous four hours, ultrasound, and WBC count were found to largely influence CT ordering practices.

Violence Assessment and Prevention

Emergency Department Visits for Sexual Assault by Emerging Adults: Is Alcohol a Factor?

Introduction: Emerging adults (18-25 years of age) are at increased risk for sexual assault. There is little Emergency Department (ED) data on sexual assaults that involve alcohol among this population. The purpose of this study was to analyze ED visits for sexual assault and determine if alcohol consumption by the patient was noted. 

Methods: This study was a retrospective chart review of patients aged 18-25 presenting to an ED in a college town over a four-year period. Extracted variables included age, gender, delay in seeking care, sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) evaluation, and alcohol consumption by the patient. For analysis of alcohol use, cases were categorized as ages < 21 and ≥ 21. 

Results: There were 118 patients who presented to the ED from 2012 to 2015. The mean age of the cohort was 20 years, and almost 70% of visits were among those < 21. Of those aged < 21, 74% reported alcohol consumption, in contrast to 48% of those ≥ 21 (p = 0.055). Of those reporting alcohol use, 36% were evaluated on the day of the assault compared to 61% of those not reporting alcohol (p=0.035). 

Conclusion: This study found that ED visits for sexual assault in emerging adults were more common in younger patients. Alcohol use occurred more frequently with patients under the legal drinking age, and presentation was also more likely to be delayed. The relationship between sexual assault and alcohol use should underscore primary prevention efforts in emerging adult populations.

Provider Workforce

Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant (EMPA) Post-Graduate Training Programs: Program Characteristics and Training Curricula

Introduction: A growing number of formal postgraduate training programs have been established to provide emergency medicine physician assistants (EMPA) with the unique skills and knowledge to work in the emergency department (ED). The objective of this study was to provide an overview of the current state of EMPA postgraduate training and to describe program characteristics and curriculum components.


Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of EMPA postgraduate training programs using data from websites and contacting individual programs to provide program characteristics and curriculum components. Variables collected included length of program, curriculum (e.g., clinical rotations, didactic experience, and research opportunities), size of program/number of trainees, affiliation with emergency medicine (EM) residency, geographic location, and salary.


Results: We identified 29 EMPA postgraduate training programs in 17 states, with at least one additional program in development. The mean length of EMPA training programs is 15 months (range 12-24 months). The most common non-ED/elective rotations are orthopedics, ultrasound, anesthesiology, and trauma. The mean number of trainees per class is 3.46 (median 3, range 1-16 trainees); 27 of 29 (93%) programs were in institutions that also had an EM residency program. The mean annual salary is $58,566 (range $43,000-90,000). 


Conclusion: EMPA postgraduate training programs have common characteristics and curriculum components despite a lack of a specialty-specific accrediting organization or certifying examination. The overall growth and current number of these programs merits further research focusing on whether standardized curricula, formal recognition, and accreditation should be developed.

Technology in Emergency Medicine

Ultrasound Guided Placement of Single-Lumen Peripheral Intravenous Catheters in the Internal Jugular Vein

Introduction: The peripheral internal jugular (IJ), also called the “easy IJ,” is an alternative to peripheral venous access reserved for patients with difficult intravenous (IV) access. The procedure involves placing a single-lumen catheter in the IJ vein under ultrasound (US) guidance. As this technique is relatively new, the details regarding the ease of the procedure, how exactly it should be performed, and the safety of the procedure are uncertain. Our primary objective was to determine the success rate for peripheral IJ placement. Secondarily, we evaluated the time needed to complete the procedure and assessed for complications.

Methods: This was a prospective, single-center study of US-guided peripheral IJ placement using a 2.5-inch, 18-gauge catheter on a convenience sample of patients with at least two unsuccessful attempts at peripheral IV placement by nursing staff. Peripheral IJ lines were placed by emergency medicine (EM) attending physicians and EM residents who had completed at least five IJ central lines. All physicians who placed lines for the study watched a 15-minute lecture about peripheral IJ technique. A research assistant monitored each line to assess for complications until the patient was discharged.

