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Ultrasound Assessment for Skull Fractures August 15, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : Feature Update, Uncategorized , add a comment

The use of ultrasound at the point of care by emergency clinicians, as well as by other specialists, has become increasingly common over the last 25 years. Emergency POCUS can be used as a diagnostic test and also to visualize anatomy for procedural guidance. It allows the emergency clinician to rapidly rule in or rule out disease processes and guide ongoing investigation and management of patients in the ED.

Pediatric emergency ultrasound has been slower to progress than adult emergency ultrasound. However, the use of emergency ultrasound for pediatric patients has recently begun to formalize.

The pediatric patient is arguably more suited for emergency ultrasound than the adult patient. Children generally have a smaller body habitus than adults and, therefore, less tissue for the ultrasound beams to penetrate. This often leads to clearer images of the different organ systems, which should yield better diagnostic accuracy.

Ultrasound can be used in the evaluation of children with blunt head trauma to assess for skull fractures. (See Figure Below) The presence of a skull fracture increases the risk of traumatic intracranial hemorrhage 4- to 6-fold.

While the absence of a skull fracture does not rule out the presence of intracranial injury, assessment for skull fracture has been used to risk stratify.

Skull Fracture on Ultrasound

Patients with blunt head trauma. In a meta-analysis published in 2000, skull x-rays had a sensitivity of 38% and a specificity of 95% when interpreted by radiologists. Given this poor sensitivity, skull x-rays have been falling out of favor for assessment of skull fracture. However, there has been a renewed interest in skull ultrasound as perhaps a better tool to assess for skull fracture and to risk stratify patients with blunt head trauma.

Skull ultrasound is performed with a high-frequency linear array probe. The probe should be placed on the area of the skull with maximal tenderness, hematoma, or other sign of possible fracture. It should be scanned in 2 planes, looking for disruptions in the cortex. Sutures can be differentiated from fractures by following the cortical break to a fontanelle and by scanning the contralateral side for comparison. Additionally, the cortical break in a fracture will appear ragged, with sharp margins, while a suture will have a smooth appearance.

Several prospective studies have evaluated bedside ultrasound for skull fractures in children. Rabiner et al pooled data from previous trials along with their own data. They reported a sensitivity of 94% and specificity of 96% for ultrasound detection of skull fractures. Parri et al performed another study not captured in the Rabiner et al study, and showed a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 95%, with 1 false-positive result. A limitation of these studies was that the ultrasounds were performed on patients for whom a CT scan was planned. Therefore, the study population was already determined to be at higher risk for injury as compared to the entire spectrum of head trauma patients presenting to the ED. Nonetheless, it can be concluded that the diagnostic accuracy of skull ultrasound is superior to that of skull x-ray.

Future Applications
The current trend in the evaluation and risk stratification of pediatric head trauma is the incorporation of clinical decision rules, with the PECARN pediatric head injury prediction rule being the most sensitive and most commonly used in the United States.56 An area of future research is the incorporation of skull ultrasound in conjunction with a clinical decision rule to better risk stratify patients and possibly further decrease the number of CT scans being performed.

To read more about the PECARN Pediatric Head Injury Prediction Rule, go to: www.ebmedicine.net/PECARN-head-rule

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May is Trauma Awareness Month! May 16, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : Feature Update , add a comment

Clinical Pathway For Management In The Emergency Department Of Pediatric Patients With Suspected Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal injuries from blunt trauma are uncommon in pediatric patients, representing only about 1.5% of all blunt trauma patients. However, the potentially fatal consequences of spinal injuries make them of great concern to emergency clinicians.

Clinical goals in the emergency department are to identify all injuries using selective imaging and to minimize further harm from spinal cord injury. Achieving these goals requires an understanding of the age-related physiologic differences that affect patterns of injury and radiologic interpretation in children, as well as an appreciation of high-risk clinical clues and mechanisms.

Clinical Pathway For Management In The Emergency Department Of Pediatric Patients With Suspected Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

This clinical pathway will help you improve care in the management of pediatric patients with suspected cervical Spinal cord injury. Click here to download yours today. 

It is Stroke Awareness Month! May 16, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : Feature Update , add a comment

10 Risk Management Pitfalls For Cervical Artery Dissections

Cervical artery dissections involve the carotid or vertebral arteries. Although the overall incidence is low, they remain a common cause of stroke in children, young adults, and trauma patients. Symptoms such as headache, neck pain, and dizziness are commonly seen in the emergency department, but may not be apparent in the obtunded trauma patient. A missed diagnosis of cervical artery dissection can result in devastating neurological sequelae, so emergency clinicians must act quickly to recognize this event and begin treatment as soon as possible while neurological consultation is obtained.

