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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 11, Issue 1, 2010

Volume 11 Issue 1 2010


Emergency Department Chief Complaint and Diagnosis Data to Detect Influenza-Like Illness with an Electronic Medical Record

Background: The purpose of syndromic surveillance is early detection of a disease outbreak. Such systems rely on the earliest data, usually chief complaint. The growing use of electronic medical records (EMR) raises the possibility that other data, such as emergency department (ED) diagnosis, may provide more specific information without significant delay, and might be more effective in detecting outbreaks if mechanisms are in place to monitor and report these data.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to characterize the added value of the primary ICD-9 diagnosis assigned at the time of ED disposition compared to the chief complaint for patients with influenza-like illness (ILI).

Methods: The study was a retrospective analysis of the EMR of a single urban, academic ED with an annual census of over 60, 000 patients per year from June 2005 through May 2006. We evaluate the objective in two ways. First, we characterize the proportion of patients whose ED diagnosis is inconsistent with their chief complaint and the variation by complaint. Second, by comparing time series and applying syndromic detection algorithms, we determine which complaints and diagnoses are the best indicators for the start of the influenza season when compared to the Centers for Disease Control regional data for Influenza-Like Illness for the 2005 to 2006 influenza season using three syndromic surveillance algorithms: univariate cumulative sum (CUSUM), exponentially weighted CUSUM, and multivariate CUSUM.

Results: In the first analysis, 29% of patients had a different diagnosis at the time of disposition than suggested by their chief complaint. In the second analysis, complaints and diagnoses consistent with pneumonia, viral illness and upper respiratory infection were together found to be good indicators of the start of the influenza season based on temporal comparison with regional data. In all examples, the diagnosis data outperformed the chief-complaint data.

Conclusion: Both analyses suggest the ED diagnosis contains useful information for detection of ILI. Where an EMR is available, the short time lag between complaint and diagnosis may be a price worth paying for additional information despite the brief potential delay in detection, especially considering that detection usually occurs over days rather than hours. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):1-9].

Emergency Department Crowding: Factors Influencing Flow

Background: The objective of this study was to evaluate those factors, both intrinsic and extrinsic to the emergency department (ED) that influence two specific components of throughput: “door-to-doctor” time and dwell time.

Methods: We used a prospective observational study design to determine the variables that played a significant role in determining ED flow. All adult patients seen or waiting to be seen in the ED were observed at 8pm (Monday-Friday) during a three-month period. Variables measured included daily ED volume, patient acuity, staffing, ED occupancy, daily admissions, ED boarder volume, hospital volume, and intensive care unit volume. Both log-rank tests and time-to-wait (survival) proportional-hazard regression models were fitted to determine which variables were most significant in predicting “door-to-doctor” and dwell times, with full account of the censoring for some patients.

Results: We captured 1,543 patients during our study period, representing 27% of total daily volume. The ED operated at an average of 85% capacity (61-102%) with an average of 27% boarding. Median “door-to-doctor” time was 1.8 hours, with the biggest influence being triage category, day of the week, and ED occupancy. Median dwell time was 5.5 hours with similar variable influences.

Conclusion: The largest contributors to decreased patient flow through the ED at our institution were triage category, ED occupancy, and day of the week. Although the statistically significant factors influencing patient throughput at our institution involve problems with inflow, an increase in ED occupancy could be due to substantial outflow obstruction and may indicate the necessity for increased capacity both within the ED and hospital. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):10-15]

Eschmann Introducer Through Laryngeal Mask Airway: A Cadaveric Trial of An Alternate Means of Rescue Intubation

Study Objective: Laryngeal mask airways (LMAs) are often used as airway rescue devices where laryngoscopy is difficult. The LMA does not protect the airway and is preferably replaced with a cuffed endotracheal tube. There are reports of cases where an Eschmann tracheal tube introducer (ETTI) was successfully used to bridge between a standard LMA and an endotracheal tube. This project was designed to determine whether an Eschmann stylet can reliably be passed through an LMA into the trachea as a means of rescue intubation.

