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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 20, Issue 5, 2019

Volume 20, Issue 5

Behavioral Health

Boarding of Mentally Ill Patients in Emergency Departments: American Psychiatric Association Resource Document

The treatment of severe mental illness has undergone a paradigm shift over the last 50 years, away from a primary emphasis on hospital-based care and toward community-based care. Some of the forces driving this deinstitutionalization have been scientific and patient-centered, such as better differentiation between acute and subacute risk, innovations in outpatient and crisis care (assertive community treatment programs, dialectical behavioral therapy, treatment-oriented psychiatric emergency services), gradually improving psychopharmacology, and an increased appreciation of the negative effect of coercive hospitalization, except when risk is very high. On the other hand, some of the forces have been less focused on patient needs: budget-driven cuts in public hospital beds divorced from population-based need; managed care’s profit-driven impact on private psychiatric hospitals and outpatient services; and purported patient-centered approaches promoting non-hospital care that may under-recognize that some extremely ill patients need years of painstaking effort to make a community transition.

The result has been a reconfiguration of the country’s mental health system that, at times, leaves large numbers of people without adequate mental health and substance abuse services. Often their only option is to seek care in medical emergency departments (ED) that have not been designed for the needs of mentally ill patients. Increasingly, many of those individuals end up waiting in EDs for appropriate care and disposition for hours or days. This overflow phenomenon has become so prevalent that it has been given a name: “boarding.” This practice is almost certainly detrimental to patients and staff, and it has spawned efforts on multiple fronts to understand and resolve it. When considering solutions, both ED-focused and systemwide considerations must be explored. This resource document provides an overview and recommendations regarding this complex topic.

Substance Abuse

Nicotine Gateway Effects on Adolescent Substance Use

Given the rise in teenage use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (“vaping”) in congruence with the increasing numbers of drug-related emergencies, it is critical to expand the knowledge of the physical and behavioral risks associated with developmental nicotine exposure. A further understanding of the molecular and neurochemical underpinnings of nicotine’s gateway effects allows emergency clinicians to advise patients and families and adjust treatment accordingly, which may minimize the use of tobacco, nicotine, and future substances. Currently, the growing use of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes among teenagers represents a major public health concern. Adolescent exposure to tobacco or nicotine can lead to subsequent abuse of nicotine and other substances, which is known as the gateway hypothesis. Adolescence is a developmentally sensitive time period when risk-taking behaviors, such as sensation seeking and drug experimentation, often begin. These hallmark behaviors of adolescence are largely due to maturational changes in the brain. The developing brain is particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of drugs of abuse, including tobacco and nicotine products, which activate nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Disruption of nAChR development with early nicotine use may influence the function and pharmacology of the receptor subunits and alter the release of reward-related neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, dopamine, GABA, serotonin, and glutamate. In this review, we emphasize that the effects of nicotine are highly dependent on timing of exposure, with a dynamic interaction of nAChRs with dopaminergic, endocannabinoid, and opioidergic systems to enhance general drug reward and reinforcement. We analyzed available literature regarding adolescent substance use and nicotine’s impact on the developing brain and behavior using the electronic databases of PubMed and Google Scholar for articles published in English between January 1968 and November 2018. We present a large collection of clinical and preclinical evidence that adolescent nicotine exposure influences long-term molecular, biochemical, and functional changes in the brain that encourage subsequent drug abuse.

Emergency Department Access

Examining the Effect of the Affordable Care Act on Two Illinois Emergency Departments

Introduction: The emergency department (ED) has long served as a safety net for the uninsured and those with limited access to routine healthcare. This study aimed to compare the characteristics and severity of ED visits in an Illinois academic medical center (AMC) and community hospital (CH) of a single health system before and after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Methods: This was a retrospective record review of 357,764 ED visits from January 1, 2011– December 31, 2016, of which 74% were at the AMC and 26% at the CH. We assessed the severity of ED visits by applying the previously validated Ballard algorithm, which classifies ED visits as non-emergent, intermediate, or emergent. Descriptive analyses were conducted to compare the characteristics of ED visits before and after the implementation of the ACA. We conducted multilevel logistic regression analysis to examine the odds of non-emergent compared to intermediate/emergent ED visits by the ACA implementation status controlling for patient demographic characteristics, insurance status, and multiple visits per patient.

