Multi-trauma case: burn and head injury

This case is written by Dr. Donika Orlich. She is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University who also completed a fellowship in Simulation and Medical Education last year.

Why it Matters

Too often in the Emergency Department, we are faced with the challenge of simultaneously managing two patients who each require immediate care. This case does an excellent job of highlighting the following issues that often arise as a result:

  • The importance of delegating any tasks that may be delegated
  • The need to clarify who is taking ownership of a patient’s management when there is help available from others (such as another ED MD or a trauma team leader)
  • How essential it is to call for help early

In addition, this case also features some key medical content, including:

  • The recognition and treatment of cyanide toxicity in the context of a house fire
  • The preparation and management of a potentially difficult airway
  • The need to perform an escharotomy in a patient with circumferential chest burns and high ventilation pressures
  • The importance of checking a blood glucose on all patients with an altered level of consciousness

Clinical Vignette

Patient A: “You are working in a tertiary care ED. A 33 year old male has just been brought in by EMS after being dragged out of a house fire. He has been unresponsive with EMS and has significant burns to his chest, arm, and leg. The etiology of the fire is unclear, but the home was severely damaged.”

Midway through the case, Patient B will arrive.

Patient B (To be stated by EMS in handover): “We have a 55 year old male here who was repeatedly kicked during an altercation outside a bar. His GCS was 15 on arrival, but it just decreased to 13 in the ambulance bay, and he has become combative. We put him in C-spine collar at the scene. He has lots of bruising to face and head, but no other obvious injuries. When he was more cooperative, the patient denied other medical history or allergies initially.”

Case Summary

The case will begin with the arrival of patient from a house fire who has 30%TBSA burns. The team will be expected to recognize the need for intubation and fluid resuscitation. After successful intubation, a second patient will arrive from an altercation outside a bar. He appears to have a blunt traumatic head injury after being repeatedly kicked. The team is expected to recognize hypoglycemia in the context of a minor head injury and provide immediate glucose replacement. During the management of the head injured patient, the burn patient will continue to by hypotensive. The team will need to recognize the possibility of CN toxicity. The patient will also become more difficult to ventilate and will require an escharotomy.

A Note on Technical Requirements

At McMaster, we recently ran this case for our senior residents. It was a huge success! It did, however, require many resources. We used one high fidelity mannequin and one standardized patient actor. We also had two confederate nurses (one per patient). We had three staff physicians as instructors. One instructor was assigned to observing each patient’s management. The third instructor briefly played the paramedic and also coordinated between the two instructors and the sim tech to ensure the case ran smoothly. We ran the case with five residents participating. We had them pre-assigned to roles of trauma team leader, senior emerg resident, senior anesthesia resident, senior general surgery resident, and senior orthopedic resident. (This is often the make-up of our trauma team.)

Download the case here: Multi-trauma Case: Burn and Head Injury

CXR for Patient B found here:

normal-cxr-patient-b

(CXR source: http://www.pharmacology2000.com/respiratory_anesthesiology/pulmonary_assessment/pulmonary_assessment2.htm)

PXR for Patient B found here:

normal-pelvis-male

(PXR source: http://radiopaedia.org/articles/pelvis-1)

Toxic Alcohol Ingestion

This case is written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a staff emergency physician in Hamilton, Ontario and the Simulation Director of McMaster University’s FRCP-EM program. She is also one of the Editors-in-Chief here at EmSimCases.

Why it Matters

While toxic alcohol ingestions requiring treatment are relatively rare, patients presenting with a profoundly altered mental status are not. This case highlights key features of each, including:

  • The need for a broad differential in patients with an altered mental status (especially when there is absolutely no relevant history available!)
  • The importance of identifying and working through causes of an anion gap metabolic acidosis
  • The empiric and definitive treatments of a toxic alcohol overdose

Clinical Vignette

EMS has just brought you to a patient with a GCS of 3. He was found in the back alley behind a drug store with no identifying information. He is not known to EMS or to your department. He appears to be in his 30s or 40s.

Case Summary

A 46 year-old male presents with a GCS of 3 after being found in the back alley behind a drug store. The team will need to work through a broad differential diagnosis and recognize the need to intubate the patient. If they try naloxone, it will have no effect. After intubation, the team will receive critical VBG results showing a profound metabolic acidosis with a significant anion gap. The goal is to trigger the team to work through the possible causes of an elevated anion gap, including toxic alcohols.

Download the case here: Toxic Alcohol Case

ECG for the case found here:

Sinus tachycardia

(ECG source: http://i0.wp.com/lifeinthefastlane.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/sinus-tachycardia.jpg)

Post-intubation CXR for the case found here:

Post-Intubation

Post Intubation

(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)

Digoxin Overdose

This case is written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University and is also one of the Editors-in-Chief here at EMSimCases.

