You are in the middle of a fast-paced trauma activation. The patient is awake, and mostly cooperative. The x-ray plate is under the patient and everyone stands back as the tech gets ready to fire the x-ray machine. At that very moment, your patient reaches up and places his hand on his chest. Or one of the nurses reaches over to check an IV site.
The x-ray tech swears, and offers to re-shoot the image. What do you do? Is it really ruined? They have an extra plate in hand and are ready to slide it under the patient bed.
The decision tree on this one is very simple. There are two factors in play: what do you need to see, and how hard is it to see? The natural reaction is to discard the original image and immediately get a new one. It’s so easy! But take a look at this example of a “ruined” chest xray.
Bottom line: You are looking for 2 main things on the chest x-ray: big air and big blood. Only those will change your management in the trauma bay. And they are very easy to see. Couple that with the fact that an arm overlying the image does not add a lot of “noise” to the image. So look at the processed image first. 99% of the time, you can see what you need, and will almost never have to repeat. [Hint: the same holds true for the pelvic x-ray, too. You are mainly looking for significant bony displacements, which are also easy to see.]
They are the cliches of the courtroom. The defendant appears before the jury with a cane, a cast, and a soft cervical collar. Looks good, but are they of any use? There are really two questions to answer: does a soft collar limit mobility and does it reduce pain? Amazingly, there’s very little literature on this ubiquitous neck appliance.
First, the mobility question. It’s a soft collar. It’s made of sponge. So it should be no surprise that it doesn’t reduce motion by much, about 17%. But it is better than no collar at all.
What about pain control? One small retrospective review looked at the effect of a soft collar vs no collar at all on pain after whiplash injury. Keep in mind that the definition of “whiplash” is all over the place, so you have to take it with a big grain of salt. But the authors found that there was no difference in subjective pain scoring with or without the collar.
Another much older study (1986) compared a soft collar with active motion after whiplash. Subjects who actively moved their neck around had less subjective pain after 8 weeks.
Bottom line: The soft cervical collar keeps your neck warm. Not much else. And in my experience, prolonged use (more than a few days) tends to increase uncomfortable neck spasms. So use them as an article of clothing in Minnesota winters, but not as a medical appliance.
Hemostatic resuscitation (HR) is the new buzzword (buzz phrase?) these days. The new ATLS course touts it as a big change, and quite a few publications are being written about it. But, like many new things (think Factor VII), will it stand the test of time?
It has long been recognized that hemorrhage from trauma is bad. Mortality rates are high, and traditional management with crystalloids and then blood products leads to persistent coagulopathy, troublesome bleeding, tissue injury, and finally death. HR was devised to address the early coagulopathy. It concentrates on early coag correction with plasma and platelets, permissive hypotension, and rapid definitive correction of hemorrhage.
The end result of HR has been measured, and both organ perfusion and coagulopathy can be corrected with it. Unfortunately, these measurements are typically taken once hemorrhage control has been achieved. Is looking at (or beyond) the endpoint really the best way to gauge its effectiveness?
A robust multicenter study scrutinized looked at coagulopathy correction and organ perfusion during active hemostatic resuscitation. They used ROTEM to gauge the former, and lactate levels for the latter. Values were measured on arrival and after administration of every 4 units of blood. Only patients who received at least 4 units were included (106 subjects).
Here are the factoids:
Average admission lactate was 6.2 meq/L, so these patients were sick
Patients with a lactate > 5 did not clear it until after hemorrhage was controlled and no further blood was needed
43% of patients were coagulopathic by ROTEM on arrival.
Coagulopathy increased for every 4 units of blood given, despite a plasma infusion ratio of close to 1:1 throughout their resuscitation
Bottom line: This was a well-done study on a relatively large number of patients, although a number of weaknesses and potential improvements are pointed out in the discussion. There’s a lot of data in the paper, and I urge you to read it in depth. But it seems to show that hemostatic resuscitation is not necessarily doing what we want it to do during the acute phase of hemorrhage. Both bleeding AND transfusions must be stopped before it appears to work. And even then, there is a delay before ROTEM and lactate parameters return to normal. For now, rapid control of hemorrhage is of utmost importance. We still need to figure out how tools like ROTEM or TEG and various serum markers will help us while we accomplish it.
Reference: Hemostatic resuscitation is neither hemostatic nor resuscitative in trauma hemorrhage. J Trauma 76(3):561-568, 2014.
Blunt Traumatic Arrest In Kids: Are They Little Adults?
Over and over, we hear that children are not just little adults. They are a different size, a different shape. Their “normal” vital signs are weird. Drug doses are different; some drugs don’t work, some work all too well.
But in many ways, they recover more quickly and more completely after injury. What about after what is probably the biggest insult of all, cardiac arrest after blunt trauma? The NAEMSP and the ACS Committee on Trauma recently released a statement regarding blunt traumatic arrest (BTA):
“Resuscitation efforts may be withheld in any blunt trauma patient who, based on out-of-hospital personnel’s thorough primary patient assessment, is found apneic, pulseless, and without organized ECG activity upon arrival of EMS at the scene.”
The groups specifically point out that the guidelines do not apply to the pediatric population due to the scarcity of data for this age group.
The Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and USC conducted a study of the National Trauma Data Bank, trying to see if children had a better outcome after this catastrophic event. Patients were considered as children if they were up to and including age 18.
Here are the factoids:
Of 116,000 pediatric patients with blunt trauma, 7,766 had no signs of life (SOL) in the field (0.25%)
The typical male:female distribution for trauma was found (70:30)
75% of those without SOL in the field never regained them. Only 1.5% of these survived to discharge from the hospital.
25% regained SOL with resuscitation, and 14% of them were discharged alive.
499 patients underwent ED thoracotomy, and only 1% survived to discharge. There was no correlation of thoracotomy with survival.
