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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 19, Issue 3, 2018

Endemic Infections

Comparing Quick Sequential Organ Failure Assessment Scores to End-tidal Carbon Dioxide as Mortality Predictors in Prehospital Patients with Suspected Sepsis

Introduction: Early identification of sepsis significantly improves outcomes, suggesting a role for prehospital screening. An end-tidal carbon dioxide (ETCO2) value ≤ 25 mmHg predicts mortality and severe sepsis when used as part of a prehospital screening tool. Recently, the Quick Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (qSOFA) score was also derived as a tool for predicting poor outcomes in potentially septic patients. 

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study among patients transported by emergency medical services to compare the use of ETCO2 ≤ 25 mmHg with qSOFA score of ≥ 2 as a predictor of mortality or diagnosis of severe sepsis in prehospital patients with suspected sepsis. 

Results: By comparison of receiver operator characteristic curves, ETCO2 had a higher discriminatory power to predict mortality, sepsis, and severe sepsis than qSOFA. 

Conclusion: Both non-invasive measures were easily obtainable by prehospital personnel, with ETCO2 performing slightly better as an outcome predictor.


Critical Care

Severely Elevated Blood Pressure and Early Mortality in Children with Traumatic Brain Injuries: The Neglected End of the Spectrum

Introduction: In adults with traumatic brain injuries (TBI), hypotension and hypertension at presentation are associated with mortality. The effect of age-adjusted blood pressure in children with TBI has been insufficiently studied. We sought to determine if age-adjusted hypertension in children with severe TBI is associated with mortality.

Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of the Department of Defense Trauma Registry (DoDTR) between 2001 and 2013. We included for analysis patients <18 years with severe TBI defined as Abbreviated Injury Severity (AIS) scores of the head ≥3. We defined hypertension  as moderate for systolic blood pressures (SBP) between the 95th and 99th percentile for age and gender and severe if greater than the 99th percentile. Hypotension was defined as SBP <90 mmHg for children >10 years or < 70mmHg + (2 x age) for children ≤10 years. We performed multivariable logistic regression and Cox regression to determine if BP categories were associated with mortality. 

Results: Of 4,990 children included in the DoDTR, 740 met criteria for analysis. Fifty patients (6.8%) were hypotensive upon arrival to the ED, 385 (52.0%) were normotensive, 115 (15.5%) had moderate hypertension, and 190 (25.7%) had severe hypertension. When compared to normotensive patients, moderate and severe hypertension patients had similar Injury Severity Scores, similar AIS head scores, and similar frequencies of neurosurgical procedures. Multivariable logistic regression demonstrated that hypotension (odd ratio [OR] 2.85, 95 confidence interval [CI] 1.26-6.47) and severe hypertension (OR 2.58, 95 CI 1.32-5.03) were associated with increased 24-hour mortality. Neither hypotension (Hazard ratio (HR) 1.52, 95 CI 0.74-3.11) nor severe hypertension (HR 1.65, 95 CI 0.65-2.30) was associated with time to mortality. 

Conclusion: Pediatric, age-adjusted hypertension is frequent after severe TBI. Severe hypertension is strongly associated with 24-hour mortality. Pediatric, age-adjusted blood pressure needs to be further evaluated as a critical marker of early mortality.

  • 4 supplemental files

Technology in Emergency Medicine

Clinical Ultrasound Is Safe and Highly Specific for Acute Appendicitis in Moderate to High Pre-test Probability Patients

Introduction: Clinical ultrasound (CUS) is highly specific for the diagnosis of acute appendicitis but is operator-dependent. The goal of this study was to determine if a heterogeneous group of emergency physicians (EP) could diagnose acute appendicitis on CUS in patients with a moderate to high pre-test probability. 

Methods: This was a prospective, observational study of a convenience sample of adult and pediatric patients with suspected appendicitis. Sonographers received a structured, 20-minute CUS training on appendicitis prior to patient enrollment. The presence of a dilated (>6 mm diameter), non-compressible, blind-ending tubular structure was considered a positive study. Non-visualization or indeterminate studies were considered negative. We collected pre-test probability of acute appendicitis based on a 10-point visual analog scale (moderate to high was defined as >3), and confidence in CUS interpretation. The primary objective was measured by comparing CUS findings to surgical pathology and one week follow-up.

Results: We enrolled 105 patients; 76 had moderate to high pre-test probability. Of these, 24 were children. The rate of appendicitis was 36.8% in those with moderate to high pre-test probability. CUS were recorded by 33 different EPs. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative likelihood ratios of EP-performed CUS in patients with moderate to high pre-test probability were 42.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] [25-62.5%]), 97.9% (95% CI [87.5-99.8%]), 20.7 (95% CI [2.8-149.9]) and 0.58 (95% CI [0.42-0.8]), respectively. The 16 false negative scans were all interpreted as indeterminate. There was one false positive CUS diagnosis; however, the sonographer reported low confidence of 2/10.