Results: ED visits for patients with Medicaid or other governmental coverages increased in the post-ACA compared to pre-ACA period (Pre: 33.2 % vs Post: 38.3% at the AMC, and Pre: 29.7% vs Post: 35.1% at the CH). A statistically significant decrease in ED visits for uninsured patients was observed at the AMC and CH in the post-ACA period compared to the pre-ACA period (Pre: 12.1% vs Post: 6.4%, and Pre: 13.9% vs Post: 9.8%, respectively). Results from the regression analysis showed a significant decreased odds of non-emergent vs intermediate/emergent ED visits during the post-ACA period compared to the pre-ACA period at the AMC (odds ratio [OR] 0.68; confidence interval [CI], 0.66-0.70). However, an increased odds of non-emergent vs. intermediate/emergent ED visits was observed at the CH (OR 1.09; CI, 1.04-1.14).

Conclusion: Similar to other Medicaid expansion states, ED utilization for uninsured patients decreased at both the AMC and the CH in the post-ACA period. While Medicaid visits for children < 18 years declined in the post-ACA period, it increased for ages 21 to 65 years of age. Contrary to our hypothesis, the severity of emergent ED visits increased in the post-ACA period but not at the CH.

Technology in Emergency Care

Single Versus Double Tourniquet Technique for Ultrasound-Guided Venous Catheter Placement

Introduction: Peripheral, ultrasound-guided intravenous (IV) access occurs frequently in the emergency department, but certain populations present unique challenges for successfully completing this procedure. Prior research has demonstrated decreased compressibility under double tourniquet technique (DT) compared with single tourniquet (ST). We hypothesized that catheters inserted under DT method would have a higher first-stick success rate compared with those inserted under ST method.

Methods: We randomized 100 patients with a history of difficult IV access, as defined by past ultrasound IV, prior emergency visit with two or more attempts required for vascular access, history of IV drug abuse, history of end stage renal disease on hemodialysis or obesity, to ultrasound-guided IV placement under either DT or ST method. We measured the vein characteristics measured under ultrasound, and recorded the number of attempts and location of attempts at vascular access.

Results: Of an initial 100 patients enrolled, we analyzed a total of 99 with 48 placed under ST and 51 placed under DT. Attending physicians inserted 41.7% of ST and 41.2% of DT, with non-attending inserters (including residents, nurses, and technicians) inserted the remainder. First-stick success rate was observed at 64.3% in ST and 66.7% in DT (p=0.93). Attendings had an overall higher first-stick success rate (95.1%) compared to non-attending inserters (65.5%) (p=<0.001). The average vein depth measured in ST was 0.73 centimeters (cm) compared with 0.87 cm in DT (p=0.02).

Conclusion: DT technique did not produce a measureable increase in first-stick success rate compared to ST, including after adjusting for level of training of inserter. However, a significant difference in average vein depth between the study arms may have limited the reliability of our overall results. Future studies controlling for this variable may be required to more accurately compare these two techniques.


The Standardized Video Interview: How Well Does the SVI Score Correlate with Traditional Interview Performance?

Introduction: In 2017, all medical students applying for residency in emergency medicine (EM) were required to participate in the Standardized Video Interview (SVI). The SVI is a video-recorded, uni-directional interview consisting of six questions designed to assess interpersonal and communication skills and professionalism. It is unclear whether this simulated interview is an accurate representation of an applicant’s competencies that are often evaluated during the in-person interview. Objective: The goal of this study was to determine whether the SVI score correlates with a traditional in-person interview score.

Methods: Six geographically and demographically diverse EM residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education participated in this prospective observational study. Common demographic data for each applicant were obtained through an Electronic Residency Application Service export function prior to the start of any scheduled traditional interviews (TI). On each TI day, one interviewer blinded to all applicant data, including SVI score, rated the applicant on a five-point scale. A convenience sample of applicants was enrolled based on random assignment to the blinded interviewer. We studied the correlation between SVI score and TI score.

Results: We included 321 unique applicants in the final analysis. Linear regression analysis of the SVI score against the TI score demonstrated a small positive linear correlation with an r coefficient of +0.13 (p=0.02). This correlation remained across all SVI score subgroups (p = 0.03).

Conclusion: Our study suggests that there is a small positive linear correlation between the SVI score and performance during the TI.