Use these risk management pitfalls to avoid unwanted outcomes when performing cervical artery dissections. Download now.

1. “This patient has a left temporal headache that radiates into his left ear. His examination is benign, except his pupil is smaller on that side. I did a noncontrast CT head and it’s negative. The headache is probably just due to a hard game of basketball yesterday. I’m going to give him some IV ketorolac and send him out.”

Dissections can occur spontaneously or as a result of minor trauma, even from a basketball game. Failure to consider the diagnosis will result in a missed diagnosis. Headaches in carotid artery dissections can be nonspecific, but are mostly located in the frontal or temporal regions; the radiation to the ear is also characteristic. His examination is also concerning for a partial Horner syndrome. Both of those are suspicious for carotid artery dissection and warrant further vascular imaging.

2. “She has a history of migraines, and she says that this one is different from what she usually feels, but it definitely sounds like a migraine because it is unilateral, pulsatile, and she had a visual aura. I’m going to give her the usual migraine cocktail and see how she does.”

Not suspecting cervical arterial dissection in the beginning of the evaluation results in a significant delay to diagnosis. It can be many hours by the time she has a couple of migraine cocktails before you realize her headache isn’t better and you need to rethink your plan. Due to the risk of early stroke in these patients, a delay in diagnosis could lead to long-term neurological sequelae. Headaches in carotid dissections can be unilateral, pulsatile, and with an aura. Any time a patient with a history of migraines states that the symptoms are not typical, take note.

3. “A 35-year-old woman was attacked by her boyfriend. He hit her on the right side of the neck near her jaw, causing her head to snap around to the left. Her neurological examination is completely normal. She is in a great deal of pain, but it seems to be related to the soft-tissue injury from the hit, because her noncontrast CT head and c-spine are negative. I’m going to treat her pain and see how she feels.”

Pain due to the trauma could mask specific signs or symptoms of dissection. In these patients, relying on the history to identify high-risk factors is important. Due to the location of the blow, it may have caused a hyperextension and rotation of her head in addition to direct trauma, which could have caused a dissection. Patients with risk factors should have advanced vascular imaging (CTA or MRA).

4. “I couldn’t do a neurological examination because she was in too much pain. I’ll treat her headache and then try again later.”

Although it seems kind to give patients a little time to obtain comfort before performing an examination, a prompt neurological examination is absolutely necessary in order to determine any findings that need to be addressed immediately, such as an acute stroke.

5. “A 12-year-old boy fell off of his bike after running into a parked car, and then he had a seizure. The noncontrast CT head and c-spine were normal. He is still in some pain, but I don’t see anything abnormal on his neuro examination, so I’m going to clear his c-spine.”

Pediatric patients with dissection have different symptoms from adults; seizure has been shown to be a presenting symptom in 12.5% of cases. The seizure, along with the mechanism, should prompt vascular imaging to assess for a cervical artery dissection before the cervical collar is removed.

6. “I really thought that patient with the headache, anterolateral neck pain, and partial Horner syndrome had a carotid dissection, but the CTA was read as negative, so I guess I was wrong. I’ll just treat her pain and send her home.”

CTA is an excellent screening tool, but it is not 100% sensitive and can miss small intimal flaps, intramural hematomas, or a slight fusiform dilatation of the vessel. In patients for whom there is a high suspicion of dissection and a negative or equivocal CTA or MRA, further imaging with MRI or digital subtraction angiography is indicated.

7. “The CTA showed a dissection, so I gave him an aspirin and called neurology. However, he now says he doesn’t want to wait and wants to go home. His neuro examination is normal, so I was thinking of sending him out on aspirin.”

Sending the patient home in the acute setting without consultation is not a good idea. Due to high risk of stroke in the first 24 hours and the high incidence of progression of lower-grade dissections, these patients warrant close monitoring and early follow-up imaging to determine the need for escalation of care.

8. “The intubated trauma patient had his noncontrast CT head and c-spine and the radiologist just called and said there is a temporal bone fracture through the carotid canal. I’m going to pass it along and let the trauma service finish the workup after he gets to the intensive care unit.”

This will lead to a significant delay in diagnosis, which could be devastating for the patient. Due to its sensitivity and availability in the ED, a CTA should be performed prior to the patient being transported upstairs, so treatment can be started immediately.