Conclusion: A heterogeneous group of EP sonographers can safely identify acute appendicitis with high specificity in patients with moderate to high pre-test probability. This data adds support for surgical consultation without further imaging beyond CUS in the appropriate clinical setting.

Resource Utilization

Appropriateness of Extremity Magnetic Resonance Imaging Examinations in an Academic Emergency Department Observation Unit

Introduction: Emergency departments (ED) and hospitals face increasing challenges related to capacity, throughput, and stewardship of limited resources while maintaining high quality. Appropriate utilization of extremity magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations within the emergency setting is not well known. Therefore, this study aimed to determine indications for and appropriateness of MRI of the extremities for musculoskeletal conditions in the ED observation unit (EDOU).

Methods: We conducted this institutional review board-approved, retrospective study in a large, quaternary care academic center and Level I trauma center. An institutional database was queried retrospectively to identify all adult patients undergoing an extremity MRI while in the EDOU during the two-year study period from October 2013 through September 2015. We compared clinical history with the American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria® for musculoskeletal indications. The primary outcome was appropriateness of musculoskeletal MRI exams of the extremities; examinations with an ACR Criteria score of seven or higher were deemed appropriate. Secondary measures included MRI utilization and imaging findings.

Results: During the study period, 22,713 patients were evaluated in the EDOU. Of those patients, 4,409 had at least one MRI performed, and 88 MRIs met inclusion criteria as musculoskeletal extremity examinations (2% of all patients undergoing an MRI exam in the EDOU during the study period). The most common exams were foot (27, 31%); knee (26, 30%); leg/femur (10, 11%); and shoulder (10, 11%). The most common indications were suspected infection (42, 48%) and acute trauma (23, 26%). Fifty-six percent of exams were performed with intravenous contrast; and 83% (73) of all MRIs were deemed appropriate based on ACR Criteria. The most common reason for inappropriate imaging was lack of performance of radiographs prior to MRI.

Conclusion: The majority of musculoskeletal extremity MRI examinations performed in the EDOU were appropriate based on ACR Appropriateness Criteria. However, the optimal timing and most-appropriate site for performance of many clinically appropriate musculoskeletal extremity MRIs performed in the EDOU remains unclear. Potential deferral to the outpatient setting may be a preferred population health management strategy.

Treatment Protocol Assessment

Multicenter Study of Albuterol Use Among Infants Hospitalized with Bronchiolitis

Introduction: Although bronchiolitis is a common reason for infant hospitalization, significant heterogeneity persists in its management. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that inhaled albuterol not be used in routine care of children with bronchiolitis. Our objective was to identify factors associated with pre-admission (e.g., emergency department or primary care) use of albuterol among infants hospitalized for bronchiolitis.

Methods: We analyzed data from a 17-center observational study of 1,016 infants (age <1 year) hospitalized with bronchiolitis between 2011-2014. Pre-admission albuterol use was ascertained by chart review, and data were available for 1,008 (99%) infants. We used multivariable logistic regression to identify infant characteristics independently associated with pre-admission albuterol use.

Results: Half of the infants (n=508) received at least one albuterol treatment before admission. Across the 17 hospitals, pre-admission albuterol use ranged from 23-84%. In adjusted analysis, independent predictors of albuterol use were the following: age ≥2 months (age 2.0-5.9 months [odds ratio (OR) 2.09, 95% confidence interval (CI) {1.45-3.01}] and age 6.0-11.9 months [OR 2.89, 95% CI {1.99-4.19}]); prior use of a bronchodilator (OR 1.89, 95% CI [1.24-2.90]); and presence of wheezing documented in pre-admission chart (OR 3.94, 95% CI [2.61-5.93]). By contrast, albuterol use was less likely among those with ≥7 days since the start of breathing problem (OR 0.66, 95% CI [0.44-1.00]) and parent-reported fever (OR 0.75, 95% CI [0.58-0.96]).

Conclusion: Variation in pre-admission albuterol use suggests that local practice had a strong influence on use, but that patient characteristics also influenced the decision. While we agree with current guidelines in recommending against albuterol for all infants with bronchiolitis, our understanding of possible subgroups of responders may improve through investigation of infants with the identified characteristics.