International Medicine

Evaluating a Novel Simulation Course for Prehospital Provider Resuscitation Training in Botswana

Introduction: In 2012, Botswana embarked on an organized public approach to prehospital medicine. One goal of the Ministry of Health (MOH) was to improve provider education regarding patient stabilization and resuscitation. Simulation-based instruction is an effective educational strategy particularly for high-risk, low-frequency events. In collaboration with partners in the United States, the team created a short, simulation-based course to teach and update prehospital providers on common field responses in this resource-limited setting. The objective of this study was to evaluate an educational program for Botswanan prehospital providers via written and simulation-based examinations.

Methods: We developed a two-day course based on a formal needs assessment and MOH leadership input. The subject matter of the simulation scenarios represented common calls to the prehospital system in Botswana. Didactic lectures and facilitated skills training were conducted by U.S. practitioners who also served as instructors for a rapid-cycle, deliberate practice simulation education model and simulation-based testing scenarios. Three courses, held in three cities in Botswana, were offered to off-duty MOH prehospital providers, and the participants were evaluated using written multiple-choice tests, videotaped traditional simulation scenarios, and self-efficacy surveys.

Results: Collectively, 31 prehospital providers participated in the three courses. The mean scores on the written pretest were 67% (standard deviation [SD], 10) and 85% (SD, 7) on the post-test (p < 0.001). The mean scores for the simulation were 42% (SD, 14.2) on the pretest and 75% (SD, 11.3) on the post-test (p < 0.001). Moreover, the intraclass correlation coefficient scores between reviewers were highly correlated at 0.64 for single measures and 0.78 for average measures (p < 0.001 for both). Twenty-one participants (68%) considered the course “extremely useful.”

Conclusion: Botswanan prehospital providers who participated in this course significantly improved in both written and simulation-based performance testing. General feedback from the participants indicated that the simulation scenarios were the most useful and enjoyable aspects of the course. These results suggest that this curriculum can be a useful educational tool for teaching and reinforcing prehospital care concepts in Botswana and may be adapted for use in other resource-limited settings. [West J Emerg Med. 2019;20(5)XX-XX.]

  • 3 supplemental files


Prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Emergency Physicians in the United States

Introduction: There is increasing concern about the effects of occupational stressors on thewellness of healthcare providers. Given high patient acuity, circadian rhythm disruption, andother workplace stressors, emergency physicians (EP) would be predicted to have high rates ofoccupational stress. We conducted this study to assess the prevalence of post-traumatic stressdisorder (PTSD) in attending EPs practicing in the United States.

Methods: A link to an electronic questionnaire was distributed through the emergency medicinecentricpublication Emergency Medicine News. We compared the prevalence of PTSD in EPs tothe general population using a chi-square goodness of fit test, and performed logistic regression toassess for significance of risk factors.

Results: We received survey responses from 526 persons. In this study, EPs had a PTSD pointprevalence of 15.8%. Being a victim of a prior trauma or abuse is the primary predictor of PTSD(odds ratio [OR] [95% confidence interval {CI}, 2.16 (1.21 – 3.86)], p = 0.009) and PTSD severityscore (OR [95% CI, 1.16 (1.07 – 1.26)], p <0.001).

Conclusion: Emergency physicians have a substantial burden of PTSD, potentially jeopardizingtheir own health and career longevity. Future studies should focus on identifying subgroups at higherrisk for PTSD and modifiable risk factors. Prevention and treatment strategies should be developedand tested in healthcare providers.

  • 4 supplemental files

Concurrent Proximal Fractures Are Rare in Distal Forearm Fractures: A National Cross-sectional Study

Introduction: Distal forearm fractures (DFF) account for 1.5% of emergency department (ED) visits in the United States. Clinicians frequently obtain imaging above/below the location of injury to rule out additional injuries. We sought to determine the incidence of associated proximal fractures (APF) in the setting of DFF and to evaluate the imaging practices in a nationally representative sample of EDs.

Methods: We queried the 2013 National Emergency Department Sample  using International Classification of Diseases, 9th edition, diagnostic codes for DFF and APF. Current Procedural Technology codes identified associated imaging studies. We calculated national estimates using a weighted analysis of patient and hospital-level characteristics associated with APF and imaging practices. An analysis of costs estimated the financial impact of additional imaging in patients with DFF using Medicare reimbursement to approximate costs according to the 2018 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.