It appeared that there was a tendency toward survival for the very young (age 0-4) without SOL, but statistical analysis did not bear this out
Bottom line: Children are just like little adults when it comes to blunt cardiac arrest after trauma. Although it is a retrospective, registry-based study, this is about as big as we are likely to see. And don’t get suckered into saying “but 1.5% with no vital signs ever were discharged!” This study was not able to look at the quality of life of survivors, but there is usually significant and severe disability present in the few adult survivors after this event.
Feel free to try to re-establish signs of life in kids with BTA. This usually means lots of fluid and/or blood. If they don’t respond, then it’s game over. And, like adults, don’t even think about an emergency thoracotomy; it’s dangerous to you and doesn’t work!
Tourniquets for extremity bleeding are definitely back in vogue. Our military experience over the past 20 years has shown us what a life saver this simple tool can be. It’s now carried by many prehospital trauma professionals for use in the civilian population. But what about bleeding from the nether regions? You know what I’m talking about, the so-called junctional zones. Those are the areas that are too proximal (or too dangerous) to put on a tourniquet, like the groin, perineum, axilla, and neck.
Traditionally, junctional zone injury could only be treated in the field with direct pressure, clamps, or in some cases a balloon (think 30Fr Foley catheter inserted and blown up as large as possible, see link below). In the old days, we could try blowing up the MAST trousers to try to get a little control, but those are getting hard to find.
An Alabama company (Compression Works) developed a very novel concept to try to help, the Abdominal Aortic and Junctional Tourniquet (AAJT). Think of it as a pelvic compression device that you purposely apply too high.
Note the cool warning sticker at the bottom of the device!
The developers performed a small trial on 16 volunteer soldiers after doing a preliminary test on themselves (!). The device was placed around the abdomen, above the pelvis, and inflated to a maximum of 250 torr. Here are the factoids:
All subjects tolerated the device, and no complications occurred
Flow through the common femoral artery stopped in 15 of the 16 subjects
The subject in whom it did not work exceeded the BMI and abdominal girth parameters of the device
Average pain score after application was 6-7 (i.e. hurts like hell!)
Here’s a list of the criteria that preclude use of this device:
Bottom line: This would seem to be a very useful device for controlling hemorrhage from pesky areas below the waist.
BUT! Realistically, it will enjoy only limited use in the civilian population for now. Take a closer look at the exclusion criteria above. Half of the population is ineligible right off the bat (women). And among civilians, more than a third are obese in the US. Toss in a smattering of the other criteria, and the unlikelihood of penetrating trauma to that area in civilians, it won’t make financial sense for your average prehospital agency to carry it. Maybe in high violence urban areas, but not anywhere else.
The company has received approval for use in pelvic and axillary hemorrhage control, so we’ll see how it works when more and larger studies are released (on more and larger people).
Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) has become the bane of trauma professionals over the past 15+ years. We agonize about how to screen properly, the best ways to prevent, and why it has become such a problem. It’s fairly clear that clot in the veins of the thighs and higher have significant potential to cause major problems, specifically pulmonary embolism (PE).
But what about below the knee DVT? For a long time, we were not as concerned because it was not clear that it actually caused significant complications. I wrote about a study from OHSU last year that addressed this. Now, a recent study published from Scripps Hospital in San Diego confirms the answer to the question.
All trauma patients who were screened for DVT by duplex ultrasound over a 5 1/2 year period were enrolled in a retrospective study of the progression and/or complications of this diagnosis. Patients who were at bed rest for 72 hours or who were considered at moderate or higher risk for DVT by American College of Chest Physicians guidelines were screened. Ward patients were screened by duplex weekly, and ICU patients were screened twice a week.
Here are the factoids:
Nearly 3,000 of over 11,000 trauma patients were screened (25%)
251 (9%) had DVT or DVT+PE
It took an average of 6 days for DVT to appear, and 9 days for PE
Two thirds had below knee DVT, one third had above knee disease
4.4% of below knee DVT developed PE
Below knee DVT progressed to above the knee in 13% of patients
86% of above knee clot was treated with anticoagulation vs only 24% with below knee DVT
64% of the patients who developed PE were not receiving prophylaxis
Bottom line: Below knee DVT is more significant than we thought, frequently progressing above the knee or throwing off pulmonary emboli. Duplex ultrasound needs to be performed from groin to ankle in at risk patients according to a protocol determined by your hospital. As for what to do when you find below the knee clot, the answer is not yet clear. If the patient has not been receiving chemical prophylaxis, they should at least be started. If they have been receiving prophyaxis, a change to therapeutic dosing is probably warranted.
Our population is aging, and falls continue to be a leading cause of injury and morbidity in the elderly. Unfortunately, many elders have significant medical conditions that make them more likely to suffer unfortunate complications from their injuries and the procedures that repair them.
More and more hospitals around the world are applying a more multidisciplinary approach than the traditional model. One example is the Medical Orthopaedic Trauma Service (MOTS) at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Any elderly patient who has suffered a fracture is seen in the ED by both an emergency physician and a hospitalist from the MOTS team. Once in the hospital, the hospitalist and orthopaedic surgeon try to determine the reason for the fall, assess for risk factors such as osteoporosis, provide comprehensive medical management, provide pain control, and of course, fix the fracture.
This medical center published a paper looking at their success with this model. They retrospectively reviewed 306 patients with femur fractures involving the greater trochanter. They looked at complications, length of stay, readmission rate and post-discharge mortality. No change in length of stay was noted, but there were significantly fewer complications, specifically catheter associated urinary tract infections and arrhythmias. The readmission rate was somewhat shorter in the MOTS group, but did not quite achieve significance with regression analysis.
Bottom line: This type of multidisciplinary approach to these fragile patients makes sense. Hospitalists, especially those with geriatric experience, can have a significant impact on the safety and outcomes of these patients. But even beyond this, all trauma professionals need to look for and correct the reasons for the fall, not just fix the bones and send our elders home. This responsibility starts in the field with prehospital providers, and continues with hospital through the entire inpatient stay.