Ruling out Pulmonary Embolism in Patients with High Pretest Probability

Introduction: The American College of Emergency Physicians guidelines recommend more aggressive workup beyond imaging alone in patients with a high pretest probability (PTP) of pulmonary embolism (PE). However, the ability of multiple tests to safely rule out PE in high PTP patients is not known. We sought to measure the ability of negative computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA) along with negative D-dimer to rule out PE in these high-risk patients.

Methods: We analyzed data from a previous prospective observational study conducted in 12 emergency departments (ED). Wells score criteria were entered by providers before final PE testing. PE was diagnosed by imaging on the index ED visit, or within 45 days, demonstrating either PE ordeep vein thrombosis (DVT), or if the patient died of PE during the 45-day, follow-up period. Testing threshold was set at 1.8%.

Results: A total of 7,940 patients were enrolled and tested for PE, and 257 had high PTP (Wells >6). Sixteen of these high-risk patients had negative CTPA and negative D-dimer, of whom two were positive for PE (12.5% [95% confidence interval 2.2%-40.0%]). One of these patients had a DVT on CT venogram and the other was diagnosed at follow-up.

Conclusion: Our analysis suggests that in patients with high PTP of PE, neither negative CTPA by itself nor a negative CTPA plus a negative D-dimer are sufficient to rule out PE. More aggressive workup strategies may be required for these patients.

Emergency Department Administration

Decreased Nursing Staffing Adversely Affects Emergency Department Throughput Metrics

Introduction: The effect of nurse staffing on emergency department (ED) efficiency remains a significant area of interest to administrators, physicians, and nurses. We believe that decreased nursing staffing adversely affects key ED throughput metrics. 

Methods: We conducted a retrospective observational review of our electronic medical record database from 1/1/2015 to 12/31/2015 at a high-volume, urban public hospital. We report nursing hours, door-to-discharge length of stay (LOS) and door-to-admit LOS, and percentage of patients who left without being seen (LWBS). ED nursing hours per day was examined across quartiles with the effect evaluated using analysis of covariance and controlled for total daily ED volume, hospital occupancy and ED admission rate. 

Results: From 1/1/15-12/31/15, 105,887 patients presented to the ED with a range of 336 to 580 nursing hours per day with a median of 464.7. Independent of daily ED volume, hospital occupancy and ED admission rate, days in the lowest quartile of nursing hours experienced a 28.2-minute increase per patient in door-to-discharge LOS compared to days in the highest quartile of nursing hours. Door-to-admit LOS showed no significant change across quartiles. There was also an increase of nine patients per day who left without being seen by a provider in the lowest quartile of nursing hours compared to the highest quartile. 

Conclusion: Lower nursing hours contribute to a statistically significant increase in door-to-discharge LOS and number of LWBS patients, independent of daily ED volume, hospital occupancy and ED admission rate. Consideration of the impact of nursing staffing is needed to optimize throughput metrics for our urban, safety-net hospital.

Code Help: Can This Unique State Regulatory Intervention Improve Emergency Department Crowding?

Introduction: Emergency department (ED) crowding adversely affects multiple facets of high-quality care. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts mandates specific, hospital action plans to reduce ED boarding via a mechanism termed “Code Help.” Because implementation appears inconsistent even when hospital conditions should have triggered its activation, we hypothesized that compliance with the Code Help policy would be associated with reduction in ED boarding time and total ED length of stay (LOS) for admitted patients, compared to patients seen when the Code Help policy was not followed.

Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of data collected from electronic, patient-care, timestamp events and from a prospective Code Help registry for consecutive adult patients admitted from the ED at a single academic center during a 15-month period. For each patient, we determined whether the concurrent hospital status complied with the Code Help policy or violated it at the time of admission decision. We then compared ED boarding time and overall ED LOS for patients cared for during periods of Code Help policy compliance and during periods of Code Help policy violation, both with reference to patients cared for during normal operations.

Results: Of 89,587 adult patients who presented to the ED during the study period, 24,017 (26.8%) were admitted to an acute care or critical care bed. Boarding time ranged from zero to 67 hours 30 minutes (median 4 hours 31 minutes). Total ED LOS for admitted patients ranged from 11 minutes to 85 hours 25 minutes (median nine hours). Patients admitted during periods of Code Help policy violation experienced significantly longer boarding times (median 20 minutes longer) and total ED LOS (median 46 minutes longer), compared to patients admitted under normal operations. However, patients admitted during Code Help policy compliance did not experience a significant increase in either metric, compared to normal operations.

Conclusion: In this single-center experience, implementation of the Massachusetts Code Help regulation was associated with reduced ED boarding time and ED LOS when the policy was consistently followed, but there were adverse effects on both metrics during violations of the policy.

