Tuesday Advanced Cases

Alcohol Withdrawal By Dr. Sandhya Ashokkumar


  • A 53-year-old male with a history of chronic daily alcohol use presents to the ED via EMS after a witnessed seizure at home
  • The medics say he drinks every day, but his last drink was 3 days ago because he was not able to go to the store (history obtained from the sister who witnessed the seizure)

Physical Examination

T 98.3F, BP 177/106, HR 191, RR 22, Sat 93% 

  • Patient appears anxious, uncomfortable, and is actively vomiting blood tinged sputum
  • He appears confused and is not answering questions appropriately
  • He is tachycardic and his lungs are clear to auscultation bilaterally
  • Abd: soft NTND


  • Alcohol withdrawal/ Delirium Tremens
  • Thyrotoxicosis
  • Sepsis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Heart failure

Workup and Management

  • The nurse informs you that the patient is seizing
  • This patient is exhibiting evidence of delirium tremens (psychomotor agitation and autonomic instability) and alcohol withdrawal seizure
  • The patient is no longer tolerating his secretions, he is confused, gurgling, and requires a definitive airway
  • After intubation, you bolus the patient with propofol and start him a propofol infusion
  • The patient is admitted to the ICU for further management

Teaching Points

  • ETOH withdrawal begins 6-8 hours after last intake and peaks in 72 hours 
  • Symptom based treatment via the CIWA score can help stratify patients, scores >15 indicate severe withdrawal
  • Start with IV diazepam at 10mg or lorazepam at 4mg and repeat them in doubling doses
  • Consider adding phenobarbital for refractory cases (i.e. after 200 mg of diazepam)
  • Consider propofol as the induction agent and sedative post-intubation as propofol potentiates GABA receptor activity and inhibits NMDA receptors Summary 
  • Delerium tremens can result in death from hyperthermia, arrhythmia and seizures


Long D, Long B, Koyfman A. The emergency medicine management of severe alcohol withdrawal. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2017;35(7):1005-1011. doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2017.02.002

Schuckit MA, Author Affiliations From the Department of Psychiatry. Recognition and Management of Withdrawal Delirium (Delirium Tremens): NEJM. New England Journal of Medicine. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMra1407298. Published February 5, 2015. Accessed December 9, 2020.

Tuesday Advanced Cases

Hypothermia Arrhythmia by Dr. Edward Guo

Case: A 29 year old male with a past medical history of polysubstance use presents to the ED in December via EMS for a suspected overdose. History is limited due to patient cooperation. EMS states that he was found outside in a puddle, minimally responsive. He was given 2mg IM naloxone by EMS and became acutely agitated and combative afterward, requiring 5mg IM midazolam and 5mg IM haloperidol upon arrival. Fingerstick glucose 226. EKG is obtained and shown below.

Exam: BP 182/84, HR 111, T 86.1F, RR 18, SpO2 100%
Disheveled appearing male in wet clothes, intermittently thrashing. Cold to touch. Pupils 5mm bilaterally. No signs of trauma. GCS E3 V2 M5. Moves all extremities equally. Heart rate is tachycardic and irregular.

EKG interpretation: atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response with Osborn waves

Differential diagnosis: polysubstance use, environmental cold exposure, severe sepsis, hypothyroidism

Case continued: Active rewarming is initiated by removing wet clothes, administering warmed IV fluids, and placing a bair hugger. Labs are notable for a creatinine kinase of 3966. The patient’s temperature, heart rate, and mental status significantly improve within 5 hours, and his repeat EKG shows normal sinus rhythm without Osborn waves. He is ultimately admitted to medicine.


  • The cardiovascular response to cold is peripheral vasoconstriction and initial increase in heart rate and blood pressure. As core temperature drops below 32C, there is myocardial irritability and risk of cardiovascular collapse.
    • Atrial fibrillation and flutterare common arrhythmias associated with hypothermia.
    • Rescue collapse is a term to describe cardiac arrest that occurs during extrication or transport of a profoundly hypothermic patient due to profound myocardial irritability.
  • Osborn waves are positive deflections at the end of the QRS complex that are non-specific but may occur in temperatures below 32C.
    • Size of the wave correlates with the degree of hypothermia but has no prognostic value.
  • As temperature continues to drop, EKG changes are variable but classically include bradycardia with prolonged PR, QRS, and QTc. Heart block or ventricular dysrhythmias may be encountered as well. Asystole is the common final dysrhythmia.
  • Rewarming is the treatment of choice.
    • Atrial dysrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation will often resolve with warming.
    • Cardioversion for unstable arrhythmias should be attempted but may be refractory in severe hypothermia.


