Emily Damuth, MD

Tracheostomy decannulation: To cap or not to cap?

A 49-year-old woman was intubated for acute hypoxemic respiratory failure secondary to pneumonia, which was complicated by empyema. She failed extubation and ultimately required tracheostomy for prolonged mechanical ventilation. After transfer to the intermediate care unit, she was successfully weaned from the ventilator for over 24 hours. She tolerated prolonged deflation of her tracheostomy cuff and swallowed water without aspiration. She underwent a tracheostomy tube occlusion test and there was no obstruction to air flow with a size 7 fenestrated tracheostomy tube in place. She is requiring suctioning once every 12 hours. You are assessing her readiness for tracheostomy decannulation and are considering the utility of a capping trial.    

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Hypercalcemic crisis

A 52-year-old woman with a history of hypertension sustained a large left frontoparietal intracerebral hemorrhage resulting in right-sided flaccid paralysis complicated by acute respiratory failure status post tracheostomy for prolonged mechanical ventilation. She is transferred to the step-down intensive care unit for ventilator weaning. Serum calcium level returns elevated at 11.3 mg/dL with a serum albumin level of 2.8 g/dL. What is the most likely cause of her hypercalcemia and how should it be managed?

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VA-ECMO for massive pulmonary embolism

A 60-year-old man presents to the ED after an episode of syncope. He is initially hemodynamically stable and undergoes CT demonstrating saddle pulmonary embolism. He returns from radiology with tachycardia and hypotension refractory to fluids and requiring vasopressor support. Bedside echo reveals RV dilation and severely reduced RV systolic dysfunction with septal flattening consistent with RV pressure overload. As you start systemic anticoagulation with heparin, you consider the indications for thrombolysis, surgical embolectomy and VA-ECMO.   

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Corticosteroids in ARDS

Several drugs have been investigated in patients with ARDS, including epoprostenol, nitric oxide, statins, and methylprednisolone, but have not improved survival. Meduri et al. performed an RCT demonstrating that methylprednisolone was associated with a reduction in lung injury score and duration of mechanical ventilation. While not powered to evaluate mortality, this trial raised interest in the use of corticosteroid to mitigate inflammatory lung injury. The 2017 Guidelines from the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) and the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM) recommend steroids for treatment of ARDS based on a meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials demonstrating reduction in markers of inflammation and duration of mechanical ventilation, although many of the trials had a small sample size and some were performed without lung protective ventilation. In March 2020, Villar et al. published the largest randomized control trial of corticosteroid therapy for moderate to severe ARDS investigating the impact of dexamethasone on survival and duration of mechanical ventilation.  

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Prone positioning in pregnant patients with ARDS due to COVID-19: Yes or no?

A 34-year-old woman at 32 weeks gestation presents to the emergency department with cough, dyspnea and hypoxemia. She rapidly progresses to severe ARDS despite lung protective ventilation, paralysis and inhaled epoprostenol. P/F ratio is 99 mm Hg. Is prone positioning safe to perform in pregnant patients with severe ARDS? If so, are modifications necessary to offload the abdomen and monitor the fetus? A recently published review in Obstetrics and Gynecology discusses this important topic. 

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Nephron vs. Neuron: Diagnosis and management of diabetes insipidus in the critically ill

50-year-old man requires intubation for encephalopathy. His urine output is > 400 cc/hr and serum Na returns at 179 mEq/L. What is the most likely cause of his polyuria? 

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Deflated? Esophageal pressure monitoring in ARDS

Lung protective ventilation limiting tidal volume and plateau pressure improves survival in ARDS. The application of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) further stabilizes the lung by preventing alveolar collapse during expiration, thereby reducing cyclic atelectasis. However, the optimal approach to PEEP titration to minimize ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI) has not been delineated. The EPVent-1 trial demonstrated that esophageal pressure-guided PEEP titration was feasible and safe with a trend toward increased survival and improved oxygenation in mild to moderate ARDS. However, interest in esophageal manometry in ARDS was deflated by the more recent EPVent-2 trial demonstrating no improvement in a composite outcome incorporating mortality and ventilator-free days in patients with moderate to severe ARDS. A new randomized control trial published last week by Wang et al. examined the role of esophageal manometry-guided PEEP titration in a novel subset of severe ARDS patients treated with VV ECMO. 

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Out of rhythm: Melatonin dysregulation in critical illness

 

We do not often give thought to the factors controlling our circadian rhythm. And yet the circadian system modulates many physiologic systems, including brain arousal, cardiovascular function, sympathetic tone, appetite, metabolism and immune system function. Similar to the sinoatrial node pacing the heart, the suprachiasmatic nucleus located in the hypothalamus serves as the central pacemaker for the circadian rhythm, directing sleep, motor activity, temperature and autonomic tone. Rhythmic release of melatonin from the pineal gland helps drive this central clock in addition to other circadian biomarkers, including cortisol and core body temperature. In healthy individuals, plasma melatonin concentrations typically measure 10-fold higher at night than during the daytime. How does critical illness affect circadian rhythm, specifically melatonin secretion?

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ECMO: What is the Intensivist’s Role?

 

A 52-year-old man with a history significant for hypertension presented to the emergency department with cough, dyspnea and fever. He progressed to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) secondary to COVID-19 pneumonia. He developed refractory hypoxemia with P/F < 60 mm Hg despite low tidal volume ventilation, paralysis, inhaled epoprostenol and prone positioning. Is this patient a candidate for venovenous ECMO and, if so, who should guide initiation and management of ECMO? The Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) and Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) recently published a position paper on the role of the intensivist in the initiation and management of ECMO. 

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Angiotensin II and COVID-19

As we learn more about the pathophysiology of COVID-19, alternative treatments are being explored for the severe sequelae of this disease. SARS-CoV-2 enters human cells via the ACE2 receptor, located in many organs, including the heart, vascular endothelium, and alveolar epithelium causing an inflammatory cascade that can lead to ARDS, vasodilatory shock, myocarditis, acute kidney injury and capillary leak. Given the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 and the RAAS, is there a role for angiotensin II in vasodilatory shock caused by COVID-19?

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