  • 1 supplemental file

Health Outcomes

Acute Pulmonary Embolism in Emergency Department Patients Despite Therapeutic Anticoagulation

Introduction: Emergency department (ED) patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE) despite therapeutic anticoagulation at the time of diagnosis are uncommonly encountered and present a diagnostic and management challenge. Their characterization and outcomes are poorly described. We sought to describe the prevalence and characteristics of therapeutically anticoagulated patients among a population of patients with acute PE in a community setting and to describe treatment changes and 30-day outcomes. 

Methods: From a large retrospective cohort of adults with acute, objectively-confirmed PE across 21 EDs between 01/2013 and 04/2015, we identified patients who arrived on direct oral or injectable anticoagulants, or warfarin with an initial ED international normalized ratio (INR) value ≥2.0. Patients were excluded from the larger cohort if they had received a diagnosis of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in the prior 30 days. We gathered demographic and clinical variables from electronic health records and structured manual chart review. We report discharge anticoagulation regimens and major 30-day adverse outcomes. 

Results: Among 2,996 PE patients, 36 (1.2%) met study criteria. Mean age was 63 years. Eleven patients (31%) had active cancer and 25 (69%) were high risk on the PE Severity Index (Classes III-V), comparable to the larger cohort (p>0.1). Reasons for pre-arrival anticoagulation were VTE treatment or prevention (n=21), and atrial fibrillation or flutter (n=15). All patients arrived on warfarin and one was also on enoxaparin: 32 had a therapeutic INR (2.0-3.0) and four had a supratherapeutic INR (>3.0). Fifteen patients (42%) had at least one subtherapeutic INR (<2.0) in the 14 days preceding their diagnostic visit. Two patients died during hospitalization. Of the 34 ultimately discharged, 22 underwent a change in anticoagulation drug or dosing, 19 of whom received injectables, either to replace or to supplement warfarin. Four patients also received inferior vena cava filters. Thirty-day outcomes included one major hemorrhage and one additional death. No patients experienced recurrent or worsening VTE.

Conclusion: We found a low prevalence of therapeutic anticoagulation at the time of acute PE diagnosis. Most patients underwent a change in therapy, though management varied widely. Subtherapeutic anticoagulation levels in the preceding weeks were common and support the importance of anticoagulation adherence.


Predictors of Short-Term Outcomes after Syncope: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Introduction: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to identify predictors of serious clinical outcomes after an acute-care evaluation for syncope.

Methods: We identified studies that assessed for predictors of short-term (≤30 days) serious clinical events after an emergency department (ED) visit for syncope. We performed a MEDLINE search (January 1, 1990 - July 1, 2017) and reviewed reference lists of retrieved articles. The primary outcome was the occurrence of a serious clinical event (composite of mortality, arrhythmia, ischemic or structural heart disease, major bleed, or neurovascular event) within 30 days. We estimated the sensitivity, specificity, and likelihood ratio of findings for the primary outcome. We created summary estimates of association on a variable-by-variable basis using a Bayesian random-effects model.

Results: We reviewed 2,773 unique articles; 17 met inclusion criteria. The clinical findings most predictive of a short-term, serious event were the following: 1) An elevated blood urea nitrogen level (positive likelihood ratio [LR+]: 2.86, 95% confidence interval [CI] [1.15, 5.42]); 2); history of congestive heart failure (LR+: 2.65, 95%CI [1.69, 3.91]); 3) initial low blood pressure in the ED (LR+: 2.62, 95%CI [1.12, 4.9]); 4) history of arrhythmia (LR+: 2.32, 95%CI [1.31, 3.62]); and 5) an abnormal troponin value (LR+: 2.49, 95%CI [1.36, 4.1]). Younger age was associated with lower risk (LR-: 0.44, 95%CI [0.25, 0.68]). An abnormal electrocardiogram was mildly predictive of increased risk (LR+ 1.79, 95%CI [1.14, 2.63]).

Conclusion: We identified specific risk factors that may aid clinical judgment and that should be considered in the development of future risk-prediction tools for serious clinical events after an ED visit for syncope.

  • 3 supplemental files

Disaster Medicine/ Emergency Medical Services

Altered Mental Status: Current Evidence-based Recommendations for Prehospital Care

Introduction: In the United States emergency medical services (EMS) protocols vary widely across jurisdictions. We sought to develop evidence-based recommendations for the prehospital evaluation and treatment of a patient with an acute change in mental status and to compare these recommendations against the current protocols used by the 33 EMS agencies in the State of California.