Brown DA. Hypothermia. In: Tintinalli JE, Ma O, Yealy DM, Meckler GD, Stapczynski J, Cline DM, Thomas SH. eds. Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide, 9e. McGraw-Hill Education; 2020.

Hoek T. 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. Circulation. 2010. 122:5829-5861

Tuesday Advanced Cases

Critical Cases – Compartment Syndrome!

by Carlos Cevallos M.D.


A 60 year old male with a PMH of DM, HTN, HLD, MI presents to the ED after being found down with waxing and waning mentation. The patient complains of abdominal pain and diffuse myalgias.

BP 76/56, HR 92, Temp 98.4F, RR 22. 

Physical exam

Pressure wounds of the right rib cage, right side of his forehead

Right calf tenderness with a firm anterior compartment, cool/pale right lower extremity, dorsalis pedis and posterior tibial pulses were unable to be palpated.


ECG interpretation: Peaked T waves, widened QRS concerning for hyperkalemia

Clinical course:

1L bolus of LR

IV calcium gluconate for possible hyperkalemia

Surgery was immediately consulted due to concern for compartment syndrome

Labs were notable for a potassium of 7.2, creatinine of 3.49, creatinine kinase of 188,760, a lactate of 4.0, and ALT/AST in the 3,000s/5,000s

Given intermittent hemodynamic instability a dialysis line was placed for definitive hyperkalemia management

Patient underwent emergent lower extremity fasciotomy with surgery

Compartment syndrome learning points:

·       Diagnosis is both clinical and by compartment pressure measurements

·       Compartment pressure >30mmHg or a delta pressure <30mmHg (diastolic BP – compartment pressure) is diagnostic

·       Clinical findings: 6Ps. Pain is the earliest and often only symptom, the rest are late findings.

o   Pain out of proportion to the exam (most common finding)

o   Pallor

o   Paresthesia

o   Paresis/paralysis

o   Pulselessness

o   Poikilothermia

·       Management: Immediate surgical consult for fasciotomy

Tuesday Advanced Cases

Critical Cases – Hypertensive Emergency!

by Dr. Sarah Perelman M.D.

Today’s case from the EM Daily archives involves one of the rare patients where you DO want to acutely treat elevated blood pressure with intravenous agents….


  • 48 year old male with PMH HTN presents with blurry vision for 2.5 hours 
  • Patient was using the computer tonight, could not see where the icons were on his desktop, could still see light/colors.
  • He has no pain in his eyes
  • Also reports dyspnea on exertion for 2 days. No headache, no chest pain, no abdominal pain
  • He has not had his anti-hypertensives (he reports he is on 5 different medications) for about 1.5 weeks

Physical Exam

T 98.3 BP 290/120, HR 118, RR 18, SpO2 99%

  • Patient is awake, alert, conversant, appears well and in no distress
  • Neuro: Visual acuity 20/200 OS, OD, OU Normal visual fields Normal pupillary exam Normal extraocular movements Otherwise normal cranial nerve exam Normal strenght in extremities , no pronator drift, normal finger to nose
  • Cardiac: tachycardic, normal S1/S1, no murmurs/rubs/gallops
  • Pulm: clear to auscultation bilaterally
  • Abdomen: soft, nontender, nondistended

Differential Diagnosis 

  • Hypertensive emergency with elevated BP and evidence of end organ damage (decreased visual acuity, evidence of pulmonary edema on bedside US) 
  • Sympathomimetic toxicity (hypertension, tachycardia), though patient reports no ingestions of medications or drugs
  • Thyrotoxicosis 
  • CVA given visual changes, however with no focal visual deficits (no visual field cut, decreased acuity is symmetric bilaterally) 

Initial ED Management 

  • Arterial line place – IV nicardipine started, with goal SBP 210s (25% reduction in the first hour)
  • Bedside lung US performed which demonstrates numerous B lines consistent with evolving pulmonary edema