9. “The CTA showed a vertebral artery dissection on that patient from the roller coaster ride, so I consulted the neurology service for admission. Her neuro examination is normal, so I’m going to wait to treat her and see what they recommend.”

An antithrombotic agent for stroke prevention needs to be started on this patient and can be started in the ED to avoid treatment delays. Studies in this population have not shown superiority of one over the other, so the choice of aspirin or heparin depends on patient factors. For uncomplicated dissections, antiplatelet agents are sufficient, and heparin is preferred in patients with an acute thrombus or high risk for thromboembolic events if no contraindications exist.

10. “The patient is a 42-year-old man presenting with an acute onset of right-sided hemiplegia and global aphasia that started 1 hour ago while at the grocery store. His CT head was negative for hemorrhage, but the CTA showed a dissection in his left carotid artery with about 50% vessel occlusion. Unfortunately, that excludes him from treatment with rtPA due to the risk of hemorrhage or intramural hematoma expansion.”

Data have shown rtPA to be as safe in patients with cervical dissections as with patients with strokes due to other causes. Therefore, this patient should be treated with rtPA as soon as possible if there are no contraindications. Endovascular treatment should also be considered if there are contraindications to IV rtPA or if he does not improve after treatment.

Need more information or Stroke CME?
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It is Trauma Awareness Month! Can you solve the trauma case below? May 10, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : What's Your Diagnosis , add a comment

Do you need to do anything regarding the missing fragment? — ED Management of Dental Trauma in Pediatric Patients

Case Recap:
You are then asked to see a 15-year-old adolescent boy who has come in with a tooth avulsion. He was at basketball practice when another player accidentally elbowed him in the mouth. He did not lose consciousness and has pain only in his mouth. He was immediately brought to your ED, which is about 15 minutes away from where the accident happened. His coach arrives with the boy’s tooth in a container of milk. On physical examination, the patient has lost his right lateral incisor and a clot remains where his tooth had been. How much time do you have to replace the tooth to have the best success of replantation? What do you need to consider while handling, storing, and cleaning the tooth?

Case Conclusion:
For the 15-year-old boy, you decided to replace the tooth as soon as possible. The patient had no other medical problems. You used Yankauer suction and light irrigation to remove the clot from the socket. You held the tooth by the crown, briefly rinsed it off, and used firm, gentle pressure to reinsert the tooth without any difficulty. You had Coe PakTM paste available at your facility, and you created a temporary splint to secure the tooth. You instructed the mother to follow up with the dentist tomorrow and to provide only a soft diet until then. You told the coach and the boy’s mom that, in the future, they should attempt to reimplant the tooth at the time of the accident and instructed them on the steps involved.

Did you get it right?

Click here to review the issue, Emergency Department Management of Dental Trauma: Recommendations for Improved Outcomes in Pediatric Patients (Trauma CME and Pharmacology CME).

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Trauma Awareness Month Is Almost Here – Test Your Knowledge with Genitourinary Trauma Question April 18, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : Brain Tease , add a comment

A patient suffering blunt abdominal trauma complains of suprapubic pain and has gross hematuria. Initial CT of the abdomen and pelvis with IV contrast is normal. Do yo know the answer?

For trauma patients in the ED, life- and limb-threatening injuries take priority, but renal and genitourinary injury can have long-term consequences for patients, including chronic kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, incontinence, and other serious problems.

Did you get it right? Click here to find out!

The correct answer: A.

Check out the issue on Emergency Management of Renal and Genitourinary Trauma: Best Practices Update to brush up on the subject.Plus earn CME for this topic by purchasing this issue. 

Do you need to do anything regarding the missing fragment? — ED Management of Dental Trauma in Pediatric Patients April 11, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : What's Your Diagnosis , add a comment

Case Recap:
Your first patient of the day is a 2-year-old girl who tripped and fell while walking, hitting her mouth on the concrete sidewalk. On your examination, her left central incisor tooth appears to be fractured, with a yellow dot visible inside the tooth. The tooth is nontender and nonmobile. The parents don’t have the other part of the tooth and think it fell onto the street. You start to consider: How do you determine what kind of fracture this is and how serious it is? How does management differ between primary teeth versus permanent teeth, and how can you tell if this is a primary tooth or a permanent tooth? Do you need to do anything regarding the missing fragment?