Why it Matters

Digoxin toxicity is of critical importance to recognize. There are many subtleties to its management, which means that the concepts of digoxin toxicity are important to review. This case highlights some key features of chronic digoxin toxicity. In particular:

  • The importance of considering digoxin toxicity in essentially all patients who take digoxin (due to its vague symptomatology)
  • The classic ECG rhythm seen in toxicity: bidirectional VT
  • The importance of treating digoxin toxicity early (and before a level is back) in the unstable patient with suspected toxicity
  • How to dose digibind for management of toxicity

This case is likely to push the knowledge capacity of junior learners. For senior learners, the case could be modified to include a less pathognomonic rhythm at the case onset. For example, a slow a fib could be used. Rapidly alternating between fast and slow rhythms would be another excellent alternative.

Clinical Vignette

Mildred Funk is a 90 year old woman who is brought to the ED by her daughter because of confusion. She had some vomiting and diarrhea recently and hasn’t been eating or drinking much since. Today, she seems confused and keeps complaining that she’s dizzy to her daughter

Case Summary

A 90 year-old woman is brought to ED by her daughter because of confusion. She recently had a bought of vomiting and diarrhea and hasn’t been taking much PO since. Today, she is less responsive, seems confused, and is complaining of being dizzy. The team will be given a copy of the patient’s medication list, which will include digoxin. On arrival, the patient will be hypotensive and her rhythm will be bi-directional VT. Ideally, the team should give digibind. If they do not, they will receive blood work back with a high level to trigger administration.

Download the case here: Digoxin Overdose

ECG #1 for the case found here:

Bidirectional-VT

(ECG source: http://cdn.lifeinthefastlane.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Bidirectional-VT.jpg)

ECG #2 for the case found here:

afib.jpg

(ECG source: http://cdn.lifeinthefastlane.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/af1.jpg)

CXR for the case found here:

normal-female-chest

(CXR source: http://radiopaedia.org/articles/normal-position-of-diaphragms-on-chest-radiography)

Hypothermia with Trauma

This case is written by Dr. Stephen Miller. He is an emergency physician in Halifax. He is also the former medical director of EM Simulation and the current director of the Skilled Clinician Program for UGME at Dalhousie University. He developed his interest in simulation while obtaining his Masters of Health Professions Education.

Why it Matters

Moderate to severe hypothermia can be quite challenging to correct. This case highlights several important features of hypothermia management:

  • The importance of searching for concurrent illness that may be causing the hypothermia or working against rewarming efforts
  • The effect of hypothermia on trauma management
  • Modifications to ACLS as required during hypothermic resuscitation
  • The multitude of ways in which one can attempt to actively re-warm a patient

Clinical Vignette

An approximately 30 year old female is brought into the ED at 4 AM by a man who found her lying at the side of the road. It is minus 30 degrees Celsius outside and she has no coat or shoes. The man does not know her and is unable to provide any additional history except that she was blue and having trouble breathing when he found her. She is noted to have a decreased LOC and laboured breathing. She has obvious deformities of her left forearm and right leg.

Case Summary

30 year-old female is brought into the ED at 4 AM by a man who found her lying at the side of the road with no coat or shoes. It is minus 30 degrees Celsius outside. On arrival she has a reduced LOC, laboured breathing, a right-sided pneumothorax, cyanotic extremities, a left radius & ulna fracture, and a right tib-fib fracture. The team is required to use both active and passive rewarming strategies. Regardless of the team’s efforts, the patient in this case will arrest. Upon ROSC, they are required to continue rewarming as well as to address the other traumatic injuries.

Download the case here: Hypothermia

CXR for the case found here:

PTX R with rib fractures

(CXR source: http://radiopaedia.org/cases/pneumothorax-due-to-rib-fractures-1)

ECG for the case found here:

hypothermia-shiver-artefact

(ECG source: : http://cdn.lifeinthefastlane.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/hypothermia-shiver-artefact.jpg)

Right lung U/S found here:

Left lung U/S found here:

RUQ FAST image found here:

RUQ FF

Pericardial U/S found here:

(All U/S images are courtesy of McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program.)

DKA

This case is written by Dr. Lindsey McMurray. She is a PGY4 Emergency Medicine resident from the University of Toronto who is currently doing a Resuscitation and Reanimation fellowship at Queen’s University.