Reference: The medical orthopaedic service (MOTS): an innovative multidisciplinary team model that decreases in-hospital complications in patients with hip fractures. J Orthopaedic Trauma 26(6):379-383, 2012.
Diagnostic imaging is a mainstay in diagnosing injuries in major trauma patients. But the big questions are, how much is enough and how much is too much? X-radiation is invisible but not inocuous. Trauma professionals tend to pay little attention to radiation that they can’t see in order to diagnose things they can’t otherwise see. And which may not even be there.
There are two major camps working in emergency departments: scan selectively and scan everything. It all boils down to a balance between irradiating enough to be satisfied that nothing has been missed, and irradiating too much and causing harm later.
A very enlightening study was published last year from the group at the University of New South Wales. They prospectively looked at their experience while moving from selective scanning to pan-scanning.They studied over 600 patients in each cohort, looking at radiation exposure, missed injuries, and patient injury and discharge disposition variables.
Here are the interesting findings:
Absolute risk of receiving a higher radiation dose increased from 12% to 20%. This translates to 1 extra person of every 13 evaluated receiving a higher dose.
The incidence of receiving >20 mSv radiation dose nearly doubled after pan-scanning. This is the threshold at which we believe that cancer risk changes from low (<1:1000) to moderate (>1:1000).
The risk of receiving >20 mSv was lower in less severely injured patients (sigh of relief)
There were 6 missed injuries with selective scanning and 4 with pan-scanning (not significant). All were relatively minor.
Bottom line: Granted, the study groups are relatively small, and the science behind radiation risk is not very exact. But this study is very provocative because it shows that radiation dose increases significantly when pan-scan is used, but there was no benefit in terms of decreased missed injury. If we look at the likelihood of being helped vs harmed, patients are 26 times more likely to be harmed in the long term as they are to be helped in the short term. The defensive medicine naysayers will always argue about “that one catastrophic case” that will be missed, but I’m concerned that we’re creating some problems for our patients in the distant future that we are not worrying enough about right now.
Autotransfusing blood that has been shed from the chest tube is an easy way to resuscitate trauma patients with significant hemorrhage from the chest. Plus, it’s usually not contaminated from bowel injury and it doesn’t need any fancy equipment to prepare it for infusion.
It looks like fresh whole blood in the collection system. But is it? A prospective study of 22 patients was carried out to answer this question. A blood sample from the collection system of trauma patients with more than 50 cc of blood loss in 4 hours was analyzed for hematology, electrolyte and coagulation profiles.
The authors found that:
The hemoglobin and hematocrit from the chest tube were lower than venous blood (Hgb by about 2 grams, Hct by 7.5%)
Platelet count was very low in chest tube blood
Potassium was higher (4.9 mmol/L), but not dangerously so
INR, PTT, TT, Factor V and fibrinogen were unmeasurable
Bottom line: Although shed blood from the chest looks like whole blood, it’s missing key coagulation factors and will not clot. Reinfusing it will boost oxygen carrying capacity, but it won’t help with clotting. You may use it as part of your massive transfusion protocol, but don’t forget to give plasma and platelets according to protocol. This also explains why you don’t need to add an anticoagulant to the autotransfusion unit prior to collecting or giving the shed blood!
Do you have any videos or wisdom to share of how a trauma call should run, from arrival to disposition to OR/ICU? Trauma team roles, positions, responsibilities, etc.
This is something that has to be individualized for every hospital. The team composition, positions, responsibilities is designed with the hospital size, type and trauma center level in mind. I have a few videos available about are team. Start with this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8estsbxEWI
Last week I asked for your assistance in determining how big a trauma resuscitation room should be. Thanks to everyone who replied! As you might suspect, these rooms can range from the very spacious…
to very tight…
Most respondents indicated that their trauma bays were somewhere between 225 and 300 square feet (21-28 sq meters), although some were quite large (Rashid Hospital in Dubai at nearly 50 sq meters!).
Interestingly, I did manage to find a set of published guidelines on this topic. The Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) develops detailed recommendations for the design of a variety of healthcare facilities. Here are their guidelines for adult trauma bays:
Single patient room: The clear floor area should be 250 sq ft (23 sq m), with a minimum clearance of 5 feet on all sides of the patient stretcher.
Multiple patient room: The clear floor area should be 200 sq ft (18.5 sq m) with curtains separating patient areas. Minimum clearance of 5 feet on all sides of the patient stretcher should be maintained.
The FGI “clear floor area” corresponds to my “Trauma Bay Working Area”, which is the area that excludes all the carts, cabinets, and countertops scattered about the usual trauma room. California’s guideline of 280 sq feet seems pretty reasonable as the “Trauma Bay Total Area”, if you can keep your wasted space down to about 30 sq feet.
Bottom line: Once again, don’t try to figure out everything from scratch. Somebody has probably already done it (designed a trauma bay, developed a practice guideline, etc). But remember, a generic guideline or even one developed for a specific institution may not completely fit your situation. In this case, the FGI guidelines say nothing about the trauma team size, which is a critical factor in space planning. Use the work of others as a springboard to jump start your own efforts at solving the problem.
This tip is for all trauma professionals: prehospital, doctors, nurses, etc. Anyone who touches a trauma patient. You’ve probably seen this phenomenon in action. A patient sustains a very disfiguring injury. It could be a mangled extremity, a shotgun blast to the torso, or some really severe facial trauma. People cluster around the injured part and say "Dang! That looks really bad!"
It’s just human nature. We are drawn to extremes, and that goes for trauma care as well. And it doesn’t matter what your level of training or expertise, we are all susceptible to it. The problem is that we get so engrossed (!) in the disfiguring injury that we ignore the fact that the patient is turning blue. Or bleeding to death from a small puncture wound somewhere else. We forget to focus on the other life threatening things that may be going on.