Methods: Nineteen emergency medicine residents and attending physicians, who were participants in a cadaveric airway course, placed and inflated a size 4 LMA (The Laryngeal Mask Company Ltd., San Diego, CA) on each of six unembalmed human cadavers in the usual fashion. They then attempted to pass a lubricated, 15 Fr, reusable, coude-tipped ETTI (Portex, Smiths Medical, Keene, NH)) through the airspace/handle of the inflated LMA. The LMA was then deflated and removed while the ETTI was held in place. Investigators then determined the location of the ETTI by laryngoscopy.

Results: Of 114 attempts at the rescue procedure, 59 resulted in placement of the bougie into the trachea, yielding an overall success rate of 52% (95% CI 48%-56%). There were no significant differences in performance based on level of training of residents or years of experience of attending physicians.

Conclusions: While not a primary difficult airway option, the use of a ETTI as a bridge device between LMA and endotracheal tube was successful about 50% of the time. [West J Emerg Med. 2010;11:16-19.]

Early Glycemic Control in Critically Ill Emergency Department Patients: Pilot Trial

Objective: Glycemic control in the critically ill intensive care unit (ICU) patient has been shown to improve morbidity and mortality. We sought to investigate the effect of early glycemic control in critically ill emergency department (ED) patients in a small pilot trial.

Methods: Adult non-trauma, non-pregnant ED patients presenting to a university tertiary referral center and identified as critically ill were eligible for enrollment on a convenience basis. Critical illness was determined upon assignment for ICU admission. Patients were randomized to either ED standard care or glycemic control. Glycemic control involved use of an insulin drip to maintain blood glucose levels between 80-140 mg/dL. Glycemic control continued until ED discharge. Standard patients were managed at ED attending physician discretion. We assessed severity of illness by calculation of APACHE II score. The primary endpoint was in-hospital mortality. Secondary endpoints included vasopressor requirement, hospital length of stay, and mechanical ventilation requirement.

Results: Fifty patients were randomized, 24 to the glycemic group and 26 to the standard care cohort. Four of the 24 patients (17%) in the treatment arm did not receive insulin despite protocol requirements. While receiving insulin, three of 24 patients (13%) had an episode of hypoglycemia. By chance, the patients in the treatment group had a trend toward higher acuity by APACHE II scores. Patient mortality and morbidity were similar despite the acuity difference.

Conclusion: There was no difference in morbidity and mortality between the two groups. The benefit of glycemic control may be subject to source of illness and to degree of glycemic control, or have no effect. Such questions bear future investigation. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):20-23].

Frequency of Incidental Findings on Computed Tomography of Trauma Patients

Objective: To determine the incidence and frequency of follow-up instructions for incidental findings on computed tomography (CT) scanning of the abdomen and pelvis in trauma patients.

Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of all adult patients triaged to the trauma service at a Level I trauma center between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2004. Included patients were 16 years of age and older who underwent abdomen and pelvic CT scans as part of their primary evaluation. We excluded patients under the age of 16 years, patients unable to complete radiographic studies due to deterioration in condition, patients with missing CT scan reports, and transferred patients who had CT scans done at outside facilities.

Results: A total of 1,633 patients presented to the trauma service during the study period; 922 patients met inclusion criteria. Of these, 392 had incidental findings noted on the formal radiology report. Twenty patients with incidental findings either received additional workup during their hospital admission for their trauma injuries or were notified of the findings on discharge. Nine died prior to discharge. One hundred twenty-two patients with incidental findings had those findings noted in the history and physical or discharge summary with no documentation of follow-up. There was no documentation of any incidental findings in the electronic record for the majority of patients (242) with incidental findings.

Conclusion: The majority of incidental findings discovered on abdomen and pelvic CT scanning of trauma patients are not documented; therefore, many patients may not receive the appropriate recommended follow up. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):24-27].

Luxatio Erecta Complicated By Anterior Shoulder Dislocation During Reduction

Luxatio erecta humeri is an uncommon form of glenohumeral dislocation, resulting in the inferior displacement of the humeral head. Treatment with traction-counter traction techniques is usually successful in reducing most cases. We describe an unusual complication of this condition where initial reduction attempts of a luxatio erecta humeri repositioned the shoulder to an anterior dislocation position. After a thorough search of the literature, we were unable to find a similar case report of this type of complication during the reduction of a luxatio erecta shoulder dislocation. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):28-30].