Methods: We performed a literature review of the current evidence in the prehospital treatment of a patient with altered mental status (AMS) and augmented this review with guidelines from various national and international societies to create our evidence-based recommendations. We then compared the AMS protocols of each of the 33 EMS agencies for consistency with these recommendations. The specific protocol components that we analyzed were patient assessment, point-of-care tests, supplemental oxygen, use of standardized scoring, evaluating for causes of AMS, blood glucose evaluation, toxicological treatment, and pediatric evaluation and management. 

Results: Protocols across 33 EMS agencies in California varied widely. All protocols call for a blood glucose check, 21 (64%) suggest treating adults at <60mg/dL, and half allow for the use of dextrose 10%. All the protocols recommend naloxone for signs of opioid overdose, but only 13 (39%) give specific parameters. Half the agencies (52%) recommend considering other toxicological causes of AMS, often by using the mnemonic AEIOU TIPS. Eight (24%) recommend a 12-lead electrocardiogram; others simply suggest cardiac monitoring. Fourteen (42%) advise supplemental oxygen as needed; only seven (21%) give specific parameters. In terms of considering various etiologies of AMS, 25 (76%) give instructions to consider trauma, 20 (61%) to consider stroke, and 18 (55%) to consider seizure. Twenty-three (70%) of the agencies have separate pediatric AMS protocols; others include pediatric considerations within the adult protocol. 

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

  • 1 supplemental file

Emergency Physicians at War

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF-A) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) represent the first major, sustained wars in which emergency physicians (EPs) fully participated as an integrated part of the military’s health system. EPs proved invaluable in the deployments, and they frequently used the full spectrum of trauma and medical care skills. The roles EPs served expanded over the years of the conflicts and demonstrated the unique skill set of emergency medicine (EM) training. EPs supported elite special operations units, served in medical command positions, and developed and staffed flying intensive care units. EPs have brought their combat experience home to civilian practice. This narrative review summarizes the history, contributions, and lessons learned by EPs during OEF-A/OIF and describes changes to daily clinical practice of EM derived from the combat environment.

Peritoneal Dialysis in Austere Environments: An Emergent Approach to Renal Failure Management

Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is a means of renal replacement therapy (RRT) that can be performed in remote settings with limited resources, including regions that lack electrical power. PD is a mainstay of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) therapy worldwide, and the ease of initiation and maintenance has enabled it to flourish in both resource-limited and resource-abundant settings. In natural disaster scenarios, military conflicts, and other austere areas, PD may be the only available life-saving measure for acute kidney injury (AKI) or ESRD. PD in austere environments is not without challenges, including catheter placement, availability of dialysate, and medical complications related to the procedure itself.  However, when hemodialysis is unavailable, PD can be performed using generally available medical supplies including sterile tubing and intravenous fluids. Amidst the ever-increasing global burden of ESRD and AKI, the ability to perform PD is essential for many medical facilities.

Behavioral Health

Continuous Intravenous Sub-Dissociative Dose Ketamine Infusion for Managing Pain in the Emergency Department

Introduction: Our objective was to describe dosing, duration, and pre- and post-infusion analgesic administration of continuous intravenous sub-dissociative dose ketamine (SDK) infusion for managing a variety of painful conditions in the emergency department (ED). 

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of patients aged 18 and older presenting to the ED with acute and chronic painful conditions who received continuous SDK infusion in the ED for a period over six years (2010-2016). Primary data analyses included dosing and duration of infusion, rates of pre- and post-infusion analgesic administration, and final diagnoses. Secondary data included pre- and post-infusion pain scores and rates of side effects.

Results: A total of 104 patients were enrolled in the study. Average dosing of SDK infusion was 11.26 mg/hr, and the mean duration of infusion was 135.87 minutes. There was a 38% increase in patients not requiring post-infusion analgesia. The average decrease in pain score was 5.04. There were 12 reported adverse effects, with nausea being the most prevalent.

Conclusion: Continuous intravenous SDK infusion has a role in controlling pain of various etiologies in the ED with a potential to reduce the need for co-analgesics or rescue analgesic administration. There is a need for more robust, prospective, randomized trials that will further evaluate the analgesic efficacy and safety of this modality across a wide range of pain syndromes and different age groups in the ED.

Retrospective Chart Review of Synthetic Cannabinoid Intoxication with Toxicologic Analysis

Introduction: Use of synthetic cannabinoids (SC) has recently emerged as a new drug epidemic. Our emergency departments (EDs) received a surge of SC users presenting with lethargy and bradycardia, contrasting prior reports of SC-induced tachycardia and agitation.Our goal was to describe these novel presentations and characterize the compounds.