How do we avoid this common pitfall? It takes a little forethought and mental preparation. Here’s what to do:
If you know in advance that one of these injuries is present, prepare your crew or team. Tell them what to expect so they can guard against this phenomenon.
Quickly assess to see if it is life threatening. If it bleeds or sucks, it needs immediate attention. Take care of it immediately.
If it’s not life threatening, cover it and focus on the usual priorities (a la ATLS, for example).
When it’s time to address the injury in the usual order of things, uncover, assess and treat.
Don’t get caught off guard! Just being aware of this common pitfall can save you and your patient!
Yesterday I requested your help in figuring out how big a trauma resuscitation room should be. As promised, I brought in my trusty tape measure today to check out my trauma bays at Regions Hospital. I came up with several helpful measurements to help gauge the relative utility of the rooms.
Here are the indices that I came up with:
TBTA: Trauma Bay Total Area. This is the total square footage (meterage?) measured wall to wall.
TBWA: Trauma Bay Working Area. This is the area that excludes equipment carts next to a wall, and areas under countertops that extend away from the wall.
TBAA: Trauma Bay Available Area. This is the TBWA less any other unusable areas in the room. We have an equipment post near one corner that eats up 16.5 sq ft of space. Also remember to subtract the area taken up by the patient bed, as this area is not available to the trauma team, either.
TBSI: Trauma Bay Space Index. This value is derived by dividing the TBAA by the number of team members in the room. It gives an indication of how much space is available for each one to work in.
Values in my trauma center:
TBTA: 291 sq ft
TBWA: 220.5 sq ft
TBAA: 186.5 sq ft
What does it all mean? Hard to say without more info from you for comparison. For my team, it means we each have a 4x4 foot square to move around in, on average.
Keep on sending info on your trauma resuscitation rooms! Leave comments below, or tweet/email me the values for the metrics listed above. Once I get a critical mass of them, I’ll write a detailed post on the results!
I was just asked the question: how big should a trauma bay be? Interestingly, the state of California requires any newly constructed/renovated trauma room to be at least 280 square feet in size (26 sq meters). Today, I’d like to get your opinion. How big is your trauma bay? And is that big enough?
I’d like all my readers to chime in on this one. Take a moment to look at your resuscitation room, measure it if you can, and then judge it.
Then take a moment to either leave a comment below, tweet you answers, or email me at email@example.com. I’ll compile the answers at the end of the week and see if there is a consensus to be had.
I need three pieces of information:
How big is the room (wall to wall)?
How big is the floor area excluding equipment carts (usually much smaller)?
How many people are on your team and in the room? (Don’t include the patient; I assume that’s why you are in there)
The shift in management of adult solid organ injury from primarily operative to mostly nonoperative began in the late 1980s. For the last decade or so, we’ve been refining this management, figuring out failure criteria, the role of interventional radiology, and developing practice guidelines. We know we’ve been able to reduce the number of people that undergo operative management, with an acceptably low failure rate. But is there a financial impact as well?
Surgeons at the MedStar Hospital Center in Washington DC tapped into a huge hospital discharge database from 1994 to 2010. They focused on patients with admitting diagnoses of spleen or liver injury. They looked at relative costs compared to 1994 practice patterns (still quite a bit of operative management), hospital length of stay, and mortality risk.
Here are the factoids:
Nearly 30,000 spleen injury records and 15,000 liver injury records were reviewed
Nonop management of spleen injury increased from 38% to 67%, and for liver injury from 62% to 81%
In-hospital cost of care decreased by over $8,000 for each patient over the study period
Hospital length of stay decreased by about 2 days for each patient
Mortality in high risk patients dropped significantly (from 64% to 18% for liver, 30% to 20% for spleen)
Mortality in low risk patients remained unchanged (2-3%)
Bottom line: Yes, this study suffers from the usual pitfalls of massaging any large multi-institutional database. But what impresses me is that significant changes have been identified, despite huge variations in how nonoperative management is delivered at so many hospitals. As I have mentioned before, at my hospital we were able to show that just adhering to a standardized solid organ injury protocol squeezes yet another $1000 in costs out of each patient treated, on average. Time to adopt a protocol and adhere to it. Your hospital administrators will love you even more!
Trauma Education: The Next Generation Coming Soon!
TE:TNG, version 2.0 is coming next month! Our fast-paced 4 hour program will be available live (but you have to come see me in St. Paul MN), or via LiveStream on Thursday, September 4.
Our guest speaker is Dr. Cliff Reid of the resus.me blog, live from Australia (via Skype), talking about "When ‘scoop and run’ is not an option: emergency medicine and trauma surgery outside the hospital."
We also have a number of other live presenters, delivering 20 minute fact-packed talks on trauma topics applicable to all trauma professionals. Topics include:
Complex dental trauma
Prehospital spine immobilization
Peppered among all the live presenters will be curbside consults, where we ask the specialists what you also wished you had asked. We’ll also show a variety of focused, 5 minute how-to videos on:
Trauma team activation: the patient perspective
For more information, or to make arrangements to join us live or electronically, please visit our website at www.tetng.org
Is it real, or just another one of those crazy things that radiologists like to add to their reports? I recently came across one of these for the first time in over 30 years of practice. What is it? And is it significant in your management of a trauma patient?
A rudimentary rib is simply an extra one (supernumerary). They can be found on vertebrae where ribs are not supposed to be present, typically C7 and L1. The most common supernumerary ribs are found at C7, and are a well documented cause of thoracic outlet syndrome.
Rudimentary ribs are less commonly found on lumbar vertebrae, and they tend to be longer than the transverse processes. This means that it is possible to break them given moderate to high energy blunt torso trauma. The image below shows a person with 2 rudimentary lumbar ribs on L1.