Results: In 2013, an estimated 297,755 ED visits (weighted) were associated with a DFF, of which 1.6% (4836 cases) had an APF. The incidence of APF was lower among females (odds ratio [OR] (0.76); 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.64-0.91) but higher in metropolitan teaching hospitals compared to metropolitan non-teaching hospitals (OR [2.39]; 95% CI, 1.43-3.99) and Level 1 trauma centers (OR [3.9]; 95%, 1.91-7.96) compared to non-trauma centers. Approximately 40% (n = 117,948) of those with only DFF received non-wrist radiographs and 19% (n = 55,236) underwent non-wrist/non-forearm imaging. Factors independently associated with additional imaging included gender, payer, patient and hospital rurality, hospital region, teaching status, ownership, and trauma center level. Nearly $3.6 million (2018 U.S. dollars) was spent on the aforementioned additional imaging.

Conclusion: Despite the frequency of proximal imaging in patients with DFF, the incidence of APF was low. Further study to identify risk factors for APF based on mechanism and physical examination factors may result in reduced imaging and decreased avoidable healthcare spending.

  • 1 supplemental file

Critical Care

Clinical Features and Outcomes Associated with Angioedema in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Angioedema represents self-limited, localized swelling of submucosal or subcutaneous tissues. While the underlying etiology may be undeterminable in the emergent setting, nonhistaminergic and histaminergic angioedema respond differently to therapeutic interventions, with implications for empiric treatment. Clinical features and outcome differences among nonhistaminergic vs histaminergic angioedema patients in the emergency department (ED) are poorly characterized. We aim to describe the clinical characteristics and outcomes among ED patients with angioedema by suspected etiology.

Methods: This was a 10-year retrospective study of adult ED patients with angioedema, using data abstracted from the electronic health record. We evaluated univariable associations of select clinical features with etiology and used them to develop a multivariable logistic regression model for nonhistaminergic vs histaminergic angioedema.

Results: Among 450 adult angioedema patients, the mean +/- standard deviation age was 57 +/- 18 years, and 264 (59%) were female. Among patients, 30% had suspected nonhistaminergic angioedema, 30% had suspected histaminergic angioedema, and 40% were of unknown etiology. As compared to histaminergic angioedema, nonhistaminergic angioedema was associated with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI) or use of angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB) (odds ratio [OR] [60.9]; 95% confidence interval [CI], 23.16-160.14) and time of onset one hour or more prior to ED arrival (OR [5.91]; 95% CI,1.87-18.70) and was inversely associated with urticaria (OR [0.05]; 95% CI, 0.02-0.15), dyspnea (OR [0.23]; 95% CI, 0.08-0.67), and periorbital or lip edema (OR [0.25]; 95% CI, 0.08-0.79 and OR [0.32]; 95% CI, 0.13-0.79, respectively).

Conclusion: As compared to histaminergic angioedema, patients with nonhistaminergic angioedema were more likely to present one hour or more after symptom onset and take ACEI or ARB medications, and were less likely to have urticaria, dyspnea, or periorbital or lip angioedema. Identification of characteristics associated with the etiology of angioedema may assist providers in more rapidly initiating targeted therapies.

  • 1 supplemental file

Emergency Reversal of Anticoagulation

Owing to the propensity of anticoagulated patients to bleed, a strategy for reversal of anticoagulation induced by any of the common agents is essential. Many patients are anticoagulated with a variety of agents, including warfarin, low molecular weight heparin, and the direct oral anticoagulants such as factor Xa and factor IIa inhibitors. Patients may also be using antiplatelet agents. Recommendations to reverse bleeding in these patients are constantly evolving with the recent development of specific reversal agents. A working knowledge of hemostasis and the reversal of anticoagulation and antiplatelet drugs is required for every emergency department provider. This article reviews these topics and presents the currently recommended strategies for dealing with bleeding in the anticoagulated patient.