Effect of a Medical Student Emergency Ultrasound Clerkship on Number of Emergency Department Ultrasounds

Objective: To determine whether a medical student emergency ultrasound clerkship has an effect on the number of patients undergoing ultrasonography and the number of total scans in the emergency department.

Methods: We conducted a prospective, single-blinded study of scanning by emergency medicine residents and attendings with and without medical students. Rotating ultrasound medical students were assigned to work equally on all days of the week. We collected the number of patients scanned and the number of scans, as well as participation of resident and faculty.

Results: In seven months 2,186 scans were done on the 109 days with students and 707 scans on the 72 days without them. Data on 22 days was not recorded. A median of 13 patients per day were scanned with medical students (CI 12-15) versus seven (CI 6-9) when not. In addition, the median number of scans was 18 per day with medical students (CI 16-20) versus eight (CI 6-10) without them.

Conclusion: There were significantly more patients scanned and scans done when ultrasound medical students were present. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11:31-34].

Dedicated Shift Wrap-up Time Does Not Improve Resident Sign-out Volume or Efficiency

Objectives: Sign-out (SO) is a challenge to the emergency physician. Some training programs have instituted overlapping 9-hour shifts. The residents see patients for eight hours, and have one hour of wrap-up time. This hour helps them complete patient care, leaving fewer patients to sign-out. We examined whether this strategy impacts SO burden.

Methods: This is a retrospective review of patients evaluated by emergency medicine (EM) residents working 9-hour (eight hours of patient care, one hour wrap-up time) and 12-hour shifts (12 hours patient care, no reserved time for wrap-up). Data were collected by reviewing the clinical tracker. A patient was assigned to the resident who initiated care and dictated the chart. SO was defined as any patient in the ED without disposition at change of shift. Patient turn-around-time (TAT) was also recorded.

Results: One-hundred sixty-one postgraduate-year-one resident (PGY1), 264 postgraduate-year-two resident (PGY2), and 193 postgraduate-year-three resident (PGY3) shifts were included. PGY1s signed out 1.9 patients per 12-hour shift. PGY2s signed out 2.3 patients on 12-hour shifts and 1.8 patients on 9-hour shifts. PGY3s signed out 2.1 patients on 12-hour shifts and 2.0 patients on 9-hour shifts. When we controlled for patients seen per hour, SO burden was constant by class regardless of shift length, with PGY2s signing out 18% of patients seen compared to 15% for PGY3s. PGY1s signed out 18% of patients seen. TAT for patients seen by PGY1s and PGY2s was similar, at 189 and 187 minutes, respectively. TAT for patients seen by PGY3s was significantly less at 175 minutes.

Conclusion: The additional hour devoted to wrapping up patients in the ED had no affect on SO burden. The SO burden represented a fixed percentage of the total number of patients seen by the residents. PGY3s sign-out a smaller percentage of patients seen compared to other classes, and have faster TATs. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):35-39].

Need for Injury Prevention Education In Medical School Curriculum

Injury is the leading cause of death and disability among the U.S. population aged 1 to 44 years. In 2006 more than 179,000 fatalities were attributed to injury. Despite increasing awareness of the global epidemic of injury and violence, a considerable gap remains between advances in injury-prevention research and prevention knowledge that is taught to medical students. This article discusses the growing need for U.S medical schools to train future physicians in the fundamentals of injury prevention and control. Teaching medical students to implement injury prevention in their future practice should help reduce injury morbidity and mortality. Deliberate efforts should be made to integrate injury-prevention education into existing curriculum. Key resources are available to do this. Emergency physicians can be essential advocates in establishing injury prevention training because of their clinical expertise in treating injury. Increasing the number of physicians with injury- and violence- prevention knowledge and skills is ultimately an important strategy to reduce the national and global burden of injury. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):40-43].

