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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 16, Issue 4, 2015

Behavioral Health

Poisonings with Suicidal Intent Aged 0-21 Years Reported to Poison Centers 2003-12

Introduction: Few studies explore the clinical features of youth suicide by poisoning. The use of both social and clinical features of self-poisoning with suicidal intent could be helpful in enhancing existing and creating new prevention strategies. We sought to characterize self-poisonings with suicide intent in ages 0 to 21 years reported to three regional poison control centers from 2003-2012.

Methods: This study was a blinded retrospective review of intentional self-poisonings by those age 21 or younger captured by the Poison Information Control Network. Age, sex, substance(s) used, medical outcome, management site, clinical effects, and therapies were described using counts and percentages and analyzed using chi-square tests. We analyzed the medical outcome ranging from no effect to death using the Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Serious medical outcome was defined as death or major outcome.

Results: We analyzed a total of 29,737 cases. The majority were females (20,945;70.5%), of whom 274 (1.3%) were pregnant. Most cases were 15-18 year olds (15,520;52.2%). Many experienced no effects (9,068;30.5%) or minor medical outcomes (8,612;29%). Males had more serious medical outcomes (p<0.0001), but females were more likely to be admitted to a critical care unit (p<0.0001). There were 17 deaths (0.06%), most in males (10; p=0.008). Of the 52 substances reported in the death cases, 12 (23.1%) were analgesics. In eight (47.1%) of the deaths, over two substances were used. Overall, drowsiness/lethargy (7,097;19.3%) and single-dose charcoal (8,815;16.3%) were frequently reported. Nearly 20% were admitted to critical care units (5,727;19.3%) and 28.7% went to psychiatric facilities (8,523). Of those admitted to hospitals (8,203), nearly 70% (5,727) required critical care units. Almost half <10 years old were evaluated and released (43;47.2%). Of the 114 reported substances for this population, 22.8% involved psychotropic medications, 15.8% analgesics, and 14% Attention Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) medications. Analgesics (13,539;33.6%) were the most common medication category used by all age groups. Typically only one substance (20,549;69.1%) was used.

Conclusion: Undiagnosed ADHD may be a potential underlying cause for self-harming behaviors in the very young. Gender-specific suicide prevention strategies may be more effective at identifying those at risk than traditional measures alone. Further study into admitting practices by emergency physicians is needed to understand the difference in critical care admission rates based on gender. Once identified to be at-risk for suicidal behavior, access to analgesics and psychotropics should be monitored by care-givers especially in those between the ages of 15-18. [West J Emerg Med.–0]

Prehospital Care

Prehospital Evaluation of Effusion, Pneumothorax, & Standstill (PEEPS): Point-of-care Ultrasound in Emergency Medical Services

Introduction: In the United States, there are limited studies regarding use of prehospital ultrasound (US) by emergency medical service (EMS) providers. Field diagnosis of life-threatening conditions using US could be of great utility. This study assesses the ability of EMS providers and students to accurately interpret heart and lung US images.

Methods: We tested certified emergency medical technicians (EMT-B) and paramedics (EMT-P) as well as EMT-B and EMT-P students enrolled in prehospital training programs within two California counties. Participants completed a pre-test of sonographic imaging of normal findings and three pathologic findings: pericardial effusion, pneumothorax, and cardiac standstill. A focused one-hour lecture on emergency US imaging followed. Post-tests were given to all EMS providers immediately following the lecture and to a subgroup one week later.

Results: We enrolled 57 prehospital providers (19 EMT-B students, 16 EMT-P students, 18 certified EMT-B, and 4 certified EMT-P). The mean pre-test score was 65.2%±12.7% with mean immediate post-test score of 91.1%±7.9% (95% CI [22%-30%], p<0.001)). Scores significantly improved for all three pathologic findings. Nineteen subjects took the one-week post-test. Their mean score remained significantly higher: pre-test 65.8%±10.7%; immediate post-test 90.5%±7.0% (95% CI [19%-31%], p<0.001), one-week post-test 93.1%±8.3% (95% CI [21%-34%], p<0.001).

Conclusion: Using a small sample of EMS providers and students, this study shows the potential feasibility for educating prehospital providers to accurately identify images of pericardial effusion, pneumothorax, and cardiac standstill after a focused lecture.


