Geriatric Case 2: Chronic Digoxin Toxicity

This case is the second in a six-part mini-series focusing on the management of geriatric patients in the ED. This series of cases was written by Drs. Rebecca Shaw, Nemat Alsaba, and Victoria Brazil.

Dr. Rebecca Shaw is an emergency physician currently working as a Medical Education Fellow within the Emergency department of the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service in Queensland, Australia.Dr. Nemat Alsaba (@talk2nemat) is an Emergency physician with a special interest in Geriatric Emergency Medicine, medical education and simulation. She is trying her best to combine these interests to improve Geriatric patient care across all health sectors. She is also an Assistant professor in medical education and simulation at Bond university. Dr. Victoria Brazil is an emergency physician and medical educator. She is Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Simulation at the Gold Coast Health Service, and at Bond University medical program. Victoria’s main interests are in connecting education with patient care – through healthcare simulation, technology enabled learning, faculty development activities, and talking at conferences. Victoria is an enthusiast in the social media and #FOAMed world (@SocraticEM), and she is co-producer of Simulcast (Simulationpodcast.com).

Why it Matters

This case demonstrates several diagnostic challenges that can occur with the bradycardic patient on digoxin including:

  • The need to resuscitate the patient appropriately (and thus, empirically treat) while waiting on labs to confirm whether hyperkalemia or digoxin is the culprit
  • The theoretical concern of administering calcium for correction of hyperkalemia (because we usually have a potassium result back before the digoxin level)
  • The need to consider precipitating causes of a patient’s presentation

Clinical Vignette

To be stated by the bedside nurse: “Bertie is an 85-year-old man who has been brought in after a fall at home. He says he is feeling dizzy and has a HR of 30 on the monitor. I haven’t had much of a chance to take more of a history from him but he has a list of medications with him and seems ok from the fall other than a bruise on his head.”

Case Summary

An 85-year-old man presents after a fall at home. He is complaining of dizziness and has a HR of 30. Further assessment reveals chronic digoxin toxicity and a concurrent UTI with acute renal failure. The patient requires management of his bradycardia and acute renal failure with specific management of chronic digoxin toxicity including a discussion with toxicology and administration of Digibind.

Download the case here: Geri EM Chronic Digoxin Toxicity

ECG for the case found here:

(ECG source: http://www.ems12lead.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2014/01/digitalis_ECG.jpg)

CXR for the case found here:

normal cxr

(CXR source: https://radiopaedia.org/images/220869)

 

LVAD Case

This week’s case is written by Drs. Ashley Lubberdink and Sameer Sharif. Dr. Lubberdink is a PGY4 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University and is just beginning her fellowship in simulation and medical education. Dr. Sharif is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University who has just completed his fellowship in simulation and medical education.

Why it Matters

LVADs are pretty uncommon devices! If your practice location is not a hospital that inserts LVADs, then it is likely that you have never come across a patient with an LVAD. Without prior knowledge of these devices, it can be quite distressing trying to assess these patients. This case is designing to highlight the following:

  • LVAD patients do not have a pulse, a measurable blood pressure, or a detectable heart rate on the sat probe
  • To assess for blood pressure, one must insert an arterial line or use a blood pressure cuff and doppler U/S to obtain the MAP
  • Early after LVAD placement, drive line infection and bleeding are common complications
  • Call for help early! These patients generally have care providers who are available to help trouble shoot by phone at all hours of the day

More Reading

For more information on an approach to LVADs, we suggest the following sources:

https://emcrit.org/emcrit/left-ventricular-assist-devices-lvads-2/

https://canadiem.org/lvads-approach-ed/

Clinical Vignette

A 62-year-old male presents to your large community ED with a 1 day history of generalized malaise and nausea and a 2-hour history of palpitations. He is particularly concerned about his symptoms because last month he had an LVAD placed at your provinces’ major cardiac center (3 hours away) for stage 4 CHF. His wife is accompanying him but is currently parking the car.

Case Summary

A 62-year-old man presents to the ED with palpitations and general malaise. On initial assessment, the team finds out he had an LVAD placed within the last 1 month. The team will need to work through how to assess the patient’s vital signs appropriately and will discover the patient has a low MAP and a low-grade fever. On inspection, the patient’s drive line site will appear infected. The initial ECG will show features of hyperkalemia. After the initial assessment, the patient will progress to a PEA arrest requiring resuscitation by ACLS protocols. Labs will reveal an acute kidney injury and hyperkalemia. The patient will obtain ROSC when the hyperkalemia is treated.