Three Airway Management Techniques for Airway Decontamination in Massive Emesis: A Manikin Study

Introduction: Emesis occurs during airway management and results in pulmonary aspiration at rates of 0.01% – 0.11% in fasted patients undergoing general anesthesia and 0% - 22% in non-fasted emergency department patients. Suction-assisted laryngoscopy and airway decontamination (SALAD) involves maneuvering a suction catheter into the hypopharynx, while performing laryngoscopy and endotracheal intubation. Intentional esophageal intubation (IEI) involves blindly intubating the esophagus to control emesis before endotracheal intubation.  Both are previously described techniques for endotracheal intubation in the setting of massive emesis. This study compares the SALAD and IEI techniques with the traditional approach of ad hoc, rigid suction catheter airway decontamination and endotracheal intubation in the setting of massive simulated emesis.

Methods: Senior anesthesiology and emergency medicine (EM) residents were randomized into three trial arms: the traditional, IEI, or SALAD. Each resident watched an instructional video on the assigned technique, performed the technique on a manikin, and completed the trial simulation with the SALAD simulation manikin. The primary trial outcome was aspirate volume collected in the manikin’s lower airway.  Secondary outcomes included successful intubation, intubation attempts, and time to successful intubation. We also collected pre- and post-simulation demographics and confidence questionnaire data.

Results: Thirty-one residents (21 anesthesiology and 10 EM residents) were randomized. Baseline group characteristics were similar. The mean aspirate volumes collected in the lower airway (standard deviation [SD]) in the traditional, IEI, and SALAD arms were 72 (45) milliliters per liter (mL), 100 (45) mL, and 83 (42) mL, respectively (p = 0.392). Intubation success was 100% in all groups. Times (SD) to successful intubation in the traditional, IEI, and SALAD groups were 1.69 (1.31) minutes, 1.74 (1.09) minutes, and 1.74 (0.93) minutes, respectively (p = 0.805).  Overall, residents reported increased confidence (1.0 [0.0-1.0]; P = 0.002) and skill (1.0 [0.0-1.0]; P < 0.001) in airway management after completion of the study.

Conclusion: The intubation techniques provided similar performance results in our study, suggesting any one of the three can be employed in the setting of massive emesis; although this conclusion deserves further study. Residents reported increased confidence and skill in airway management following the experience, suggesting use of the manikin provides a learning impact.


  • 1 supplemental file

Population Health Research Design

Undocumented Patients in the Emergency Department: Challenges and Opportunities

In the United States, undocumented residents face unique barriers to healthcare access that render them disproportionately dependent on the emergency department (ED) for care. Consequently, ED providers are integral to the health of this vulnerable population. Yet special considerations, both clinical and social, generally fall outside the purview of the emergency medicine curriculum. This paper serves as a primer on caring for undocumented patients in the ED, includes a conceptual framework for immigration as a social determinant of health, reviews unique clinical considerations, and finally suggests a blueprint for immigration-informed emergency care.

Potential of Mobile Health Technology to Reduce Health Disparities in Underserved Communities

Introduction: Mobile health (mHealth) has the potential to change how patients make healthcare decisions. We sought to determine the readiness to use mHealth technology in underserved communities.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of patients presenting with low-acuity complaints to an urban emergency department (ED) with an underserved population. Patients over the age of two who presented with low-acuity complaints were included. We conducted  structured interview with each patient or parent (for minors) about willingness to use mHealth tools for guidance. Analysis included descriptive statistics and univariate analysis based on age and gender.

Results: Of 560 patients included in the survey, 80% were adults, 64% female, and 90% Black. The mean age was 28 ± 9 years for adults and 9 ± 5 years for children. One-third of patients reported no primary care physician, and 55% reported no access to a nurse or clinician for medical advice. Adults were less likely to have access to phone consultation than parents of children (odds ratio [OR] 0.49, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.32 – 0.74), as were males compared to females (OR 0.52, 95% CI, 0.37– 0.74). Most patients (96%) reported cellular internet access. Two-thirds of patients reported using online references. When asked how they would behave if an mHealth tool advised them that their current health problem was low risk, 69% of patients responded that they would seek care in an outpatient clinic instead of the ED (30%), stay home and not seek urgent medical care (28%), or use telehealth (11%).

Conclusion: In this urban community we found a large capacity and willingness to use mHealth technology in medical triage.

  • 1 supplemental file

Techniques to Shorten a Screening Tool for Emergency Department Patients

Introduction: Screening of patients for opioid risk has been recommended prior to opioid prescribing. Opioids are prescribed frequently in the emergency department (ED) setting, but screening tools are often of significant length and therefore limited in their utility. We describe and evaluate three approaches to shortening a screening tool: creation of a short form; curtailment; and stochastic curtailment.