These are very rare congenital variants. It is more likely that your patient is showing abnormal bone formation after a previous fracture, so question them closely for a history of trauma.
What’s the clinical significance? There’s little chance of hemothorax or pneumothorax. But they cause pain like any other fracture. Just apply your usual routine for rib fracture management: analgesia and pulmonary toilet. Since it takes a relatively large amount of energy to break these short little ribs, be on the lookout for other occult injuries as well.
Bottom line: This isn’t just a weird radiology “red herring.” Rudimentary rib fractures can occur, although a history of previous injury should be ruled out. Manage like any other rib fracture, but beware of potential occult injuries.
In my last post, I presented the issue of dealing with a surprise patient who was both in arrest and contaminated with gasoline. They are brought into your resuscitation room without warning of the potential hazard. Now that they are here, what do you do?
Thanks for the many online and email responses. This is a tough question, because there are so many variables to think about. And you have to make decisions very quickly. Here’s a rundown on my thought processes.
First, if you get an indication that there might be any type of contamination, insist that your prehospital providers hold the patient outside the ED. Have part of your trauma team waiting at the ambulance dock to do a quick assessment there. Another minute or two of Lucas CPR will not make a difference. Use your best judgment as to how much of a hazard is posed by the fuel/mystery liquid/white powder. But err on the side of being conservative so you don’t end up shutting your entire ED down due to contamination. If in doubt, immediately move to your decontamination area.
If the patient ends up deep in your ED before anyone recognizes that there might be a contamination problem, you must heed three overarching principles:
Limit contamination to the rest of your facility. Close the doors to the resuscitation room. Notify security and your hazardous materials team so they can start working on containment and safety issues outside the room. Failure to do this can take your entire hospital offline. If the situation turns out to be a multiple or mass casualty event and your hospital was the only one able to respond, you’ve just created a catastrophe and delayed treatment for the other patients.
Ensure the safety of your team. This is a great reason to require and enforce that everyone on the team dress up completely for every resuscitation. You never know where your patients have been, and when one of these will sneak in.
Continuously assess the risk:benefit ratio. Is the contamination a minor irritant? What is the danger to the team? The ED/hospital? How likely are your efforts to save the patient to succeed? As soon as the ratio goes bad, rethink the options and act accordingly.
Bottom line: In situations like this, think fast and think globally. Don’t just consider the patient. There may be many more lives at stake, and this can and should factor into your decisions about where and how long to continue resuscitation.
In this case, we were certain it was only gasoline. We closed the doors and quickly stripped the patient, bagging the clothes tightly. We tried not to generate any sparks, but we are surrounded by all kinds of electrical equipment. Defibrillation was out of the question. After the event was finished, it was time to wash everything down and start thinking about what would have happened if this had been something more toxic than fuel!
Here’s some food for thought. Read through the scenario below, as well as the questions under it. I’m interested in some comments from prehospital providers, physicians and nurses in the ED on what you would do in this situation.
Scenario: Paramedics call ahead to activate your trauma team for a young male who was ejected from his car during a motor vehicle crash. He was quickly extricated and was found to be in pulseless electrical activity (PEA) arrest. IVs were inserted and the Lucas automated CPR device was attached. The patient is immobilized and will arrive at your hospital in 5 minutes.
You assemble your trauma team and are patiently awaiting when the medics arrive. The patient / Lucas / backboard are rapidly transferred over to the ED stretcher and mechanical CPR continues. At that point, you are overwhelmed by the odor of gasoline, and you note that the patient’s clothing is saturated with liquid.
What would you do?
Here are my questions for you:
Do you move the patient or keep him in your trauma bay?
What if your decontamination area is a short/moderate/longer distance from your ED?
What if this situation involved a farmer in arrest who smelled strongly of pesticide? Any different?
Or someone covered with mysterious white powder?
How do you balance patient survival and team safety?
What kind of performance improvement activities will be needed with regard to the team? The prehospital providers?
This discussion is not suited to the 140 character limitation of Twitter, so please click the Comments link below and let me know what you think. I’ll give my take on this next week.
Rapid airway control is key in critically injured trauma patients. But too many times, I’ve seen trauma professionals take far too much time to establish one. Here’s a good rule of thumb to use in these situations.
After pre-oxygenating the patient, your first pro gets a crack at it. They generally have the most time available, often 3-5 minutes before sats begin to drop.
In the unlikely situation that they are not successful, strike 1. Stop trying and resume bagging the patient. At this point, someone (trauma surgeon, lead medic) must get the crich set out. Then the next most experienced intubator gets a shot.
If they are not successful, strike 2. Resume bagging and open the crich set.
The most experienced intubator now gets their chance, using any advanced technology available. No success even now? Strike 3, use the crich set!
Bottom line: We should never allow more than 3 airway attempts, and sometimes clinical conditions will dictate fewer tries. Examples that come to mind are severe brain injury patients (hypoxia is bad) and patients who do not recover from oxygen desaturation when they are bagged. Don’t lose track of time and the number of attempts!
A number of studies have documented post-traumatic stress disorder in our trauma patients, pre-hospital providers, and combat veterans. A new study now suggests that PTSD symptoms are present in 41% of trauma surgeons(!). Can it be true??
The study was carried out using an email questionnaire that was sent to all EAST and AAST members. Respondents were directed to an online questionnaire that polled them for basic demographics, as well as a series of questions using a well-established PTSD checklist scale, the PCL-C.
Here are the factoids:
1104 questionnaires were distributed, and 453 were complete enough for analysis (41%)
Respondents tended to be younger (68% < 50 years old), male (76%) and white (80%)
The majority worked in Level I (71%) urban (90%) academic centers (81%) with resident coverage (83%)
85% took at least 4 in-house calls each month, 27% had 2 weeks or less of vacation each year (!), and 81% believed that trauma surgery was more stressful than other surgical subspecialties
40% of respondents had PCL scores consistent with PTSD (!)