Download the case here: LVAD Case

Initial ECG for the case found here:

hyperkalemia

(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/hyperkalaemia/)

Second ECG for the case found here:

hyperkalemia narrow QRS

(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/hyperkalaemia/)

CXR for the case found here:

LVAD-CXR

(CXR source: https://edecmo.org/additional-technologies/ventricular-assist-devices-vads/lvads/)

Picture of drive line site infection found here:

driveline infection A

(Picture source: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1179065217714216)

Echo for case found here:

(Echo source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4ThAo4m2UI)

Adrenal Crisis

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 adrenal crisis is a relatively rare presentation, shock is not. This case highlights several important points, including:

  • The importance of having an approach to fluid non-responsive shock
  • How difficult it can be to shift cognitive frames and resist diagnostic anchoring
  • The electrolyte abnormalities associated with adrenal crisis (hyponatremia, hyperkalemia, and hypoglycemia)
  • The need to treat an adrenal crisis with corticosteroids

Clinical Vignette

A 46-year-old female presents to the ED complaining of fatigue, anorexia, and weight loss over the last two weeks. She had the “stomach flu” a couple weeks ago and thought she was getting over it. But now she feels very weak and seems to be vomiting again. Her blood pressure is 80/40, so she was triaged straight to the resuscitation bay.

Case Summary

A 46-year-old female presents to the ED complaining of fatigue, anorexia, and weight loss over the last two weeks. She had the “stomach flu” a couple weeks ago and thought she was getting over it. But now she feels very weak and seems to be vomiting again. On presentation, the patient will have mild hypothermia, hypoglycemia, and hypotension. The team will have to initiate fluid resuscitation and an initial workup. The patient’s blood pressure won’t respond to 4 L of IV fluids, forcing the residents to work through the differential diagnosis of shock. Eventually, they will receive critical VBG results that indicate a mild metabolic acidosis, hyperkalemia, and hyponatremia. The team will need to treat the hyperkalemia and initiate hydrocortisone therapy.

Download the case here: Adrenal Crisis Case

ECG for the case found here:

peaked-t-waves

(ECG source: http://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/hyperkalaemia/)

CXR for the case found here:

normal female CXR radiopedia

(CXR source: https://radiopaedia.org/cases/normal-chest-radiograph-female-1)

Pericardial U/S for the case found here:

(U/S courtesy of the McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program)

FAST image for the case found here:

no FF

(U/S courtesy of the McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program)

Tumour Lysis Syndrome

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

Why it Matters

Tumor Lysis Syndrome is a constellation of metabolic disturbances that can occur as a potentially fatal complication of treating cancers, most notably leukemias or solid rapidly-proliferating tumours. This case highlights the following:

  • The identification and management of severe hyperkalemia
  • The need to consider Tumour Lysis Syndrome as a diagnosis and order appropriate metabolic tests
  • Recognizing and initiating the treatment of severe hyperuricemia
  • Communicating with family members effectively during the treatment of a critically ill patient.

Clinical Vignette

A 72-year-old male presents to the emergency department complaining of general weakness for 2 days.  His wife called EMS and he was a STEMI patch to your hospital. He has been placed in the resuscitation bay.

Case Summary

A 72-year-old male is brought in as a “code STEMI” to the resuscitation bay. He was recently diagnosed with ALL and had chemotherapy 3 days ago for the first time. The patient is severely hyperkalemic, which must be initially recognized and treated, hypocalcemic and hyperuricemic as a result of Tumour Lysis Syndrome and the metabolic derangements must be stabilized until emergent hemodialysis is arranged.

Download the case here: Tumour Lysis Syndrome

ECGs for the case found here:

ecg90406-hyperkalaemia-pr-lengthens

(Source:  http://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/hyperkalaemia/)

normal-sinus-rhythm

(Source:  http://cdn.lifeinthefastlane.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/normal-sinus-rhythm.jpg)

CXR for the case found here:

CXR

Dysrhythmia Secondary to Hyperkalemia

This case is written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a PGY5 emergency medicine resident at McMaster University and has previously completed a fellowship in simulation and medical education. She is also one of the editors-in-chief here are EMSimCases.

Why it Matters

When studied in isolation, the ECG findings of hyperkalemia can seem straight-forward. However, placed out of context, the recognition of severe hyperkalemia on ECG can be quite challenging. This case highlights a few important points:

  • Hyperkalemia should be suspected as a possible cause of almost any symptom in a hemodialysis-dependent patient
  • Recognizing hyperkalemia on ECG allows for the critical intervention of administering calcium gluconate
  • ACLS should be modified in hyperkalemia to include aggressive calcium chloride and bicarbonate administration in an attempt to correct the underlying cause of cardiac arrest

Clinical Vignette

Geoff is a 52 year old male who is brought to the ED by EMS as a STEMI activation. He is not having chest pain, but has been feeling weak and dizzy today. He is diabetic and hypertensive and was started on hemodialysis 3 months ago for ESRD. He missed dialysis on the weekend for the first time so that he could attend his niece’s wedding.

Case Summary

A 52 year-old male with end-stage renal disease (requiring dialysis) is brought in by EMS feeling weak and dizzy. He missed dialysis for the first time over the weekend to attend his niece’s wedding. On presentation, his heart rate is 50 and his ECG demonstrates a wide complex rhythm with peaked T waves that EMS interprets as a STEMI. If the team recognizes the possibility of hyperkalemia and treats it appropriately, the patient’s QRS will narrow. If the hyperkalemia is not recognized, the patient will arrest.

Download the case here: Hyperkalemia Case

1st ECG for the case found here:

Hyperkalemia STEMI mimic

(ECG source: http://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/hyperkalaemia/)

2nd ECG for the case found here:

normal-sinus-rhythm

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