Labs/Imaging –

  • Hb 6.1, PLT 142, WBC 5.92 – Na 147, K 3.7 – Cr 15.03 (last level in chart 3.95 7 years ago) – HS troponin 223 – pro-BNP 26,930
  • CT Head with 3 small, distinct areas of intraparenchymal hemorrhage

Further Management 

  • Repeat neurologic exam performed and is unchanged
  • Neurosurgery consulted, recommend BP goal under SBP 160
  • Repeat CTH in 4 hours: unchanged 
  • Patient admitted to ICU for IV nicardipine, continuous BP monitoring, and q1 hour neuro checks


  • Hypertensive emergency is acute SBP over 180 with evidence of organ dysfunction
  • Not every patient with SBP over 180 requires emergency BP control
  • In this patient: decreased visual acuity, pulmonary edema, elevated troponin and proBNP, renal failure, and intraparenchymal hemorrhage = hypertensive emergency
  • In managing hypertensive emergency, SBP should not be lowered by more than 25% in the first hour to prevent causing hypoperfusion and cerebral ischemia 
  • Continuous BP monitoring via arterial line is important to carefully titrate medications
  • Nicardepene is an easy to titrate CCB which may be the ideal agent for the treatment of hypertensive emergency
  • Indications for emergent dialysis (AEIOU – acidosis, electrolytes, intoxication, overload, uremia): critical metabolic acidosis, refractory or rapidly increasing hyperkalemia, life threatening intoxication with substance that is able to be removed with HD, volume overload, complications of uremia (pericarditis, neuropathy, encephalopathy)
Tuesday Advanced Cases

Neonatal Tachycardia by Dr. Edward Guo

Case: A 4 day old female born at 36w1d via C-section presents for tachycardia. Father at bedside states that he placed a heart monitor on the patient and it read over 200 bpm. Patient was seen at urgent care and transferred to ED via ambulance. Baby has otherwise acting normally, eating frequently, making 6+ wet diapers per day. No prior medical history. No family history of abnormal heart rhythms. Vitals include BP 85/53, HR 300, Temp 97.5F, RR 50, SpO2 100%. Exam shows a well appearing, interactive neonate with tachycardia on auscultation. 

Differential diagnosis: Arrhythmia, dehydration, anemia, infection, hyperthyroidism

EKG is obtained and shown below:

EKG interpretation: Supraventricular tachycardia at rate of 300

Case continued: Patient is placed on continuous cardiac monitoring. Vagal maneuvers are attempted including rectal temperature without success in terminating SVT. An IV is placed and adenosine is administered. Repeat EKG following adenosine is shown below. Pediatric cardiology is consulted and recommends administration of digoxin and transfer for further evaluation. Patient is then transferred to a pediatric center in stable condition.

Learning points:

  • A heart rate > 220 bpm in an infant or > 180 bpm in a child with rate out of proportion to clinical status is likely supraventricular tachycardia.2
  • Vagal maneuvers should be attempted initially for patients who are stable.
    • Maneuvers that can be attempted in infants include obtaining a rectal temperature or applying a cold ice pack to the face to activate the mammalian diving reflex.
  • If vagal maneuvers fail, rapid push of IV adenosine at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg is recommended.
  • If the patient is unstable or adenosine fails to terminate the rhythm, perform synchronized cardioversion at a dose of 0.5-1 J/kg.
    • Subsequent synchronized cardioversion attempts should be dosed at 2 J/kg.


Hauda, II WE. Resuscitation of Children. In: Tintinalli JE, Ma O, Yealy DM, Meckler GD, Stapczynski J, Cline DM, Thomas SH. eds. Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide, 9e. McGraw-Hill Education; 2020. 

Kleinman  ME, Chameides  L, Schexnayder  SM,  et al: Part 14: pediatric advanced life support. 2010 American Heart Association guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care. Circulation 122(18 suppl 3): S876, 2010. [PubMed: 20956230]  

Tuesday Advanced Cases

Critical Cases – The Red Eye!

By Stephanie Smith M.D.