The only independent predictor of having PTSD symptoms was managing 5 or more critical cases while on call
Bottom line: Hmm, be skeptical of this one. Yes, it does seem to show some possible issues with PTSD in a select group of trauma surgeons. However, I don’t believe this is easily generalized, and my personal contact with surgeons around the country does not really bear this out. The survey methodology, response rate, and the skewed demographics raise some serious questions about the quality of this data. And can self-reporting of PTSD symptoms from a group of trauma surgeons really be reliable?? It does appear that a subset of surgeons who work at very busy urban centers may be at risk, and this certainly deserves further scrutiny. But this study does not really apply to the majority of surgeons practicing trauma care in this country, who don’t work in that kind of environment.
It’s one of those time honored treatments that most hospital-based providers are familiar with. The banana bag, reserved for intoxicated patients presenting to the ED or admitted to the hospital. They’ve been around so long, we just take them for granted. But like most things that have become dogmatic, they are due to be questioned from time to time.
A banana bag is a proprietary mix of “good” stuff, including electrolytes and vitamins, especially thiamine and magnesium. The exact content varies from hospital to hospital. Thiamine and other B vitamins give the resulting solution the characteristic color, hence the term “banana.”
Does it actually do good things like ward off Wernicke’s encephalopathy and megaloblastic anemia? A paper from Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx prospectively evaluated a series of intoxicated people entering their ED. They drew vitamin B12, folate, and thiamine levels to see if they were deficient enough to even need vitamin supplementation.
Here are the factoids:
These folks (only 77 patients) were very drunk! Average BAC was 280mg/dL.
Vitamin B12 and folate levels were not critically low in any patient
Thiamine was low in 15% of patients, but none had clinical evidence of a deficiency
Later review of prior visits revealed that some patients with low levels had received a previous banana bag within 1 month. Did it do any good?
Bottom line: Most of our intoxicated patients are not vitamin deficient, and don’t need supplementation. The real kicker is that we almost never really try to find out if the patient might be a chronic abuser and potentially at risk. We just hang the bag. Remember, everything we do in medicine has a potential downside. And if the patient really doesn’t need a banana bag in the first place, there is no benefit to balance that risk. The next time you ask for that little yellow bag, think again!
I’ve previously blogged about the flat vena cava sign as an indicator of low volume status in trauma patients. And I commented on this paper when it was presented at EAST, which had a surprisingly negative result. It’s now been vetted by peer reviewers and published, and I’ve had the opportunity to read through the entire manuscript (always important). So let’s take a second look now.
A retrospective study at George Washington University was carried out over a one year period. They looked at all of their highest level trauma activation patients who also underwent CT scan of the abdomen. Images were read by three radiologists and inter-rater reliability was reviewed. The transverse to anteroposterior diameter ratios were calculated to determine flatness.
Here are the factoids:
276 patients met enrollment criteria, and were mostly male and blunt trauma
The IVC was nearly round in 21% of patients and collapsed in 26%
There was no association between IVC shape and shock index, blood pressure, Hbg, lactate, urgent operation, angiography or length of stay
There was also no association between IVC shape and blood transfusion or death
Correlation of the reads between radiologists was good
So what gives? A paper I reviewed three years ago in the Journal of Trauma came to a different conclusion. They found that a flat IVC on CT scan (defined as a transverse to AP ratio of 4:1 or greater) was associated with a significantly higher chance of receiving more crystalloid or blood, as well as requiring an operation within 24 hours.
This newer paper was able to look at a larger group of patients, and they were able to tease out why it initially looked like the flat cava looked like a good predictor for bad things to come. The problem was statistical skewing from a few extreme outliers. When properly corrected, it completely changed things. And looking at the older study, it appears that outliers may have also been the reason for the positive result. This is why I encourage everyone to always read the entire paper! The older paper involved a smaller series (114 patients), but it was prospective and seemed to have reasonable statistical analyses.
Bottom line: It looks like the flat vena cava sign, as measured by a static CT, should be discarded as an indicator of impending shock. Whether or not a more dynamic look (using ultrasound) is valuable remains to be determined.
I recently wrote about this journal article from a couple of pediatric trauma programs in New York. The article tried to focus on reducing the rate of phlebotomy in children who are being observed for solid organ injury. I was more excited about the overall protocol being used to manage liver and spleen injury, as it was a great advance over the original APSA guideline. But let’s look at the phlebotomy part as well.
This is an interestingly weird study, and you’ll see what I mean shortly. Two New York trauma hospitals that take care of pediatric patients pooled 4 years of registry records on children with isolated blunt liver and/or spleen injuries. Then they did a tabletop excercise, looking at “what if” they had applied the APSA guideline, and “what if” they had applied their new, proposed guideline.
Interestingly, this implies that they were using neither! I presume they are trying to justify (and push all their partners) to move to the new protocol from (probably) random, individual choice.
Here are the factoids:
120 records were identified across the 2 hospitals that met criteria
Late presentation to the hospital, contrast extravasation, comorbidities, lack of imaging, operative intervention at an outside hospital excluded 59 patients, leaving 61 for analysis. Three of those patients became unstable and were also excluded.
None of the remaining patients required operation or angioembolization
Use of the “new” (proposed) protocol would reduce ICU admissions by 65%, reduce blood draws by 70%, and reduce hospital stay by 37%
Conclusion: use of the protocol would eliminate the need for serial phlebotomy (huh?)
Bottom line: Huh? All this to justify decreasing blood draws? I know, kids hate needles, but the data on decreased length of stay in the hospital and ICU is much more important! We’ve been using a protocol similar to their “new” one at Regions Hospital, which I’ve shared below. We’ve been enjoying decreased resource utilization, blood draws, and very short lengths of stay for over a decade. And our analysis showed that we save $1000 for every patient entering the protocol, compared to the old-fashioned and inefficient way we used to manage them.