Results: We successfully placed a peripheral IJ in 34 of 35 enrolled patients (97.1%). The median number of attempts required for successful cannulation was one (interquartile range (IQR): 1 to 2). The median time to successful line placement was 3 minutes and 6 seconds (IQR: 59 seconds to 4 minutes and 14 seconds). Two lines failed after placement, and one of the 34 successfully placed peripheral IJ lines (2.9%) had a complication – a local hematoma. There were, however, no arterial punctures or pneumothoraces. Although only eight of 34 lines were placed using sterile attire, there were no line infections. 

Conclusion: Our research adds to the growing body of evidence supporting US-guided peripheral internal jugular access as a safe and convenient procedure alternative for patients who have difficult IV access.

Emergency Medical Services

Accuracy of Height Estimation among Bystanders

Introduction: High-risk mechanisms in trauma usually dictate certain treatment and evaluation in protocolized care. A 10-15 feet (ft) fall is traditionally cited as an example of a high-risk mechanism, triggering trauma team activations and costly work-ups. The height and other details of mechanism are usually reported by lay bystanders or prehospital personnel. This small observational study was designed to evaluate how accurate or inaccurate height estimation may be among typical bystanders.

Methods: This was a blinded, prospective study conducted on the grounds of a community hospital. Four panels with lines corresponding to varying heights from 1-25 ft were hung within a building structure that did not have stories or other possibly confounding factors by which to judge height. The participants were asked to estimate the height of each line using a multiple-choice survey-style ballot. Participants were adult volunteers composed of various hospital and non-hospital affiliated persons, of varying ages and genders. In total, there were 96 respondents. 

Results: For heights equal to or greater than 15 ft, less than 50% of participants of each job description were able to correctly identify the height. When arranged into a scatter plot, as height increased, the likelihood to underestimate the correct height was evident, having a strong correlation coefficient (R=+0.926) with a statistically significant p value = <0.001.

Conclusion: The use of vertical height as a predictor of injury severity is part of current practice in trauma triage. This data is often an estimation provided by prehospital personnel or bystanders.  Our small study showed bystanders may not estimate heights accurately in the field. The greater the reported height, the less likely it is to be accurate. Additionally, there is a higher likelihood that falls from greater than 15 ft may be underestimated.

  • 1 supplemental file

Medical Education

Preparing Osteopathic Students for the Single Graduate Medical Education Accreditation System: Evaluating Factors for Match Success in Emergency Medicine

Introduction: With the development of and progression toward a single graduate medical education accreditation system combining the current Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and American Osteopathic Association (AOA) residency programs, the total number of students competing for the same postgraduate training spots will continue to rise. Given this increasing competition for emergency medicine (EM) residency positions, understanding factors that contribute to match success is important to ensure a successful match for osteopathic medical students.  

Methods: Our anonymous survey to evaluate factors that led to a successful match was sent out to residents in current ACGME-, AOA-, and dually-accredited programs via the AOA program director listserv and the Council of Residency Directors (CORD) e-mail listserv in 2017. 

Results: We had 218 responses. Responses showed that osteopathic graduates had less affiliation with EM residencies, their home institutions provided less information regarding standardized letters of evaluations (SLOE), and that successful osteopathic graduates seemed to learn about them while on EM elective rotations. These students also had less direct EM mentorship and were generally unsatisfied with the level of mentorship available. Osteopathic graduates in current ACGME programs were also more likely to have taken the United States Medical Licensing Examination compared to their AOA resident counterparts. 

Conclusion: Osteopathic medical schools can improve their graduates’ chances of successfully matching in EM by establishing mentorship programs and educating their students early about SLOEs.

Critical Care

Serum Lactate and Mortality in Emergency Department Patients with Cancer

Introduction: Patients with malignancy represent a particular challenge for the emergency department (ED) given their higher acuity, longer ED length of stay, and higher admission rate. It is unknown if patients with malignancies and hyperlactatemia are at increased risk of mortality. If serum lactic acid could improve detection of at-risk patients with cancer, it would be useful in risk stratification. There is also little evidence that “alarm” values of serum lactate (such as >/=4 mmol/L) are appropriate for the population of patients with cancer.