Why it Matters

DKA is a physiologically complex disorder. Thanks to excellent research and protocolization of care, certain components of DKA care have been clearly delineated. However, in the profoundly unwell DKA, it can be harder to account for complex physiology. This case highlights a few important management pearls:

  • The importance of re-assessing glucose in an altered patient with DKA on an insulin infusion
  • The consideration of cerebral edema in a DKA patient who becomes altered
  • The importance of expertly managing acidosis in the peri-intubation period by considering pre and post intubation respiratory rate

Our reviewers had quite the debate about what is considered optimal peri-intubation management in this patient. This case serves as an excellent starting point for a high-level discussion about the intubation of a severely acidotic patient. In particular:

  • Pre-intubation bicarbonate is relatively contraindicated in Peds DKA. Balancing the increased acidosis peri-intubation against the increased risk of cerebral edema is challenging.
  • A second IV fluid bolus pre-intubation is also controversial. Would it increase the risk of cerebral edema?
  • Is intubation with or without a paralytic the best choice? Using a paralytic optimizes time to intubation and first pass success, as well as minimizing aspiration risk. But it also eliminates the patient’s respiratory drive, which could potentially worsen acidosis and precipitate arrest. Not using a paralytic runs the risk of increased time to intubation and a resultant desaturation. It also adds an aspiration risk.

For this, and so many other reasons, this case will trigger plenty of discussion during debriefing!

Clinical Vignette

You have been called to the resuscitation bay to assess an 8 year old girl who has been brought in by her mother for lethargy and confusion. She has been unwell for 3 days with excessive fatigue, a few episodes of vomiting, and mild abdominal pain.

Case Summary

An 8 year old girl who has been tired and “unwell” for several days presents to the ED with an acute decline in her mental status. She is confused and lethargic. It becomes quickly apparent that the child is in DKA and requires immediate treatment. Due to decreasing neurologic status and vomiting, she eventually requires an advanced airway. The challenge is to optimize the peri-intubation course and to appropriately ventilate to allow for compensation of her metabolic acidosis.

Download the case here: DKA Case

CXR for case found here:

Normal Post-Intubation CXR

(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)

Altered LOC

This case was written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University and is also one of the Editors-in-Chief here at EMSimCases.

Why it Matters

It’s easy as a simulation case writer to get excited about complex cases with rare presentations. But it’s also important to remember to teach to the level of the resident. This case highlights some very important lessons for junior learners:

  • The importance of a broad differential diagnosis in the altered patient
  • How to prioritize and coordinate an extensive work-up for a relatively ill patient
  • Recognizing when an altered patient needs to be intubated

We take these skills for granted as experienced clinicians. But it’s amazing how many excellent teaching conversations come from running this very simple case.

Case Summary

An 82 year old man arrives to the ED by EMS with a GCS of 7. He smells of urine and feces, and apparently has not been seen in 4 days. He is hypotensive and tachycardic. With simple fluid resuscitation (1-2L), the BP will improve. Learners are to organize a broad diagnostic work-up and coverage with broad-spectrum antibiotics. They must also recognize the need to intubate. If they do not, the patient will vomit and have a resultant desaturation. The case ends after successful workup and intubation.

Clinical Vignette

You are working in a community ED. Mr. Alito Bizzaro is brought in by EMS into a resuscitation room with altered LOC. He is known to be reclusive, but always picks up his paper at 10am. His neighbours had not seen him pick up his paper in 4 days, and so they called. The patient was found on the floor in his apartment near the doorway to the bathroom. He is 82 years old and lives alone. His apartment was unkempt. The patient is covered in urine and feces.

Download the case here: aLOC Case

ECG for the case found here:

Sinus tachycardia

(ECG source: http://cdn.lifeinthefastlane.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/sinus-tachycardia.jpg)

CXR for the case found here:

Post Intubation

Post Intubation

(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage with Increased Intracranial Pressure

This case was written by Dr. Martin Kuuskne from McGill University. Dr. Kuuskne is a PGY4 Emergency Medicine resident and one of the editors-in-chief at EMSimCases.

Why it Matters

This case highlights three important aspects of the management of a subarachnoid hemorrhage:

  • Blood pressure control in an undifferentiated neurologic catastrophe
  • Safe approaches to intubating a patient with possible acute hydrocephalus
  • Management of a patient demonstrating signs of increased intracranial pressure

Clinical Vignette

You are working an evening shift at a tertiary care centre emergency department with full surgical capabilities. A patient is brought into the resuscitation area by ambulance with decreased mental status. The patient was at the gym lifting weights; he complained of an acute headache to his friend and suddenly fell to the ground. The patient remained unconscious with sonorous breathing. The ambulance was called.

Case Summary

A 45-year-old male who suffered an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage while weightlifting presents to the emergency department requiring intubation for airway protection and develops acute hydrocephalus requiring ICP lowering maneuvers before definitive surgical management.

Download the case here: SAH Case

ECG for case found here:

Deep cerebral t-wave inversions

(ECG source: http://cdn.lifeinthefastlane.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/SAH1.jpg)

CXR for case found here:

Post Intubation

Post Intubation CXR

(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)