Pediatric Solid Organ Injury Management: It's About Time!
There was an interesting article released in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery in May about spleen and liver injury management in children. It’s interesting because if you just look at the title, you might just skip over it. The title suggests that it describes reducing scheduled phlebotomy in kids who are undergoing solid organ injury management. But the real meat of this article has to do with the protocol they are using to treat the children.
Nonoperative management of these injuries in children started becoming popular 40 years ago (!). But for decades, everyone put their own spin on how to do it. Bed rest for a week (or more). NPO for days! Limited physical activity for extended periods. Then the American Pediatric Surgery Association (APSA) published a set of guidelines about 15 years ago that took some of the guesswork out of it.
Although nonoperative management of these injuries in kids preceded its adoption in adults by a nearly two decades, it has languished in the APSA format for quite some time. Many pediatric surgeons still use these guidelines, even though adult spleen and liver injury management have advanced to shorter and more streamlined care.
We adopted a solid organ management guideline at Regions Hospital over ten years ago, and have made a few minor tweaks over the years. Nowadays, our grade I-III injuries can be home as early as 36 hours after admission, and frequently are. Grades IV and V are eligible to be discharged after just 24 more hours if they have no other injuries to keep them in the hospital.There are very rare failures.
I’ll detail the factoids about the phlebotomy part of this paper in tomorrow’s post. But I do want to show you the more aggressive protocol the authors are using (one of whom authored the original APSA guideline).
Here it is:
Bottom line: Note how quickly children are allowed to get up, eat, and get out of the hospital using the “new” protocol. Many adult centers have been using similar ones for years. It’s nice to see that adult and pediatric protocols are finally beginning to converge. After all, we figured out our current adult management based on our experience with kids 30 years ago!
Kenji Inaba and colleagues have done a lot of work on tension pneumothorax (tPTX) in the past few years. They’ve looked for the best devices and the best positions on the chest to quickly and effectively treat this emergency. Now, they’ve published a study on using what looks like a “better mousetrap” for relieving tension physiology.
Previous work from this lab has shown that up to a quarter of needle thoracostomies fail within 5 minutes due to mechanical reasons. This leaves a small window for insertion of the real chest tube. And even though much of the pressure may be relieved, a significant amount of air may be left in the chest, impeding recovery from PEA arrest.
They looked at the use of a 5mm laparoscopy port for relief of tension pneumothorax in Yorkshire swine. The exact size of the pigs was not listed, but these animals weigh 25 pounds at 6 weeks of age, and the pictures in the article show a reasonable sized animal. I’m not sure they were 70kg, though.
Here are the factoids:
Five animals were used, and 30 episodes of tPTX and 27 episodes of PEA arrest from tPTX
Tension pneumothorax was created by insufflating the chest with CO2 using a 10mm laparoscopic trocar
tPTX was completely relieved by insertion of the 5mm trocar in 100% of trials, with all physiologic measures returning to baseline within 1 minute
Circulation was restored to normal within 30 seconds in 100% of trials
There was no damage to heart or lung from trocar placement in any of the 5 animals
Bottom line: Once again, Inaba and crew have added some interesting tidbits to our knowledge base. You already know I’m not a fan of animal studies like this, but this one lays the ground work for some work in humans. We still need to know how the “usual American body habitus” will affect the use of this device. The only downside is the expense of the trocar, which is a lot more than a simple long needle. But if it is as efficacious in humans as it is in pigs, it may be worth it!
Procedural Complications: Residents vs Advanced Practice Providers
With the implementation of resident work hour restrictions 10 years ago, resident participation in clinical care has declined. In order to make up for this loss of clinical manpower and expertise, many hospitals have added advanced clinical providers (ACPs, nurse practitioners and physician assistants). These ACPs are being given more and more advanced responsibilities, in all clinical settings. This includes performing invasive procedures on critically ill patients.
A recent study from Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte NC compared complication rates for invasive procedures performed by ACPs vs residents in a Level I trauma center setting.
A one year retrospective study was carried out. Here are the factoids:
Residents were either surgery or emergency medicine PGY2s
ACPs and residents underwent an orientation and animal- or simulation-based training in procedures
All procedures were supervised by an attending physician
Arterial lines, central venous lines, chest tubes, percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, tracheostomy, and broncho-alveolar lavage performances were studied
Residents performed 1020 procedures and had 21 complications (2%)
ACPs performed 555 procedures and had 11 complications (2%)
ICU and hospital length of stay, and mortality rates were no different between the groups
Bottom line: Resident and ACP performance of invasive procedures is comparable. As residents become less available for these procedures, ACPs can (and will) be hired to take their place. Although this is great news for hospitals that need manpower to assist their surgeons and emergency physicians, it should be another wakeup call for training programs and educators to show that resident education will continue to degrade.
After taking a travel break last month, it’s back! The latest edition of the Trauma MedEd newsletter is now available for download. The subject is Abdomen. Included are articles on:
- How to close an abdominal stab laparoscopically - FAST is FAST and FAST is last! - FAST exam in children - Performance improvement for FAST - DPL: a dying art? - Less morbidity from negative trauma laparotomy?
The liver is one of the two most commonly injured solid organs after blunt trauma. There are a variety of ways to manage solid organ injury, and many trauma centers are adopting solid organ injury protocols to streamline and improve care. I am occasionally asked whether there is a place for liver function testing after hepatic injury.
In a previous post (see below), I cited some old literature refuting this idea. A more recent paper has now tried to answer this question. They retrospectively reviewed 3 years of data on patients admitted to a large hospital in Jiangsu, China. Only patients with blunt liver injury were included. They were interested to know if liver function testing helped identify the presence and severity of injury.