Methods: This was a continuous retrospective cohort study of approximately two years (2012-2014) at a single, tertiary hospital ED; 5,440 patients had serum lactic acid measurements performed in the ED. Of the 5,440 patients in whom lactate was drawn, 1,837 were cancer patients, and 3,603 were non-cancer patients.Cumulative unadjusted mortality (determined by hospital records and an external death tracking system) was recorded at one day, three days, seven days, and 30 days. We used logistic regression to examine the risk of mortality 30 days after the ED visit after adjusting for confounders. 

Results: In an unadjusted analysis, we found no statistically significant difference in the mortality of cancer vs. non-cancer patients at one day and three days. Significant differences in mortality were found at seven days (at lactate levels of <2 and 4+) and at 30 days (at all lactate levels) based on cancer status. After adjusting for age, gender, and acuity level, 30-day mortality rates were significantly higher at all levels of lactic acid (<2, 2-4, 4+) for patients with malignancy. 

Conclusion: When compared with non-cancer patients, cancer patients with elevated ED lactic acid levels had an increased risk of mortality at virtually all levels and time intervals we measured, although these differences only reached statistical significance in later time intervals (Day 7 and Day 30). Our results suggest that previous work in which lactate “cutoffs” are used to risk-stratify patients with respect to outcomes may be insufficiently sensitive for patients with cancer. Relatively low serum lactate levels may serve as a marker for serious illness in oncologic patients who present to the ED.

Left Ventricular Assist Device Management in the Emergency Department

The prevalence of patients living with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is rapidly increasing due to improvements in pump technology, limiting the adverse event profile, and to expanding device indications. To date, over 22,000 patients have been implanted with LVADs either as destination therapy or as a bridge to transplant. It is critical for emergency physicians to be knowledgeable of current ventricular assist devices (VAD), and to be able to troubleshoot associated complications and optimally treat patients with emergent pathology. Special consideration must be taken when managing patients with VADs including device inspection, alarm interpretation, and blood pressure measurement. The emergency physician should be prepared to evaluate these patients for cerebral vascular accidents, gastrointestinal bleeds, pump failure or thrombosis, right ventricular failure, and VAD driveline infections. Early communication with the VAD team and appropriate consultants is essential for emergent care for patients with VADs.

Health Outcomes

A Risk Score to Predict Short-Term Outcomes Following Emergency Department Discharge

Introduction: The emergency department (ED) is an inherently high-risk setting. Risk scores can help practitioners understand the risk of ED patients for developing poor outcomes after discharge. Our objective was to develop two risk scores that predict either general inpatient admission or death/intensive care unit (ICU) admission within seven days of ED discharge.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients age > 65 years using clinical data from a regional, integrated health system for years 2009-2010 to create risk scores to predict two outcomes, a general inpatient admission or death/ICU admission. We used logistic regression to predict the two outcomes based on age, body mass index, vital signs, Charlson comorbidity index (CCI), ED length of stay (LOS), and prior inpatient admission.

Results: Of 104,025 ED visit discharges, 4,638 (4.5%) experienced a general inpatient admission and 531 (0.5%) death or ICU admission within seven days of discharge. Risk factors with the greatest point value for either outcome were high CCI score and a prolonged ED LOS. The C-statistic was 0.68 and 0.76 for the two models.

Conclusion: Risk scores were successfully created for both outcomes from an integrated health system, inpatient admission or death/ICU admission. Patients who accrued the highest number of points and greatest risk present to the ED with a high number of comorbidities and require prolonged ED evaluations.