Methods: To demonstrate the various shortening techniques, this retrospective study used data from two studies of ED patients for whom the provider was considering providing an opioid prescription and who completed the Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain-Revised, a 24-item assessment. High-risk criteria from patients’ prescription drug monitoring program data were used as an endpoint. Using real-data simulation, we determined the sensitivity, specificity, and test length of each shortening technique.

Results: We included data from 188 ED patients. The original screener had a test length of 24 questions, a sensitivity of 44% and a specificity of 76%. The 12-question short form had a sensitivity of 41% and specificity of 75%. Curtailment and stochastic curtailment reduced the question length (mean test length ranging from 8.1-19.7 questions) with no reduction in sensitivity or specificity.

Conclusion: In an ED population completing computer-based screening, the techniques of curtailment and stochastic curtailment markedly reduced the screening tool’s length but had no effect on test characteristics. These techniques can be applied to improve efficiency of screening patients in the busy ED environment without sacrificing sensitivity or specificity.

Injury Prevention and Population Health

Evaluation of a Standardized Cardiac Athletic Screening for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Athletes

Introduction: Sudden cardiac death is a rare cause of death in young athletes. Current screening techniques include history and physical exam (H and P), with or without an electrocardiogram (ECG). Adding point of care cardiac ultrasound has demonstrated benefits, but there is limited data about implementing this technology. We evaluated the feasibility of adding ultrasound to preparticipation screening for collegiate athletes.

Methods: We prospectively enrolled 42 collegiate athletes randomly selected from several sports. All athletes were screened using a 14-point H and P based on 2014 American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines, ECG, and cardiac ultrasound.

Results: We screened 11 female and 31 male athletes. On ultrasound, male athletes demonstrated significantly larger interventricular septal wall thickness (p = 0.002), posterior wall thickness (p <0.001) and aortic root breadth (p = 0.002) compared to females. Based on H and P and ECGs alone and a combination of H and P with ECG, no athletes demonstrated a positive screening for cardiac abnormalities. However, with combined H and P, ECG, and cardiac ultrasound, one athlete demonstrated positive findings.

Conclusions: We believe that adding point of care ultrasound to the preparticipation exam of college athletes is feasible. This workflow may provide a model for athletic departments’ screening.

  • 1 supplemental file

Physician Documentation of Access to Firearms in Suicidal Patients in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 50% of these deaths are due to firearms. Suicidal ideation (SI) is a common complaint presenting to the emergency department (ED). Despite these facts, provider documentation on access to lethal means is lacking. Our primary aim was to quantify documentation of access to firearms in patients presenting to the ED with a chief complaint of SI.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of consecutive patients, nearly all of whom presented to an academic, urban ED with SI during July 2014. We collected data from all provider documentation in the electronic health record. Primary outcome assessed was whether the emergency physician (EP) team documented access to firearms. Secondary outcomes included demographic information, preexisting psychiatric diagnoses, and disposition.

Results: We reviewed 100 patient charts. The median age of patients was 38 years. The majority of patients had a psychiatric condition. EPs documented access to firearms in only 3% of patient charts.

Conclusion: EPs do not adequately document access to firearms in patients with SI. There is a clear need for educational initiatives regarding risk-factor assessment and counseling against lethal means in this patient cohort.

Sepsis in Pregnancy: Recognition and Resuscitation

The normal physiologic changes of pregnancy complicate evaluation for sepsis and subsequent management. Previous sepsis studies have specifically excluded pregnant patients. This narrative review evaluates the presentation, scoring systems for risk stratification, diagnosis, and management of sepsis in pregnancy. Sepsis is potentially fatal, but literature for the evaluation and treatment of this condition in pregnancy is scarce. While the definition and considerations of sepsis have changed with large, randomized controlled trials, pregnancy has consistently been among the exclusion criteria. The two pregnancy-specific sepsis scoring systems, the modified obstetric early warning scoring system (MOEWS) and Sepsis in Obstetrics Score (SOS), present a number of limitations for application in the emergency department (ED) setting. Methods of generation and subsequently limited validation leave significant gaps in identification of septic pregnant patients. Management requires consideration of a variety of sources in the septic pregnant patient. The underlying physiologic nature of pregnancy also highlights the need to individualize resuscitation and critical care efforts in this unique patient population. Pregnant septic patients require specific considerations and treatment goals to provide optimal care for this particular population. Guidelines and scoring systems currently exist, but further studies are required.