Here are the factoids:
182 patients who had blunt abdominal injury and liver function testing were identified in their registry (AST, ALT, GGT, Alk PHos, LDH, bili)
90 patients had liver injury and 92 did not
Grade of liver injury was fairly evenly distributed, with a few less grade IV and V
Elevated LFTs accurately predicted the presence of a liver injury. ALT > 57 U/L was the most accurate predictor.
There was no correlation between LFT values and severity of liver injury
Bottom line: Basically, routine liver function testing after blunt abdominal trauma is a waste of time. And obtaining LFTs after known liver injury is an even greater waste of time. You know your patient has the injury, and you know the grade from the CT scan you obtained (hopefully). And from personal experience, there is absolutely no value in “trending” liver functions to see how the liver is healing. If the patient develops an unexpected clinical finding at some point (new pain, jaundice, fever), then you may wish to order laboratory or imaging studies to help determine if a complication is developing.
One of the critical maneuvers that EMS providers perform is establishing initial vascular access. This IV is important for administering medications and for initiating volume resuscitation in trauma patients. Prehospital Trauma Life Support guidelines state that every trauma patient should receive two large bore IV lines. But is this really necessary?
The upside of having two IVs in the field is that the EMS provider can give lots of volume. However, a growing body of literature tells us that pushing systolic blood pressure up to “normal” levels in people (or animals) with an uncontrolled source of bleeding can increase mortality and hasten coagulopathy.
The downside of placing two lines is that it is challenging in a moving rig, sterility is difficult to maintain, and the chance of a needlestick exposure is doubled. So is it worth it?
A group at UMDNJ New Brunswick did a retrospective review of 320 trauma patients they received over a one year period who had IV lines established in the field. They found that, as expected, patients with two IVs received more fluid (average 348ml) before arriving at the hospital. There was no increase in systolic blood pressure, but there was a significant increase in diastolic pressure with two lines. The reason for this odd finding is not clear. There was no difference in the ultimate ISS calculated, or in mortality or readmission.
Bottom line: This study is limited by its design. However, it implies that the second field IV is not very useful. The amount of extra fluid infused was relatively small, not nearly enough to trigger additional bleeding or coagulopathy. So if another IV does not deliver significant additional fluid and could be harmful even if it did, it’s probably not useful. Prehospital standards organizations should critically look at this old dogma to see if it should be modified.
Study of placing a second intravenous line in trauma. Prehospital Emerg Care 15:208-213, 2011.
Trauma Activation Patients Staying Too Long In Your ED?
One of the long-held beliefs in trauma care relates to the so-called "golden hour." Patients who receive definitive care promptly do better, we are told. In most trauma centers, the bulk of this early care takes place in the emergency department. However, for a variety of reasons, throughput in the ED can be slow. Could extended periods of time spent in the ED after patient arrival have an impact on survival?
Wake Forest looked at their experience with nearly 4,000 trauma activation patients who were not taken to the OR immediately and who stayed in the ED for up to 5 hours. They looked at the impact of ED dwell time on in-hospital mortality, length of stay and ventilator days.
Overall mortality was 7%, and the average time in the ED was 3 hours and 15 minutes. The investigators set a reasonable but arbitrary threshold of 2 hours to try to get trauma activation patients out of the ED. When they looked at their numbers, they found that mortality increased (7.8% vs 4.3%) and that hospital and ICU lengths of stay were longer in the longer ED stay group. Hospital mortality increased with each hour spent in the ED, and 8.3% of patients staying between 4 and 5 hours dying. ED length of stay was an independent predictor for mortality even after correcting for ISS, RTS and age. The most common cause of death was late complications from infection.
Why is this happening? Patients staying longer in the ED between 2 and 5 hours were more badly injured but not more physiologically abnormal. This suggests that diagnostic studies or consultations were being performed. The authors speculated that the knowledge, experience and protocols used in the inpatient trauma unit were not in place in the ED, contributing to this effect.
Bottom line: This is an interesting retrospective study. It reflects the experience of only one hospital and the results could reflect specific issues found only at Wake Forest. However, shorter ED times are generally better for other reasons as well (throughput, patient satisfaction, etc). I would encourage all trauma centers to examine the flow and delivery of care for major trauma patients in the ED and to attempt to streamline those processes so the patients can move on to the inpatient trauma areas or ICU as efficiently as possible.
Reference: Emergency department length of stay is an independent predictor of hospital mortality in trauma activation patients. J Trauma 70(6):1317-1325, 2011.
Yesterday I posed a scenario where the surgeon needed to see an area of an open abdomen (trauma laparotomy) that could not easily be visualized. Specifically, there was a question as to whether the diaphragm had been violated just anterior to the liver, just under the costal margin.
Short of putting your head in the wound, how can you visualize this area? Or some other hard to reach spot? Well, you could have an assistant insert a retractor and pull like crazy. However, the rib cage might not bend very well, and in elderly patients it may break. Not a good idea.
Some readers suggested breaking out the laparoscopy equipment and using the camera and optics to visualize. This is a reasonable idea, but expensive. Shouldn’t there be some good (and cheap) way to do this?
Of course, and there is. Think low tech. Very low tech. You just need to see around a corner, right. So get a mirror!
Every OR has some sterile dental mirrors lying around. Get one and have your assistant gently hold the liver down while you indirectly examine the diaphragm. Since you’re probably not a dentist, it may take a minute or two to get used to manipulating the mirror to see just what you want. But if you can manage laparoscopic surgery, you’ll get the hang of it quickly.
And if you need more light up in those nooks and crannies? Shine the OR light directly into the abdomen, then place a nice shiny malleable retractor into the area to reflect light into the area in questions. Voila!
Bottom line: A lot of the things that trauma professionals need to do in the heat of the moment will not be found in doctor, nurse, or paramedic books. Be creative. Look at the stuff around you and available to you. Figure out a way to make it work, and make $#!+ up if necessary.