  • 1 supplemental file

Impact of a Pharmacist-Driven Prothrombin Complex Concentrate Protocol on Time to Administration in Patients with Warfarin-associated Intracranial Hemorrhage

Introduction: Advancements in the treatment of warfarin-associated intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) include the use of four-factor prothrombin complex concentrate (4F-PCC), which has demonstrated more rapid reversal of the international normalized ratio (INR) when compared with fresh frozen plasma. A pharmacist-driven protocol for 4F-PCC was implemented within our institution, which allows for pharmacist approval of 4F-PCC in patients diagnosed with warfarin-associated ICH and an INR ≥2. The pharmacist is responsible for determining the appropriate dose of 4F-PCC, preparation, bedside delivery, and order entry into the electronic medical record. Prior to implementation of the new protocol, the blood bank was responsible for 4F-PCC approval, dosing, product preparation, and arranging delivery with emergency department (ED) staff. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of a pharmacist-driven protocol on time to 4F-PCC administration in warfarin-associated ICH.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of consecutive patients who received 4F-PCC in a single ED from September 2015 through February 2017. Patients ≥18 years old were eligible for inclusion based on three criteria: confirmed diagnosis of ICH; confirmed warfarin use; and INR ≥2. Secondary outcomes included dose of 4F-PCC in concordance with INR and weight-based dosing recommendations and hospital protocol, as well as concomitant intravenous vitamin K administration. 

Results: A total of 48 patients met inclusion criteria for the study with 24 patients in each protocol group. The median time to administration of 4F-PCC in the pharmacist-driven protocol group was 35 minutes (interquartile range [IQR] [25-62]; range, 11-133) compared with 70 minutes (IQR [34-89]; range, 14-244) in the pre-protocol group (p=0.034). We saw no differences for appropriate 4F-PCC dosing based on INR and patient weight between the two groups. 

Conclusion: Implementation of a pharmacist-driven protocol for 4F-PCC in the ED at our institution significantly reduced time to administration in patients presenting with warfarin-associated ICH.

Resource Utilization

NHAMCS Validation of Emergency Severity Index as an Indicator of Emergency Department Resource Utilization

Introduction: Triage systems play a vital role in emergency department (ED) operations and can determine how well a given ED serves its local population. We sought to describe ED utilization patterns for different triage levels using the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) database.

Methods: We conducted a multi-year secondary analysis of the NHAMCS database from 2009-2011. National visit estimates were made using standard methods in Analytics Software and Solutions (SAS, Cary, NC). We compared patients in the mid-urgency range in regard to ED lengths of stay, hospital admission rates, and numbers of tests and procedures in comparison to lower or higher acuity levels.

Results: We analyzed 100,962 emergency visits (representing 402,211,907 emergency visits nationwide). In 2011, patients classified as triage levels 1-3 had a higher number of diagnoses (5.5, 5.6 and 4.2, respectively) when compared to those classified as levels 4 and 5 (1.61 and 1.25). This group also underwent a higher number of procedures (1.0, 0.8 and 0.7, versus 0.4 and 0.4), had a higher ED length of stay (220, 280 and 237, vs. 157 and 135), and admission rates (32.2%, 32.3% and 15.5%, vs. 3.1% and 3.6%).

Conclusion: Patients classified as mid-level (3) triage urgency require more resources and have higher indicators of acuity as those in triage levels 4 and 5. These patients’ indicators are more similar to those classified as triage levels 1 and 2.


  • 1 supplemental file

The Misunderstood Coagulopathy of Liver Disease: A Review for the Acute Setting

The international normalized ratio (INR) represents a clinical tool to assess the effectiveness of vitamin-K antagonist therapy. However, it is often used in the acute setting to assess the degree of coagulopathy in patients with hepatic cirrhosis or acute liver failure. This often influences therapeutic decisions about invasive procedures or the need for potentially harmful and unnecessary transfusions of blood product. This may not represent a best-practice or evidence-based approach to patient care. The author performed a review of the literature related to the utility of INR in cirrhotic patients using several scientific search engines. Despite the commonly accepted dogma that an elevated INR in a cirrhotic patient corresponds with an increased hemorrhagic risk during the performance of invasive procedures, the literature does not support this belief. Furthermore, the need for blood- product transfusion prior to an invasive intervention is not supported by the literature, as this practice increases the risk of complications associated with a patient’s hospital course. Many publications ranging from case studies to meta-analyses refute this evidence and provide examples of thrombotic events despite elevated INR values. Alternative methods, such as thromboelastogram, represent alternate means of assessing in vivo risk of hemorrhage in patients with acute or chronic liver disease in real-time in the acute setting.

