This case is written by Dr. Alexandra Stefan. Dr. Stefan is an emergency medicine physician and the Postgraduate Site Director for Emergency Medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. She is also an assistant professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the University of Toronto. Her areas of interest are postgraduate medical education, simulation (has completed the Harvard Centre for Medical Simulation training course) and global health education (has participated in teaching trips with Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration).
Why it Matters
Emergency medicine training is often focused on the many interventions we can make when a patient arrives in distress. This case highlights that sometimes, one of the most important interventions is to determine a patient’s goals of care. It specifically highlights:
- The importance of pain management as a part of end of life care
- The need to speak clearly and without medical jargon to establish a patient’s wishes
- That goals of care conversations often happen in the ED through a substitute decision maker, rather than with the patient directly.
“A 72 year old man from home with acute shortness of breath has just been placed in the resuscitation room. He has a history of lung cancer and is on 2L home oxygen. His daughter Cindy called 911 because he has been getting worse since this morning. He just finished a course of antibiotics for presumed pneumonia. He is on hydromorph contin and prochlorperazine. No allergies. Here is his most recent oncology clinic note.”
A 72-year old male with small cell lung cancer and bony metastases presents with acute shortness of breath. Curative treatment has been stopped and palliative care assessment is pending. He is on home oxygen and has come to the ED as his symptoms could not be controlled at home.
The patient initially improves with oxygen and pain control. He is too confused to engage in discussion about advanced directives. No previous advanced directives or level of care have been documented but, Cindy, the patient’s daughter is available to act as decision maker. She will have a number of questions about her father’s care.
The patient’s respiratory status will deteriorate. Cindy will confirm her father’s wish for comfort measures, to be started by the treating team.
Download the case here: Palliative Resp Case
Download the clinic note required for the case here: Med Onc Note
ECG for the case found here:
CXR for the case found here:
(CXR source: https://radiopaedia.org/cases/pleural-effusion-7)
Cardiac Ultrasound for the case found here:
(U/S image courtesy of McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program.)