Recommendations from the Council of Residency Directors (CORD) Social Media Committee on the Role of Social Media in Residency Education and Strategies on Implementation

Social media (SM) is a form of electronic communication through which users create online communities and interactive platforms to exchange information, ideas, messages, podcasts, videos, and other user-generated content. Emergency medicine (EM) has embraced the healthcare applications of SM at a rapid pace and continues to explore the potential benefit for education. Free Open Access Meducation has emerged from the ever-expanding collection of SM interactions and now represents a virtual platform for sharing educational media. This guidance document constitutes an expert consensus opinion for best practices in the use of SM in EM residency education. The goals are the following: 1) Recommend adoption of SM as a valuable graduate medical education (GME) tool, 2) Provide advocacy and support for SM as a GME tool, and 3) Recommend best practices of educational deliverables using SM. These guidelines are intended for EM educators and residency programs for the development and use of a program-specific SM presence for residency education, taking into account appropriate SM stewardship that adheres to institution-specific guidelines, content management, Accreditation Council for GME milestone requirements, and integration of SM in EM residency curriculum to enhance the learner’s experience. Additionally, potential obstacles to the uptake of SM as an educational modality are discussed with proposed solutions.

Emergency Department Operations

Demographic, Operational, and Healthcare Utilization Factors Associated with Emergency Department Patient Satisfaction

Introduction: The primary aim of this study was to determine which objectively-measured patient demographics, emergency department (ED) operational characteristics, and healthcare utilization frequencies (care factors) were associated with patient satisfaction ratings obtained from phone surveys conducted by a third-party vendor for patients discharged from our ED.

Methods: This is a retrospective, observational analysis of data obtained between September 2011 and August 2012 from all English- and Spanish-speaking patients discharged from our ED who were contacted by a third-party patient satisfaction vendor to complete a standardized nine-item telephone survey by a trained phone surveyor. We linked data from completed surveys to the patient’s electronic medical record to abstract additional demographic, ED operational, and healthcare utilization data. We used univariate ordinal logistic regression, followed by two multivariate models, to identify significant predictors of patient satisfaction. Results: We included 20,940 patients for analysis. The overall patient satisfaction ratings were as follows: 1=471 (2%); 2=558 (3%); 3=2,014 (10%), 4=5,347 (26%); 5=12,550 (60%). Factors associated with higher satisfaction included race/ethnicity (Non-Hispanic Black; Hispanic patients), age (patients ≥65), insurance (Medicare), mode of arrival (arrived by bus or on foot), and having a medication ordered in the ED. Patients who felt their medical condition did not improve, those treated in our ED behavioral health area, and those experiencing longer wait times had reduced satisfaction.

Conclusion: These findings provide a basis for development and evaluation of targeted interventions that could be used to improve patient satisfaction in our ED.

Health Outcomes

Differences in Presentation and Management of Pediatric Facial Lacerations by Type of Health Insurance

Introduction: Limited data are available regarding differences in presentation and management of pediatric emergency department (PED) patients based on insurance status. The objective of the study was to assess the difference in management of pediatric facial lacerations based on medical insurance status.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study with universal sampling of patients with facial lacerations who were treated in an urban PED (45K visits/year) over a one-year period. Demographic features and injury characteristics for patients with commercial (private) insurance and those with Medicaid or Medicare (public) insurance were compared.

Results: Of 1235 children included in the study, 667 (54%) had private insurance and 485 (39%) had public insurance. The two groups did not differ in age or gender, arrival by ambulance, location of injury occurrence, mechanism of injury, part of face involved, length or depth of laceration, use of local anesthetic, or method of repair but differed in acuity assigned at triage. Patients with public insurance were found less likely to have subspecialty consultation in bivariable (OR=0.41, 95% CI [0.24–0.68]) and multivariable logistic regression analyses (OR=0.45, 95% CI [0.25-0.78]). Patients with public insurance received procedural sedation significantly less often than those with private insurance (OR=0.48, 95% CI [0.29-0.76]). This difference was not substantiated in multivariable models (OR=0.74, 95% CI [0.40-1.31]).