Pain Management

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) in the ED for Pain Relief: A Preliminary Study of Feasibility and Efficacy

Introduction: Given the high rates of opioid addiction and overdose in the United States, non-opioid means of treating pain are increasingly needed. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy is an effective non-opioid modality for treating pain, but has not yet been routinely used in emergency department (ED) settings. In this study we asked the following questions: Are TENS units a feasible treatment for pain in the ED? How effective are TENS units for the management of pain in a general ED population?

Methods: At our institution, we performed a pilot study using TENS units for pain. Patients in the ED were given, at the discretion of the ED provider, TENS units for the treatment of pain. Patients could be included for acute or chronic pain on whatever part of the body that was safe to use with TENS. 

Results: A chart review of patients receiving TENS units in the ED (n=110) revealed that TENS was useful in relieving pain, along with other treatments, in 99% of cases. When surveyed, 83% of patients reported a functional improvement while using the TENS, and 100% of patients would recommend a TENS unit to a family or friend. When surveyed, 100% of ED staff observed that TENS units were effective in treating pain for patients, and 97% would want to use them if they themselves were patients. 

Conclusion: Overall, in this small pilot study, TENS units appeared to be effective in our ED for reducing pain, when added to standard treatment. Additional studies are needed to determine which conditions are most responsive to TENS therapy, and the magnitude of pain reduction when used alone.

  • 2 supplemental PDFs

Emergency Providers’ Pain Management in Patients Transferred to Intensive Care Unit for Urgent Surgical Interventions.

Introduction: Pain is the most common complaint for an emergency department (ED) visit, but ED pain management is poor. Reasons for poor pain management include providers’ concerns for drug-seeking behaviors and perceptions of patients’ complaints. Patients who had objective findings of long bone fractures were more likely to receive pain medication than those who did not, despite pain complaints. We hypothesized that patients who were interhospital-transferred from an ED to an intensive care unit (ICU) for urgent surgical interventions would display objective pathology for pain and thus receive adequate pain management at ED departure.

Methods: This was a retrospective study at a single, quaternary referral, academic medical center.  We included non-trauma adult ED patients who were interhospital-transferred and underwent operative interventions within 12 hours of ICU arrival between July 2013 and June 2014.  Patients who had incomplete ED records, required invasive mechanical ventilation, or had no pain throughout their ED stay were excluded. Primary outcome was the percentage of patients at ED departure achieving adequate pain control of ≤ 50% of triage level. We performed multivariable logistic regression to assess association between demographic and clinical variables with inadequate pain control.

Results: We included 112 patients from 39 different EDs who met inclusion criteria. Mean pain score at triage and ED departure was 8 (standard deviation 8 and 5 [3]), respectively. Median of total morphine equivalent unit (MEU) was 7.5 [5-13] and MEU/kg total body weight (TBW) was 0.09 [0.05-0.16] MEU/kg, with median number of pain medication administration of 2 [1-3] doses. Time interval from triage to first narcotic dose was 61 (35-177) minutes. Overall, only 38% of patients achieved adequate pain control. Among different variables, only total MEU/kg was associated with significant lower risk of inadequate pain control at ED departure (adjusted odds ratio = 0.22; 95% confidence interval = 0.05-0.92, p = 0.037).

Conclusion: Pain control among a group of interhospital-transferred patients requiring urgent operative interventions, was inadequate. Neither demographic nor clinical factors, except MEU/kg TBW, were shown to associate with poor pain management at ED departure. Emergency providers should consider more effective strategies, such as multimodal analgesia, to improve pain management in this group of patients.

