Lars-Kristofer Peterson, MD
EMS calls ahead for a patient in respiratory extremis. They are just a few minutes out and your team is calmly putting the resuscitation space together and preparing for intubation. A question catches you off guard - do you want this patient in a ramped or sniffing position?
You sign out to the overnight team at midnight and stay an hour or so completing a laceration repair and finishing your charts. It's been a chaotic afternoon and evening and the patina of COVID-19 didn’t make things any better. After your shift (and appropriate decontamination) you pass your hospital’s new resiliency resource room. You wonder, “What would be more relaxing right now? Doing some deliberative coloring, petting a dog, or just heading home?”
You are working in a busy ED when a patient who is 54 arrives with an acute onset headache associated with syncope but no focal neurologic deficits. His physical exam is unremarkable but his BP is mildly elevated at 175/80. The patient’s head CT is consistent with an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. You begin anti-hypertensive treatment, but wonder how reliable non-invasive blood pressure measurement is in this patient.
During the current pandemic, physicians are findings themselves interfacing with the public and talking about topics they never thought they would have to consider. One way to prepare for this is to develop a library of phrases ahead of time which can be used in the appropriate context. It can also be helpful to generate analogies to common objects/systems to assist the general public in understanding critical care concepts.
A 58 year old male arrives to the ED in cardiac arrest. CPR is in progress and you are concerned about the amount of time needed prior to defibrillation to stop compressions, ensure all personnel are not touching the patient or the bed, delivering the shock, and then restarting CPR. It occurs to you that the pads could deliver a shock while CPR is in progress, but wonder about the safety and efficacy.
You are working at a community trauma center when an elderly male is brought to the ED after being struck by a car. The patient is complaining of right sided chest pain and is in respiratory distress. He has a patent airway, is breathing spontaneously and is normotensive. He is confused and not oriented to place or time. A chest x-ray does not reveal a pneumothorax, but does reveal 5 contiguous rib fractures. The patient is likely to require intubation due to the increased work of breathing. You review the patient's chart and note that he has a POLST on file indicating a DNR/DNI status as well as identifying his daughter as a medical power of attorney who may override the POLST. A nurse lets you know the patient’s family has arrived. You wonder how the presence of the POLST form will influence your conversation with the family.
A 68 year old male with a history of a right ankle ORIF three weeks ago is transferred to your ICU for management of a pulmonary embolism. He developed acute dyspnea while at physical therapy and was taken to an ED where he was found to have bilateral pulmonary emboli extending into both segmental and subsegmental pulmonary arteries on CTPE. His workup included elevated troponins and an echocardiogram that showed a dilated RV with hypokinesis of the RV free wall and reduced tricuspid valve annular systolic excursion. He was started on a heparin infusion prior to transport and was hemodynamically stable when you took the transfer call. When he arrived to your facility he was mentating well but his BP was 85/50 with a HR of 115 and an spO2 of 96% on 2L NC. How will you address his hypotension?
You are assessing a 68 year old male who fell down three steps and struck his head on the ground. His history is significant for a drug eluting stent placed after a cardiac catheterization two months ago. As a result he is on dual antiplatelet therapy. You wonder what the impact of aspirin and clopidogrel is on the risk of intracranial hemorrhage (ICH).
While your friends at home are shivering in the Camden, NJ winter, you are on an elective retrieval medicine rotation in New South Wales, Australia. A 32 year old patient arrives in a rural emergency department obtunded. His friends state he was out hiking and may have used some cocaine as well. His initial vital signs are notable for hypotension and a core temperature of 41.5C (106.7F). There are no fans available for evaporative cooling and no gel adhesive body temperature controlling devices (such as those used following cadiac arrest). The patient requires intubation which is done uneventfully, the staff asks what tools you might use to rapidly reduce the body temperature.