  • 53 y/o male p/w complaints of L eyelid swelling and redness
  • Started 4 days PTA as small pimple which he popped, and slowly progressed to “softball” sized area of swelling with pus drainage
  • Subjective fevers

Physical Exam

  • BP 153/90, pulse 80, temp 98.6, RR 17
  • Extensive soft tissue erythema and edema of the L upper eyelid, 5×5 area of fluctuance with active pus draining from small laceration
  • Visual acuity: 20/40 R, 20/70 L
  • No corneal abrasions or ulceration on fluorescein staining 
  • IOP 21 bilaterally 


  • Preseptal / periorbital cellulitis
  • Orbital cellulitis
  • Abscess


  • Labs: CBC, BMP, lactate, wound culture
  • Started empirically on broad spectrum abx: 2g vancomycin + 3g unasyn
  • CT orbits w/ contrast: significant soft tissue swelling of the L periorbital region consistent with inflammatory/infectious process, and involvement of the medial orbital wall along the lamina papyracea 

Clinical Course

  • Admission for continued IV antibiotics
  • Repeat CT orbits
  • Consults: OMFS, ophthalmology, ENT, ID 

Take home points

  • MUST differentiate orbital vs preseptal cellulitis given the increased morbidity and mortality a/w orbital (see table)
  • Confirm clinical suspicion with CT imaging
  • Orbital cellulitis complications: subperiosteal abscess, orbital abscess, vision loss, cavernous sinus thrombophlebitis, and/or brain abscess 
Tuesday Advanced Cases

Advanced Cases – Pericardial Tamponade as a Sequelae of Hypothyroidism!

By: Alexander Hilbmann MD


52 year old female with pmhx of hypothyroidism who presents to Emergency Department with bilateral leg swelling and SOB with exertion. Reports swelling began one week ago and has progressively worsened. Denies any other symptoms. Patient has not seen a cardiologist/had an echo performed before. Reports she has not taken her prescribed levothyroxine for two years now.  

Physical Exam:

Vitals BP 128/82 HR 80 BPM Temp 92.8F Oral Resp 29 SpO2 99%

Abnormalities on physical Exam:

Periorbital Swelling of bilateral eyes

Rales present in bilateral lower lungs

Distension of abdomen

Bilateral lower extremities with non pitting edema

12 Lead ECG:

Interpretation: Sinus bradycardia, low voltage ECG

Bedside subxiphoid cardiac ultrasound:

Interpretation: Circumferential pericardia effusion, RV collapse consistent with pericardial tamponade physiology

For a FANTASTIC review of ultrasound guided emergency pericardiocentesis, check out the Ultrasound Podcast Youtube video HERE

Case continued:

  • Patient found to be hypoglycemic at 50 mg/dL, D10 administered
  • Patient found to be hyponatremic at 125, likely in setting of fluid overload
  • Cardiology consulted for cardiac tamponade, pericardiocentesis performed with 1.4 L drained. 
  • Ascites drained via paracentesis, other diagnoses ruled out with hypothyroidism most likely cause.
  • Patient restarted on levothyroxine and began liothyronine (T3)in hospital
  • Patient discharged home in stable condition after 10 days in hospital with levothyroxine, has not returned to hospital since


  • Consider hypothyroidism if patient has pmhx or classical physical exam findings: bradycardia, hypothermia, hypotension, lethargy, constipation, hair loss/thinning, facial swelling, coarse skin, pretibial myxedema(thickened, nonpitting edema), menstrual changes, decreased reflexes.
  • Hypothyroidism increases permeability in the blood vessels of the body and decreases drainage of lymphatic system, causing an accumulation of fluid outside of blood vessels and can present as pretibial myxedema, pericardial effusion, or pleural effusion.
  • Precipitating factors of hypothyroidism include medication nonadherence, infection, cold exposure, stroke, autoimmune disorders, thyroid radiation/surgery,  and medications (amiodarone, lithium).
  •  Management of hypothyroidism includes supportive, hydrocortisone(prevents adrenal crisis), levothyroxine (T4) and +/- Liothyronine (T3) supplementation.


Chahine J, Ala CK, Gentry JL, et al Pericardial diseases in patients with hypothyroidism Heart 2019;105:1027-1033.

Patil N, Rehman A, Jialal I. Hypothyroidism. [Updated 2023 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519536/

Tuesday Advanced Cases

Critical Cases – Fistula Hemorrhage Emergency!

Kane McKenzie M.D.

Dialysis Fistula Bleeding Aneurysm


69 year-old female with a past medical history of ESRD on HD, HIV, Pulmonary HTN, HFrEF (EF 25%), anemia, thrombocytopenia presents after dialysis with left upper extremity pain and swelling. The dialysis RN reports there was shiny skin present over the LUE AVF and they cannulated to avoid that area, the patient received one hour of treatment that was stopped due to pain. Patient reports the her arm above the AVF has been slowly enlarging


BP: 98/54, HR: 78, RR 20, T: 97.6


Alert and oriented, no acute distress, chronically-ill appearing

LUE with no external bleeding, fistula has a palpable thrill. Swelling and tenderness are present above the AVF, over the medial upper arm.