Comparability of Results Between a Point-of-Care and an Automated Instrument for Measurement of B-Type Natriuretic Peptide

Objectives: Heart failure is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. The incorporation of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) measurements when triaging patients presenting with shortness of breath has improved the diagnostic and prognostic ability of physicians. Currently, there are no point-of-care systems for quantifying BNP that can be used without sacrificing accuracy. We compared the analytical performance of the Abbott i-STAT analyzer, a handheld point-of-care system for measuring BNP, with the lab-based system, the Abbott ARCHITECT.

Methods: One-hundred fifty samples were collected from three clinical settings: 41 from the Emergency Department, 58 from the inpatient wards, and 51 from heart failure outpatient clinics. Linear regression and bias difference analyses were run to evaluate the accuracy of the i-STAT. Correlation between the i-STAT and Architect BNP values were made with values of BNP.

Results: The correlation coefficient was r=0.977 (N=150, p<.0001). The average bias was significant (-36) and there were concentration-dependent differences at higher BNP values. Precision of the i-STAT was poor compared to the lab-based platform.

Conclusion: Although the precision of the i-STAT was poor, there was good clinical agreement between the i-STAT and the lab-based platform. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):44-48].

The Physiologic Effects of Multiple Simultaneous Electronic Control Device Discharges

Objectives: Law enforcement and military personnel use electronic control devices to control non-compliant and actively resistive subjects. The TASER® Shockwave is a new electronic control device designed specifically as an area denial device capable of delivering multiple simultaneous discharges. This is the first study to examine the effects of multiple simultaneous device discharges in humans.

Methods: Volunteers were exposed to multiple (two to three), simultaneous 5-second discharges from the Shockwave device to the chest, back, chest to abdomen, or thighs. Blood was analyzed before and after discharge for pH, lactate, potassium, creatine kinase (CK), and troponin. Continuous spirometry was performed before, during, and after the discharge. In addition, electrocardiograms (ECGs) before and after discharge were recorded, and echocardiography was used to determine the rhythm during discharge.

Results: Small elevations of lactate occurred. Moderate increases in CK at 24 hours occurred and appeared to be related to the number of simultaneous discharges. There was a trend to a decrease in minute ventilation in the volunteers exposed to two simultaneous discharges, but it did not reach statistical significance. ECG changes only reflected an increase in vagal tone, and there was no evidence of capture by echocardiography. Five-second, simultaneous, multiple exposures to the TASER Shockwave device were reasonably tolerated by our human volunteers.

Conclusion: Our study suggests that this device may have a reasonable risk/benefit ratio when used to protect an area from a threat. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):49-56].

Fatal Dysrhythmia Following Potassium Replacement for Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis

We present a case of fatal rebound hyperkalemia in a patient with thyrotoxic periodic paralysis (TPP) treated with potassium supplementation. Although TPP is a rare hyperthyroidism-related endocrine disorder seen predominantly in men of Asian origin, the diagnosis should be considered in patients of non-Asian origins presenting with hypokalemia, muscle weakness or acute paralysis. The condition may present as a life threatening emergency and unfamiliarity with the disease could result in a fatal outcome. Immediate therapy with potassium chloride supplementation may foster a rapid recovery of muscle strength and prevent cardiac arrhythmias secondary to hypokalemia, but with a risk of rebound hyperkalemia. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):57-59.]

Emergency Department Septic Screening in Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and Non-RSV Bronchiolitis

Objective: To identify factors associated with culture-proven serious bacterial infection (SBI) and positive emergency department septic screening (EDSS) tests in children with bronchiolitis and to identify factors associated with the performance of EDSS.

Methods: We reviewed an existing study database of patients with bronchiolitis. We defined a positive EDSS as urine with ≥10 WBC per high power field or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) with ≥10 WBC per high power field (>25 WBC in neonates), or if organisms were identified on gram stain. We defined SBI as significant growth of an accepted pathogen in blood, urine or CSF. Our composite endpoint was positive if either of these was positive. The decision to perform testing was modeled using modified Poisson regression; the presence of the combined outcome was modeled using logistic regression modified for rare events.