Incidence and Causes of Iatrogenic Hypoglycemia in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Hypoglycemia is frequently encountered in the emergency department (ED) and has potential for serious morbidity. The incidence and causes of iatrogenic hypoglycemia are not known. We aim to describe how often the cause of ED hypoglycemia is iatrogenic and to identify its specific causes.

Methods: We included adult patients with a chief complaint or ED diagnosis of hypoglycemia, or an ED glucose value of ≤70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) between 2009–2014. Two independent abstractors each reviewed charts of patients with an initial glucose ≤ 50 mg/dL, or initial glucose ≥ 70 mg/dL with a subsequent glucose ≤ 50 mg/dL, to determine if the hypoglycemia was caused by iatrogenesis. The data analysis was descriptive.

Results: We reviewed the charts of 591 patients meeting inclusion criteria. Of these 591 patients, 99 (17%; 95% confidence interval, 14-20%) were classified as iatrogenic. Of these 99 patients, 61 (61%) cases of hypoglycemia were caused by insulin administration and 38 (38%) were caused by unrecognized malnutrition. Of the 61 patients with iatrogenic hypoglycemia after ED insulin administration, 45 and 15 patients received insulin for hyperkalemia and uncomplicated hyperglycemia, respectively. One patient received insulin for diabetic ketoacidosis.

Conclusion: In ED patients with hypoglycemia, iatrogenic causes are relatively common. The most frequent cause was insulin administration for hyperkalemia and uncomplicated hyperglycemia. Additionally, patients at risk of hypoglycemia in the absence of insulin, including those with alcohol intoxication or poor nutritional status, should be monitored closely in the ED.

Erratum (Staff Only)

This Article Corrects: “Development of a Clinical Teaching Evaluation and Feedback Tool for Emergency Medicine Faculty”

Introduction: Formative evaluations of clinical teaching for emergency medicine (EM) faculty are limited. The goal of this study was to develop a behaviorally-based tool for evaluating and providing feedback to EM faculty based on their clinical teaching skills during a shift. Methods: We used a three-phase structured development process. Phase 1 used the nominal group technique with a group of faculty first and then with residents to generate potential evaluation items. Phase 2 included separate focus groups and used a modified Delphi technique with faculty and residents, as well as a group of experts to evaluate the items generated in Phase 1. Following this, residents classified the items into novice, intermediate, and advanced educator skills. Once items were determined for inclusion and subsequently ranked they were built into the tool by the investigators (Phase 3). Results: The final instrument, the “Faculty Shift Card,” is a behaviorally-anchored evaluation and feedback tool used to facilitate feedback to EM faculty about their teaching skills during a shift. The tool has four domains: teaching clinical decision-making; teaching interpersonal skills; teaching procedural skills; and general teaching strategies. Each domain contains novice, intermediate, and advanced sections with 2-5 concrete examples for each level of performance. Conclusion: This structured process resulted in a well-grounded and systematically developed evaluation tool for EM faculty that can provide real-time actionable feedback to faculty and support improved clinical teaching.


There was an error on Figure 1. Faculty Shift Card. The top card originally stated, “What should this faculty member do to improve their procedural teaching skills? Select all that apply.” This should be revised to, “What should this faculty member do to improve their clinical decision making teaching skills?  Select all that apply.”

This Article Corrects: “Burnout, Drop Out, Suicide: Physician Loss in Emergency Medicine, Part 1”

The authors would like to revise the description on the evolution of the definition of burnout in the Introduction. The introduction formerly stated, “Based on his research, Freudenberger used “burnout” as shorthand for a psychological syndrome with three dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.2 Maslach subsequently summarized the dimensions of burnout as “exhaustion,” “cynicism,” and “inefficacy,” providing more identifiable definitions of each dimension that align well with her measurement tool.3” This should be revised to the following: “Based on his experiences, Freudenberger described the phenomenon of “burn-out”, subsequently defined by Maslach as a psychological syndrome with three dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.2,3”