  • 1 supplemental file

International Medicine

The Effect of Point-of-Care Testing at Triage: An Observational Study in a Teaching Hospital in Saudi Arabia

Introduction: Prolonged waiting times during episodes of emergency department (ED) crowding are associated with poor outcomes. Point-of-care testing (POCT) at ED triage prior to physician evaluation may help identify critically ill patients. We studied the impact of ED POCT in a single ED with a high degree of crowding for patients with high-risk complaints who were triaged as non-critically ill. 

Methods: We conducted the study from April–July 2017 at King Abdulaziz University (KAU) Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Patients with one of seven complaints received triage POCT. The primary outcome was whether POCT results at triage resulted in immediate transfer of the patient from the waiting room into the ED. Secondary outcomes were whether the triage nurse felt that the POCT results were useful, and whether triage POCT changed triage acuity. We used simple descriptive statistics to summarize the data. 

Results: A total of 94 patients were enrolled and received i-STAT® POCT. The most common symptoms and triage protocols were for chest pain (42%), abdominal pain (31%), and shortness of breath (22%). In 11 cases (12%), care was changed as a result of triage POCT. In 12 cases (13%), triage level was changed. The triage nurse found POCT helpful in 93% of cases.

Conclusion: In this ED, triage POCT was a helpful adjunct at ED triage and resulted in immediate care (transfer to an ED room) in one in eight cases. Therefore, POCT at triage may be a useful adjunct to improve patient safety, particularly in crowded EDs.

  • 1 supplemental PDF

Universal Health Coverage in Rural Ecuador: A Cross-sectional Study of Perceived Emergencies

Introduction: In many low- and middle-income countries emergency care is provided anywhere in the health system; however, no studies to date have looked at which providers are chosen by patients with perceived emergencies. Ecuador has universal health coverage that includes emergency care. However, earlier research indicates that patients with emergencies tend to seek private care. Our primary research questions were these: What is the scope of perceived emergencies?; What is their nature?; and What is the related healthcare-seeking behavior? Secondary objectives were to study determinants of healthcare-seeking behavior, compare health expenditure with expenditure from the past ordinary illness, and measure the prevalence of catastrophic health expenditure related to perceived emergencies. 

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 210 households in a rural region of northwestern Ecuador. The households were sampled with two-stage cluster sampling and represent an estimated 20% of the households in the region. We used two structured, pretested questionnaires. The first questionnaire collected demographic and economic household data, expenditure data on the past ordinary illness, and presented our definition of perceived emergency. The second recorded the number of emergency events, symptoms, further case description, healthcare-seeking behavior, and health expenditure, which was defined as being catastrophic when it exceeded 40% of a household´s ability to pay.

Results: The response rate was 85% with a total of 74 reported emergency events during the past year (90/1,000 inhabitants). We further analyzed the most recent event in each household (n=54). Private, for-profit providers, including traditional healers, were chosen by 57.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] [44-71%]). Public providers treated one third of the cases. The mean health expenditure per event was $305.30 United States dollars (USD), compared to $135.80 USD for the past ordinary illnesses. Catastrophic health expenditure was found in 24.4% of households. 

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the provision of free health services may not be sufficient to reach universal health coverage for patients with perceived emergencies. Changes in the organization of public emergency departments and improved financial protection for emergency patients may improve the situation.


This Article Corrects: "Systemwide Clinical Ultrasound Program Development: An Expert Consensus Model"

Clinical ultrasound (CUS) is integral to the practice of an increasing number of medical specialties. Guidelines are needed to ensure effective CUS utilization across health systems. Such guidelines should address all aspects of CUS within a hospital or health system. These include leadership, training, competency, credentialing, quality assurance and improvement, documentation, archiving, workflow, equipment, and infrastructure issues relating to communication and information technology. To meet this need, a group of CUS subject matter experts, who have been involved in institution- and/or systemwide clinical ultrasound (SWCUS) program development convened. THe purpose of this paper was to create a model for SWCUS development and implementation.