Results: We studied 640 children. Testing was performed in 199/640 (31.1%). These tended to be younger than two months RR 2.69 (95% CI 2.11, 3.44), febrile RR 2.01 (95% CI 1.58, 2.55), more dehydrated RR 1.50 (95% CI 1.28, 1.75) and had more severe chest wall retractions RR 1.54 (95% CI 1.22, 1.94). Only 11/640(1.7%) had a positive EDSS or SBI. Younger age (OR 0.67 per month; 95% CI 0.45, 0.99) and a negative RSV antigen test (OR 6.22; 95% CI 1.30, 29.85) were associated with the composite endpoint.

Conclusion: Testing was more likely to be performed in children younger than two months of age, and in those who were febrile, dehydrated, and had more severe chest wall retractions. A positive EDSS or SBI was rare occurring in younger infants with non-RSV bronchiolitis. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):60-67].

Necrotizing Fasciitis of the Paraspinous Muscles

Necrotizing fasciitis (NF) is a rare and lethal soft tissue infection that requires urgent surgical intervention. It is most often found in the extremities occurring with precipitating trauma or in immunocompromised states. Signs and symptoms are often vague or missing making early diagnosis very difficult. Our patient presented with flank pain and altered mental status but no known precipitating factors. Computed Tomography showed gas within and around the right paraspinous muscle suspicious for NF. Given NF’s high lethality, early suspicion by emergency physicians of NF in patients with soft tissue infections or with systemic findings of unknown etiology is necessary. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):68-70.]

Small Bowel Obstruction from Capsule Endoscopy

Over the past decade, capsule endoscopy has become the accepted modality for small bowel imaging in the United States. It is very helpful in making the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease; however, this patient population is also at an increased risk of small bowel obstruction secondary to capsule impaction. We present the case of a 60-year-old female with undiagnosed Crohn’s disease who presented to the emergency department with small bowel obstruction after capsule ingestion. She was successfully disimpacted with diatrizoate upper gastrointestinal (GI) series with small bowel follow-through and intravenous steroids. Review of the endoscopic video images revealed findings consistent with Crohn’s disease. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):71-73.]

Spontaneous Rectus Sheath Hematoma

Abdominal wall pathology is a frequently overlooked cause of acute abdomen. Increasing use of antiplatelet and anticoagulant therapies has led to an increase in the incidence of spontaneous rectus sheath hematoma (RSH). A high index of suspicion is needed for diagnosis as it can closely mimic other causes of acute abdomen. Herein, we report a case of RSH presenting with abdominal pain in which there was a significant delay in diagnosis. We wish to highlight the need to increase awareness among primary and emergency physicians about considering RSH in the initial differential diagnoses of abdominal pain. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):76-79].

Atypical Guillain-Barré in the Emergency Department

Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS), although an uncommon diagnosis in the emergency department (ED), usually presents as one of the more common chief complaints—weakness. In this report we present an unusual case of weakness, initially seen in the ED and sent home only to return with worsening symptoms and ultimately found to be GBS. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):80-82].

Peritonsillar Abscess with Uvular Hydrops

The use of ultrasound by emergency physicians has improved the evaluation of pharyngeal infections. We present a unique case of concomitant peritonsillar abscess and uvular hydrops in which ultrasound provided accurate, timely information in the evaluation. [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):83-85].

Subacute Tension Hemopneumothorax with Novel Electrocardiogram Findings

This case report describes a patient with a subacute right-sided tension hemopneumothorax following an occult stab. The patient’s electrocardiogram (ECG), performed as part of a standardized triage process, demonstrated significant abnormalities that misguided initial resuscitation, but resolved following evacuation of the tension hemopneumothorax. Tension pneumothorax is typically regarded as an immediately life-threatening condition that requires emergent management with needle or tube thoracostomy. However, we believe that subacute tension pneumothorax may be a rarely observed clinical phenomenon and may lead to unique ECG findings. We believe that the ECG changes we observed provided an early clue to the eventual diagnosis of a subacute tension pneumothorax and have not been previously described in this setting. . [West J Emerg Med. 2010; 11(1):86-89].