Methods: We present a case series of patients with SC intoxication who presented to our toxicology service covering two tertiary care EDs between 2/11/2015 and 6/23/2015. A retrospective chart review recorded initial vital signs, chief complaint and clinical course. Urine, blood and xenobiotic samples were analyzed using either liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry or gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. We compared resulting spectra against databases containing numerous SCs or metabolites and scored based on a reference comparison. 

Results: Between 2/11/2015 and 6/23/2015, we identified 141 visits. Males comprised 139 visits (age range 21-68 years; median 35, interquartile range 20). Sixty-eight percent presented with lethargy or loss of consciousness. Hypotension (SBP <90 mmHg) and bradycardia (HR<60 bpm) were seen in 10% and 24% of visits, respectively. While most patients were discharged after observation, three were admitted to the intensive care unit and seven to telemetry. Admissions were for vital sign instability, bradycardia requiring pacing, prolonged sedation and respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation.Laboratory analysis revealed SC in the XLR-11 family in 18/36 drug, 9/12 blood, and 23/31 urine samples. Carboxamide indazole derivative (CID) family compounds were detected in 13/36 drug samples, 21/31 urine samples, but no blood samples; 11/31 drug samples contained both XLR-11 and CID. Other compounds detected included PB-22 and nicotine. No JWH compounds, opiates, imidazoline receptor agonists, benzodiazepines or other sedative-hypnotics were detected.

Conclusion: Unlike their predecessors, novel SC may be associated with significant central nervous system depression and bradycardia. While prior reports indicated that SC mostly contained JWH compounds, none were detected in these samples. The most commonly identified compounds in this series were CID and alkyl SC derivatives, such as INACA compounds and XLR-11. These tend to be full agonists at the cannabinoid receptor and are presumably more potent. The lack of other depressants suggests that the clinical findings are due to the combination of these compounds and not coingestants or adulterants. SC intoxication should be considered for patients with undifferentiated psychomotor depression and bradycardia.


Occult Suicidality and Psychiatric Disease Among Emergency Department Patients with Low-acuity Chief Complaints

Introduction: Patients presenting to emergency departments (ED) are often screened for suicidality, even when their chief complaint does not involve mental health concerns. Patient receptiveness to ED-based mental health screening and intervention is unknown, particularly among patients with low-acuity chief complaints, who often prioritize rapid evaluation and discharge. 

Methods: This cross-sectional study included adults with low-acuity chief complaints presenting to an urban, academic ED in the Northeastern United States during daytime and evening hours, from 2015 to 2016. Participants completed validated mental health screening instruments, including the Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire-Revised and the Patient Health Questionnaire-4. Participants were also asked to rate the importance of addressing mental health concerns during their ED visit. 

Results: We approached 1,688 patients, and 816 (48.4%) consented to participate in the study. Of these, 27% screened positive for anxiety and 25% screened positive for depression. Even among patients with no prior depression history, 17% were at high risk of depression. Eleven percent of participants were at high risk for suicidal behavior, including 5% of those with no reported history of depression or bipolar disorder. Thirty-five percent of patients at risk for suicide and 53% of those at high risk of depression thought it was important or very important to address these issues during the ED visit. 

Conclusion: Symptoms of mental health disorders were common among this group of ED patients presenting with low-acuity chief complaints. Patients often desired to address these mental health concerns as part of their ED visit.

Substance Use in Pregnant Women Using the Emergency Department: Undertested And Overlooked?

Introduction: The objective was to determine if pregnant women visiting the emergency department (ED) are tested for substance use as frequently as non-pregnant women.

Methods: We captured all ED visits over a six-year period (2010-2016) from a single community hospital and identified women of childbearing age, defined for our study as 11-50 years old. We collected demographic data including age in years, ethnicity, body mass index, marital status, disposition, last encounter department, method of arrival, and day of week. An independent binary variable was created based on whether the woman was tested for alcohol or drugs (amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, opioids) during her visit. We then compared rates of testing for substance use by pregnancy status. 

Results: We identified 61,222 ED visits by women of childbearing age (range 11-50, mean 30.5, standard deviation 9.6) over a six-year period from 2010-2016. Of the 57,360 non-pregnant women, 4.14% were tested compared to 1.04% of the 3,862 pregnant women tested with a relative risk of 0.25 (p<0.001, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.183-0.341]). The most highly tested chief complaints for all women – psychiatric or substance use concerns – showed pregnant women were still 37% and 54% less likely to be tested, respectively (risk ratio [RR] 0.46, 95% CI [0.19-1.13]; RR 0.63, 95% CI [0.41-0.96]). Beyond pregnancy status, we found no significant interaction between patient demographics and substance use testing.