Conclusion: Patients with public insurance received less subspecialty consultation compared to privately insured patients despite a similarity in the presentation and characteristics of their facial lacerations. The reasons for these disparities require further investigation. [West J Emerg Med 2015;16(4)-0.]

Predictors Of Linkage To Care For Newly Diagnosed HIV-Positive Adults

Introduction: Linkage to care following a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnosis is critical. In the U.S. only 69% of patients are successfully linked to care, which results in delayed receipt of antiretroviral therapy leading to immune system dysfunction and risk of transmission to others. Methods: We evaluated predictors of failure to link to care at a large urban healthcare center in Philadelphia in order to identify potential intervention targets. We conducted a cohort study between May 2007 and November 2011 at hospital-affiliated outpatient clinics, emergency departments (EDs), and inpatient units.

Results: Of 87 patients with a new HIV diagnosis, 63 (72%) were linked to care: 23 (96%) from the outpatient setting and 40 (63%) from the hospital setting (ED or inpatient) (p<0.01). Those who were tested in the hospital-based settings were more likely to be black (p=0.01), homeless (p=0.03), and use alcohol or drugs (p=0.03) than those tested in the outpatient clinics. Patients tested in the ED or inpatient units had a 10.9 fold (p=0.03) higher odds of failure to link compared to those diagnosed in an outpatient clinic. When testing site was controlled, unemployment (OR 12.2;p<0.01) and substance use (OR 6.4;p<0.01) were associated with failure to link.

Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate the comparative success of linkage to care in outpatient medical clinics versus hospital-based settings. This study both reinforces the importance of routine opt-out HIV testing in outpatient practices, and demonstrates the need to better understand barriers to linkage.


Population Health Research Design

How do Medical Societies Select Science for Conference Presentation? How Should They?

Introduction: Nothing has been published to describe the practices of medical societies in choosing abstracts for presentations at their annual meetings. We surveyed medical societies to determine their practices, and also present a theoretical analysis of the topic.

Methods: We contacted a convenience sample of large U.S. medical conferences, and determined their approach to choosing abstracts. We obtained information from web sites, telephone, and email. Our theoretical analysis compares values-based and empirical approaches for scoring system development.

Results: We contacted 32 societies and obtained data on 28 (response rate 88%). We excluded one upon learning that research was not presented at its annual meeting, leaving 27 for analysis. Only 2 (7%) made their abstract scoring process available to submitters. Reviews were blinded in most societies (21; 78%), and all but one asked reviewers to recuse themselves for conflict of interest (96%). All required ≥3 reviewers. Of the 24 providing information on how scores were generated, 21 (88%) reported using a single gestalt score, and three used a combined score created from pooled domain-specific sub-scores. We present a framework for societies to use in choosing abstracts, and demonstrate its application in the development of a new scoring system.

Conclusions: Most medical societies use subjective, gestalt methods to select research for presentation at their annual meetings and do not disclose to submitters the details of how abstracts are chosen. We present a new scoring system that is transparent to submitters and reviewers alike with an accompanying statement of values and ground rules. We discuss the challenges faced in selecting abstracts for a large scientific meeting and share the values and practical considerations that undergird the new system.


  • 1 supplemental PDF

Validation of ICD-9 Codes for Stable Miscarriage in the Emergency Department

Introduction: International Classification of Disease, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) diagnosis codes have not been validated for identifying cases of missed abortion where a pregnancy is no longer viable but the cervical os remains closed. Our goal was to assess whether ICD-9 code “632” for missed abortion has high sensitivity and positive predictive value (PPV) in identifying patients in the emergency department (ED) with cases of stable early pregnancy failure (EPF).

Methods: We studied females ages 13-50 years presenting to the ED of an urban academic medical center. We approached our analysis from two perspectives, evaluating both the sensitivity and PPV of ICD-9 code “632” in identifying patients with stable EPF. All patients with chief complaints “pregnant and bleeding” or “pregnant and cramping” over a 12-month period were identified. We randomly reviewed two months of patient visits and calculated the sensitivity of ICD-9 code “632” for true cases of stable miscarriage. To establish the PPV of ICD-9 code “632” for capturing missed abortions, we identified patients whose visits from the same time period were assigned ICD-9 code “632,” and identified those with actual cases of stable EPF. Results: We reviewed 310 patient records (17.6% of 1,762 sampled). Thirteen of 31 patient records assigned ICD-9 code for missed abortion correctly identified cases of stable EPF (sensitivity=41.9%), and 140 of the 142 patients without EPF were not assigned the ICD-9 code “632”(specificity=98.6%). Of the 52 eligible patients identified by ICD-9 code “632,” 39 cases met the criteria for stable EPF (PPV=75.0%).