Case Conclusion:
After seeing the 2-year-old girl with the chipped tooth, you realized that, given her age, this was likely primary dentition, which you confirmed with the parents. You could also tell on examination that the upper right central incisor was more of a milky-white color with a smooth edge, which is also consistent with primary dentition. You decided that the management priorities were to prevent further harm to the developing permanent dentition and to confirm that the tooth fragment was truly lost. You were unable to detect any retained foreign bodies on your physical examination, but you decided to obtain radiographic images to confirm. On facial radiography, there appeared to be a small foreign body inside her right upper lip. You repeated your physical examination and were able to extract the small tooth fragment. The girl’s left central incisor appeared to be an uncomplicated crown fracture. The girl was able to drink without difficulty. You did not have dental panoramic radiography available at your institution, so you instructed the parents to follow up with the girl’s dentist for assessment of her permanent dentition. You recommended a soft diet and to clean the tooth with chlorhexidine until the patient was able to see the dentist.

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Should you give antivenom again? — ED Management of North American Snake Envenomations April 11, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : What's Your Diagnosis , 2comments

Case Recap:
A 26-year-old man arrives to the ED via private vehicle with his arm in a makeshift sling. He reports that his pet rattlesnake bit him on his right index finger about 45 minutes ago. His hand and wrist are swollen. He reports that he has no past medical history besides his 3 previous visits for snakebites. He reports having a “reaction” to the snakebite antidote during his last visit. You wonder whether the patient is immune . . . or should you give antivenom again?

Case Conclusion:
The 26-year-old man with 3 prior rattlesnake bites was at risk for significant morbidity related to this fourth snakebite, including impaired use of his dominant hand. Additionally, his initial lab values showed a developing coagulopathy. You decided to administer 6 vials of antivenom, but you ordered pretreatment with IV corticosteroids and antihistamines. You moved the patient to your resuscitation area for administration of antivenom and admitted him to the ICU for continued monitoring; fortunately, there were no side effects with the initial dose of antivenom.

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A 68-year-old man with past medical history of atrial fibrillation on warfarin presents to the ED after motor vehicle crash — Brain Teaser. Do you know the answer? March 23, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : Brain Tease , add a comment

Test your knowledge and see how much you know about treating and managing blunt cardiac injury in the ED.

Did you get it right? Click here to find out!

The correct answer: C.

Earn CME for this topic by purchasing this issue. 

Clinical Pathway for Management of Emergency Department Patients With Suspected Blunt Cardiac Injury March 16, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : Feature Update , 1 comment so far

Blunt cardiac injury describes a range of cardiac injury patterns resulting from blunt force trauma to the chest. Due to the multitude of potential anatomical injuries blunt force trauma can cause, the clinical manifestations may range from simple ectopic beats to fulminant cardiac failure and death. Because there is no definitive, gold-standard diagnostic test for cardiac injury, the emergency clinician must utilize an enhanced index of suspicion in the clinical setting combined with an evidence-based diagnostic testing approach in order to arrive at the diagnosis. This review focuses on the clinical cues, diagnostic testing, and clinical manifestations of blunt cardiac injury as well as best-practice management strategies.

This clinical pathway will help you improve care in the management of patients with suspected blunt cardiac injury. Download now 

Clinical Pathway for Management of Emergency Department Patients With Suspected Blunt Cardiac Injury

Quiet morning shift. What do you do? March 8, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in : What's Your Diagnosis , 3comments

You are working a quiet morning shift when a patient is brought in after a motor vehicle crash. The patient is hypotensive, and the FAST exam reveals a pericardial effusion. You know that time is of the essence, so you rapidly assess the options and wonder whether a needle pericardiocentesis is the best option…

Case Conclusion:
The patient was triaged directly to the resuscitation unit and the trauma surgery service was immediately available at bedside. Further review of the FAST exam revealed right ventricular collapse, and the initial blood pressure of 80/40 mm Hg was consistent with pericardial tamponade. Two large-bore peripheral IVs were placed, and an ECG revealed sinus tachycardia. A bedside pericardiocentesis was performed under ultrasound guidance and 25 mL of blood was aspirated. Repeat blood pressure was 100/60 mm Hg. Chest and pelvic x-rays were within normal limits. The patient was then emergently transported to the operating room for further management. A thoracotomy was performed and noted a 2.5-mm rupture of the right anterior ventricular wall. The defect was repaired, and the patient had an uneventful recovery.

Would you have done it different? Tell us how you would have handled this case.

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Last Modified: 08-18-2019
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