Conclusion: Pregnant women presenting to the ED were 75% less likely to be tested for drug or alcohol use than non-pregnant women. Our study showed only pregnancy status as a statistically significant variable in drug- and alcohol-screening rates when pregnant and non-pregnant patient chief complaints and demographics were compared. Increased attention to the screening of pregnant women for substance use may be necessary to provide adequate care and intervention to this population.


Effect of an Educational Intervention on Medical Student Scripting and Patient Satisfaction: A Randomized Trial

Introduction: Effective communication between clinicians and patients has been shown to improve patient outcomes, reduce malpractice liability, and is now being tied to reimbursement. Use of a communication strategy known as “scripting” has been suggested to improve patient satisfaction in multiple hospital settings, but the frequency with which medical students use this strategy and whether this affects patient perception of medical student care is unknown. Our objective was to measure the use of targeted communication skills after an educational intervention as well as to further clarify the relationship between communication element usage and patient satisfaction.

Methods: Medical students were block randomized into the control or intervention group. Those in the intervention group received refresher training in scripted communication. Those in the control group received no instruction or other intervention related to communication. Use of six explicit communication behaviors were recorded by trained study observers: 1) acknowledging the patient by name, 2) introducing themselves as medical students, 3) explaining their role in the patient’s care, 4) explaining the care plan, 5) providing an estimated duration of time to be spent in the emergency department (ED), and 6) notifying the patient that another provider would also be seeing them. Patients then completed a survey regarding their satisfaction with the medical student encounter. 

Results: We observed 474 medical student-patient encounters in the ED (231 in the control group and 243 in the intervention group). We were unable to detect a statistically significant difference in communication element use between the intervention and control groups. One of the communication elements, explaining steps in the care plan, was positively associated with patient perception of the medical student’s overall communication skills. Otherwise, there was no statistically significant association between element use and patient satisfaction.

Conclusion: We were unable to demonstrate any improvement in student use of communication elements or in patient satisfaction after refresher training in scripted communication. Furthermore, there was little variation in patient satisfaction based on the use of scripted communication elements.  Effective communication with patients in the ED is complicated and requires further investigation on how to provide this skill set.

  • 3 supplemental files

Scholarly Tracks in Emergency Medicine Residency Programs Are Associated with Increased Choice of Academic Career

Introduction: Career preparation in residency training is not standardized. Scholarly tracks have emerged in emergency medicine (EM) residencies to allow specialized training in an area of focus.  The characteristics of these tracks and their value and impact on resident career choice are unknown. We aim to describe the current state of scholarly tracks in residency training programs and their association with pursuit of an academic career.

Methods: Program leaders at EM training programs completed an online survey consisting of multiple-choice items with free-text option. Additionally, participants completed a matrix of dropdown items identifying the immediately chosen post-residency position and applicable track of each member of their graduating class. Descriptive statistics were calculated and reported for multiple-choice items. We performed comparative statistics using chi-squared and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests.  Free-text responses were analyzed using a thematic approach.  

Results: 113/157(72%) programs participated, 51 with and 62 without tracks. Tracks were more common in four-year programs (odds ratio [OR]=4.8;[2.0-11.9]) and larger programs (chi-sq, p=0.001). Perceived benefits of tracks from programs with them included advanced training (46/50; 92%), career guidance (44/50; 88%), mentorship (44/50; 88%), and preparation for an academic career (40/50; 80%). Residents often participated in a single track (37/50; 74%) usually during their later residency years. Programs with tracks were more likely to graduate residents to an academic career, OR 1.8;[1.3-2.4].

Conclusion: This study describes the current characteristics and perceptions of scholarly tracks in EM residencies. Scholarly tracks are associated with an academic position immediately following residency. The results of this study may inform the development and use of scholarly tracks in residency training programs.

  • 1 supplemental PDF

Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM) in Emergency Medicine: The Global Distribution of Users in 2016

Introduction: Free open-access medical education (FOAM) is a collection of interactive online medical education resources—free and accessible to students, physicians and other learners. This novel approach to medical education has the potential to reach learners across the globe; however, the extent of its global uptake is unknown.

Methods: This descriptive report evaluates the 2016 web analytics data from a convenience sample of FOAM blogs and websites with a focus on emergency medicine (EM) and critical care. The number of times a site was accessed, or “sessions”, was categorized by country of access, cross-referenced with World Bank data for population and income level, and then analyzed using simple descriptive statistics and geographic mapping.