Cap refill >2 seconds

Rest of exam unremarkable

Clinical Course

-CTA upper extremity was obtained to assess for active bleeding – showed AV fistula with aneurysmal dilatation, large hematoma with upper arm approximating a volume of 1000cc. No evidence of active hemorrhage

-Direct pressure was held above and below the AVF.

-Repeat BP 58/24

-Central line placed, resuscitated with 2U PRBC, 1 platelets, 1 FFP. Required norepinephrine and vasopressin drip

-Taken level 0 to OR for Brachiocephalic fistula ligation and hematoma evacuation with 500cc hematoma removed

-The patient was stabilized and recovered after being treated for hemorrhagic shock


-AVF aneurysms can develop from repeated ruptures, increased venous pressure, and immunosuppression. They are usually asymptomatic, rarely rupture. Aneurysm formation is present in 5-7% of AVF

-Skin changes, pain, high output heart failure, and thrombosis can result from aneurysms and are an indication for operative management.

-AVF pseudoaneurysms can develop from extravasation of blood from cannulation sites, are more prone to rupture, develop more quickly

-Aneurysms/pseudoaneurysms can be identified by their shiny, thin, atrophic skin. In more severe cases can present with necrosis.

-Apply pressure and/or tourniquet above and below the AVF if life threatening hemorrhage is suspected

-Emergent consultation with vascular surgery warranted for operative repair


Pasklinsky G, Meisner RJ, Labropoulos N, Leon L, Gasparis AP, Landau D, Tassiopoulos AK, Pappas PJ. Management of true aneurysms of hemodialysis access fistulas. J Vasc Surg. 2011 May;53(5):1291-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2010.11.100. Epub 2011 Jan 26. PMID: 21276676.

Lok CE, Huber TS, Lee T, Shenoy S, Yevzlin AS, Abreo K, Allon M, Asif A, Astor BC, Glickman MH, Graham J, Moist LM, Rajan DK, Roberts C, Vachharajani TJ, Valentini RP; National Kidney Foundation. KDOQI Clinical Practice Guideline for Vascular Access: 2019 Update. Am J Kidney Dis. 2020 Apr;75(4 Suppl 2):S1-S164. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2019.12.001. Epub 2020 Mar 12. Erratum in: Am J Kidney Dis. 2021 Apr;77(4):551. PMID: 32778223.

Saeed F, Kousar N, Sinnakirouchenan R, Ramalingam VS, Johnson PB, Holley JL. Blood Loss through AV Fistula: A Case Report and Literature Review. Int J Nephrol. 2011;2011:350870. doi: 10.4061/2011/350870. Epub 2011 May 30. PMID: 21716705; PMCID: PMC3118665.

Tuesday Advanced Cases

Advanced Cases – Complications of IBD!

Allison Cash M.D.


  • 42 year old male with history of Crohn’s
  • Presented with 5 days LLQ pain, fevers, chills, diarrhea
  • Denied hematochezia/melena, vomiting

Physical Exam

  • BP 136/82  | Pulse 77  | Temp 98.1 °F (36.7 °C) (Oral)  | Resp 16  | SpO2 98%
  • Exam: patient uncomfortable appearing, LLQ pain with no rebound or guarding


  • CBC, BMP unremarkable
  • CT A/P with bowel wall thickening and multiple pericolonic abscesses

Hospital Course

  • Patient admitted to surgery and started on IV Zosyn
  • IR consulted for abscess drainage
  • Transitioned to oral Augmentin, diet advanced, discharge home

IBD complications pearls


  1. Judith E. Tintinall, et al. (2020). Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine : A Comprehensive Study Guide (Ninth Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Maaser C, Sturm, et al. European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation [ECCO] and the European Society of Gastrointestinal and Abdominal Radiology [ESGAR] ECCO-ESGAR Guideline for Diagnostic Assessment in IBD Part 1: Initial diagnosis, monitoring of known IBD, detection of complications. J Crohns Colitis. 2019 Feb 01;13(2):144-164.