Conclusion: ICD-9 code “632” has low sensitivity for identifying stable EPF, but its high specificity and moderately high PPV are valuable for studying cases of stable EPF in epidemiologic studies using administrative data.

Technology in Emergency Medicine

Importance of Decision Support Implementation in Emergency Department Vancomycin Dosing

Introduction: The emergency department (ED) plays a critical role in the management of life-threatening infection. Prior data suggest that ED vancomycin dosing is frequently inappropriate.The objective is to assess the impact of an electronic medical record (EMR) intervention designed to improve vancomycin dosing accuracy, on vancomycin dosing and clinical outcomes in critically ill ED patients.

Methods: Retrospective before-after cohort study of all patients (n=278) treated with vancomycin in a 60,000-visit Midwestern academic ED (March 2008 and April 2011) and admitted to an intensive care unit. The primary outcome was the proportion of vancomycin doses defined as “appropriate” based on recorded actual body weight. We also evaluated secondary outcomes of mortality and length of stay.

Results: The EMR dose calculation tool was associated with an increase in mean vancomycin dose ([14.1±5.0] vs. [16.5±5.7] mg/kg, p<0.001) and a 10.3% absolute improvement in first-dose appropriateness (34.3% vs. 24.0%, p=0.07). After controlling for age, gender, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, and Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II (APACHE-II) score, 28-day in-hospital mortality (odds ratio OR 1.72; 95% CI [0.76-3.88], p=0.12) was not affected.

Conclusion: A computerized decision-support tool is associated with an increase in mean vancomycin dose in critically ill ED patients, but not with a statistically significant increase in therapeutic vancomycin doses. The impact of decision-support tools should be further explored to optimize compliance with accepted antibiotic guidelines and to potentially affect clinical outcome.

Point-of-care Ultrasound to Identify Distal Ulnar Artery Thrombosis: Case of Hypothenar Hammer Syndrome

Hypothenar hammer syndrome (HHS) is a rare condition of distal ulnar artery injury and thrombosis secondary to repetitive blunt trauma to the hypothenar area. We present a case of HHS for which point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) was used as the initial means of imaging, prompting management and disposition without further imaging studies ordered in the emergency department (ED). This case demonstrates the utility of POCUS to aid the Emergency Physician in the diagnosis and management of patients with extremity vascular issues in the ED, and details a rarely seen clinical entity in the ED.

  • 1 supplemental video

Choledochal Cyst Mimicking Gallbladder with Stones in a Six-Year-Old with Right-sided Abdominal Pain

Choledochal cysts are rare but serious bile duct abnormalities found in young children, usually during the first year of life.1 They require urgent surgical intervention due to the risk of developing cholangiocarcinoma.2 Clinicians should consider this diagnosis and perform a point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) when a child presents to the emergency department (ED) with findings of jaundice, abdominal pain, and the presence of an abdominal mass. We present the case of a six-year-old child presenting only with abdominal pain upon arrival to our ED and was ultimately diagnosed by POCUS to have a choledochal cyst.

  • 1 supplemental video
  • 1 supplemental file

Diagnostic Acumen

Prochlorperazine-Induced Hemidystonia Mimicking Acute Stroke

Prochlorperazine is frequently used in the treatment of refractory nausea and migraines. Known side effects include extrapyramidal symptoms such as akathisia and dystonia. We report a pregnant patient taking prochlorperazine for hyperemesis gravidarum who developed hemidystonia, which triggered an acute code stroke response from prehospital, emergency medicine and neurology providers. We suspect this report to be the first case of prochlorperazine-induced hemidystonia as a stroke mimic.