Results: We analyzed 12 FOAM blogs published from six countries, with a total reported volume of approximately 18.7 million sessions worldwide in 2016. High-income countries accounted for 73.7% of population-weighted FOAM blog and website sessions in 2016, while upper-middle income countries, lower-middle income countries and low-income countries accounted for 17.5%, 8.5% and 0.3%, respectively.

Conclusion: FOAM, while largely used in high-income countries, is used in low- and middle-income countries as well. The potential to provide free, online training resources for EM in places where formal training is limited is significant and thus is prime for further investigation.

Implementation of an Emergency Medicine Research Associates Program: Sharing 20 Years of Experience

Introduction: The use of research associates (RA) programs to facilitate study enrollment in the emergency department was initiated during the mid-1990s. The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) was an early adopting site for this model, which has experienced considerable growth and development over the past 20 years. 

Methods: Our goal was to detail the Emergency Department Research Associates (EDRA) program processes developed at the URMC that has led to our program’s sustainability and productivity. These processes, and the lessons learned during their development, can assist institutions seeking to establish an RA program or refine an existing program. 

Results: Defined procedures for selecting, training, and monitoring EDRAs have been created and refined with the goal of maximizing study enrollment and minimizing protocol deviations. Our EDRA program functions as a paid service center for investigators, and our EDRAs engage in a variety of study-related activities including screening and enrolling patients, administering surveys, collecting bio-specimens, and making follow-up calls. Over the past two years, our program has averaged 222 enrollments/month (standard deviation = 79.93), gathering roughly 25 participants per study per month. 

Conclusion: Our EDRA model has consistently resulted in some of the highest number of enrollments across a variety of recently funded, multi-center studies. Maintaining a high-quality EDRA program requires continual investment on the part of the leadership team, though the benefits to investigators within and outside the department outweigh these costs.

3 for the Price of 1: Teaching Chest Pain Risk Stratification in a Multidisciplinary, Problem-based Learning Workshop

Introduction: Chest pain is a common chief complaint among patients presenting to health systems and often leads to complex and intensive evaluations. While these patients are often cared for by a multidisciplinary team (primary care, emergency medicine, and cardiology), medical students usually learn about the care of these patients in a fragmented, single-specialty paradigm. The present and future care of patients with chest pain is multidisciplinary, and the education of medical students on the subject should be as well. Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of a multidisciplinary, problem-based learning workshop to teach third-year medical students about risk assessment for patients presenting with chest pain, specifically focusing on acute coronary syndromes.

Methods: To create an educational experience consistent with multidisciplinary team-based care, we designed a multidisciplinary, problem-based learning workshop to provide medical students with an understanding of how patients with chest pain are cared for in a systems-based manner to improve outcomes. Participants included third-year medical students (n=219) at a single, tertiary care, academic medical center. Knowledge acquisition was tested in a pre-/post-retention test study design.

Results: Following the workshop, students achieved a 19.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] [17.3-22.2%]) absolute increase in scores on post-testing as compared to pre-testing. In addition, students maintained an 11.1% (95% CI [7.2-15.0%]) increase on a retention test vs. the pre-test. 

Conclusion: A multidisciplinary, problem-based learning workshop is an effective method of producing lasting gains in student knowledge about chest pain risk stratification.

The Uphill Battle of Performing Education Scholarship: Barriers Educators and Education Researchers Face

Introduction: Educators and education researchers report that their scholarship is limited by lack of time, funding, mentorship, expertise, and reward. This study aims to evaluate these groups’ perceptions regarding barriers to scholarship and potential strategies for success.

Methods: Core emergency medicine (EM) educators and education researchers completed an online survey consisting of multiple-choice, 10-point Likert scale, and free-response items in 2015. Descriptive statistics were reported. We used qualitative analysis applying a thematic approach to free-response items.

Results: A total of 204 educators and 42 education researchers participated. Education researchers were highly productive: 19/42 reported more than 20 peer-reviewed education scholarship publications on their curricula vitae. In contrast, 68/197 educators reported no education publications within five years. Only a minority, 61/197 had formal research training compared to 25/42 education researchers. Barriers to performing research for both groups were lack of time, competing demands, lack of support, lack of funding, and challenges achieving scientifically rigorous methods and publication. The most common motivators identified were dissemination of knowledge, support of evidence-based practices, and promotion. Respondents advised those who seek greater education research involvement to pursue mentorship, formal research training, collaboration, and rigorous methodological standards. 

Conclusion: The most commonly cited barriers were lack of time and competing demands. Stakeholders were motivated by the desire to disseminate knowledge, support evidence-based practices, and achieve promotion. Suggested strategies for success included formal training, mentorship, and collaboration. This information may inform interventions to support educators in their scholarly pursuits and improve the overall quality of education research in EM.

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