Treatment Protocol Assessment

Comparison of Preloaded Bougie versus Standard Bougie Technique for Endotracheal Intubation in a Cadaveric Model

Introduction: We compared intubating with a preloaded bougie (PB) against standard bougie technique in terms of success rates, time to successful intubation and provider preference on a cadaveric airway model.

Methods: In this prospective, crossover study, healthcare providers intubated a cadaver using the PB technique and the standard bougie technique. Participants were randomly assigned to start with either technique. Following standardized training and practice, procedural success and time for each technique was recorded for each participant. Subsequently, participants were asked to rate their perceived ease of intubation on a visual analogue scale of 1 to 10 (1=difficult and 10=easy) and to select which technique they preferred.

Results: 47 participants with variable experience intubating were enrolled at an emergency medicine intern airway course. The success rate of all groups for both techniques was equal (95.7%). The range of times to completion for the standard bougie technique was 16.0-70.2 seconds, with a mean time of 29.7 seconds. The range of times to completion for the PB technique was 15.7-110.9 seconds, with a mean time of 29.4 seconds. There was a non-significant difference of 0.3 seconds (95% confidence interval -2.8 to 3.4 seconds) between the two techniques. Participants rated the relative ease of intubation as 7.3/10 for the standard technique and 7.6/10 for the preloaded technique (p=0.53, 95% confidence interval of the difference -0.97 to 0.50). Thirty of 47 participants subjectively preferred the PB technique (p=0.039).

Conclusion: There was no significant difference in success or time to intubation between standard bougie and PB techniques. The majority of participants in this study preferred the PB technique. Until a clear and clinically significant difference is found between these techniques, emergency airway operators should feel confident in using the technique with which they are most comfortable.

Emergency Department Access

Rural Ambulatory Access for Semi-Urgent Care and the Relationship of Distance to an Emergency Department

Introduction: Availability of timely access to ambulatory care for semi-urgent medical concerns in rural and suburban locales is unknown. Further distance to an emergency department (ED) may require rural clinics to serve as surrogate EDs in their region, and make it more likely for these clinics to offer timely appointments. We determined the availability of urgent (within 48 hours) access to ambulatory care for non-established visiting patients, and assessed the effect of insurance and ability to pay cash on a patient’s success in scheduling an appointment in rural and suburban Eastern United States. We also assessed how proximity to EDs and urgent care (UC) facilities influenced access to semi-urgent ambulatory appointments at primary care facilities.

Methods: The Appalachian Trail (AT), which runs from Georgia to Maine, was used as a transect to select 190 rural and suburban primary care clinics located along its entire length. We calculated their location and distance to the nearest hospital-based ED or UC via Google Earth. A sham patient representing a non-established visiting patient called each clinic over a four-month period (2013), requesting an appointment in the next 48 hours for one of three scripted clinical vignettes representing common semi-urgent ambulatory concerns. We randomized the scenarios and insurance statuses (insured vs. uninsured). Each clinic was contacted twice, once with the caller representing an insured patient, once with the caller representing an uninsured patient. When the caller was representing an uninsured patient, any required upfront payment was requested from each clinic. One hundred dollars was used as a cutoff between the uninsured as a distinction between those able to afford substantial upfront sums and those who could not. To determine if proximity to other sources of care impacted a clinic’s ability to grant an appointment, distance to the nearest ED or UC was modeled as a dichotomous variable using 30 miles as the divider.

Results: Of 380 requests, 96 (25.3%) resulted in appointments within 48 hours. Insured patients and uninsured patients able to pay a substantial amount upfront (>$100) were more likely to book an appointment (p-value=<0.001, OR 18, CI [5-154]). Of the 47 clinics that granted uninsured patients appointments 89.3% required some form of payment up front. Farther distances from an ED did not result in greater likelihood of an appointment (OR 1.7, CI [0.4-11.3]). Clinics located within 30 miles of an UC were more likely to grant an appointment (OR 2.45, CI [1.19-5.80]).

Conclusion: Almost 75% of rural clinics were unable to grant a new appointment for a semi-urgent health complaint. Lack of insurance and large upfront charges appear to be significant barriers to rural ambulatory care appointments. Greater distance from an ED does not improve a clinic’s ability to see semi-urgent appointments. Clinics located near an UC were more likely to grant an appointment than clinics without close alternative outpatient healthcare options.