UMEM Educational Pearls - Misc

Category: Misc

Title: Dose of Epinephrine for Anaphylaxis-"Titrate to Life"

Keywords: Epinephrine (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/15/2010 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Dose of Epinephrine for Patients with Anaphylaxis

Many of us are familiar with 0.3-0.5 mg IM of 1:1,000. Important to give IM and not SC.

In severe cases, consider IV Epinephrine:

  • Take 1 mg of crash cart Epinephrine (1:10,000) and inject into 1 liter of normal saline
  • Start drip at 1 cc/min which is 1 microgram/min
  • "Titrate to life" (i.e. titrate up or down according to severity)

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Category: Misc

Title: Pneumoperitoneum on CXR and CT

Keywords: Pneumoperitoneum, CXR, CT (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/12/2010 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Pneumoperitoneum on CXR and CT

Pneumoperitoneum may be seen on an upright CXR up to 7 days after laparoscopic abdominal surgery/laparotomy and may be seen on abdominal CT for as long as three weeks after surgery. 

Category: Misc

Title: TSH test

Posted: 6/14/2010 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Submitted on behalf of Dr. Michael Abraham

Thyrotropin (TSH) 

  • Different types of test available:
    • The first tests available were radioimmunoassay. 
    • The next type of test available is the immunometric test.
  • As each test is developed there has been a trend to use the term ‘generation’ for a 10 fold increase in sensitivity. 1
  • Indications for ordering in the ED:   Hypothyroidism, Graves Disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Thyroid storm.


  • Diagnostic Accuracy
    • The original TSH benchmark was the ability to measure euthyroid (0.4 – 4mIU/L) from very low (<0.01 mIU/L) which is suggestive of Graves disease. 
    • Most new tests have a functional sensitivity of <0.02mIU/L. 
    • The clinical sensitivity and specificity have to be determined by each laboratory’s staff. This requires testing of samples over a 6-8 week period as should include a sample of the population that is being tested.2
  • Average turnaround time to complete test: 
    • The tests are mainly run on large lab analyzers. There are many commercially available tests the turnaround time is dependent on the manufacturer of the machine.

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Category: Misc

Title: Critical Care Billing

Keywords: Billing, Critical Care (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/20/2010 by Michael Bond, MD
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Critical Care billing is time dependent and includes all time spent caring for and coordinating (i.e.: reviewing records, talking to consultants or family) the care of the patient except for the time spent doing separately billable procedures (i.e. central line, CPR, etc).  The following procedures taken from the ACEP website are included in the Critical Care code so the time spent doing these procedures should BE included in your total Critical Care time . 

They are :

  • The interpretation of cardiac output measurements
  • Interpretation of chest x-rays
  • Interpretation of pulse oximetry
  • Interpretation of blood gases, and information data stored in computers
  • Placement of Oral or Nasal gastric tube
  • Temporary transcutaneous pacing
  • Ventilatory management (i.e.: Adjusting the vent, but not the intubation)
  • Vascular access procedures (i.e.: peripherial access)

ACADEMIC MEDICINE CAVEAT: For the reporting of time-based services, such as critical care or moderate sedation, the teaching physician must be directly present during the entire reported time period.

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Altered Mental Status-Does Your Patient Have Non-Convulsive Status Epilepticus?

Ever intubated a patient in status epilepticus and wondered if they were still seizing after sedation and paralysis? Ever taken care of an altered patient and wondered if you should consult neurology and attempt to get an EEG?

NCSE is defined as continuous seizure activity without obvious outward manifestations of a seizure. This is important for emergency physicians to consider because it has to be detected early to prevent morbidity and mortality.

When to consider NCSE:

  • Prolonged postictal period
  • Unexplained altered mental status in a patient with a history of seizures
  • Altered mental status associated with "eye twitching" or blinking
  • Stroke patient who clinically looks worse than expected

Category: Misc

Title: Temporal Arteritis

Keywords: Temporal Arteritis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/30/2010 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Temporal Arteritis (TA) is commonly associated with the sudden onset of a unilateral headache centered around the temporal region.  The most devastating consequence of TA is blindness though this is only reported in up to 50% of cases though can be bilateral in up to 33% of patients.

According to the American College of Rheumatology criteria for classification of temporal arteritis this diagnosis can be made in the ED without a biopsy.  You just need at least 3 of the following 5 items to be present (sensitivity 93.5%, specificity 91.2%) to make the diagnosis :

  1. Age of onset older than 50 years
  2. New-onset headache or localized head pain
  3. Temporal artery tenderness to palpation or reduced pulsation
  4. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) greater than 50 mm/h
  5. Abnormal arterial biopsy (necrotizing vasculitis with granulomatous proliferation and infiltration)

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Category: Misc

Title: Wernicke's Encephalopathy

Keywords: altered mental status (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/21/2009 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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 Wernicke's Encephalopathy

Wernicke's encephalopathy, considered a unique complication of alcoholism, is also seen in malnourished patients, bariatric surgery patients, and patients who have undergone bone marrow transplantation.

Some pearls about Wernicke's encephalopathy:

  • The classic triad of confusion, ataxia, and opthalmoplegia is seen in only about 10-15% of cases
  • The diagnosis is made before death in only about 10_15% of cases
  • Most authorities on the disease have suggested that opthalmoplegia be replaced by ocular, since many ocular findings may be seen in these patients (nystagmus, retinal hemorhages, cranial nerve palsies)
  • Essentially any alcoholic who presents with confusion (ever see these patients in your ED?) could have the disease, so give Thiamine liberally when the patient arrives. 
  • It is a myth that administration of thiamine before glucose will precipitate Wernicke's. This dogma is based on a case series of 4 patients from the Irish Journal of Medical Sciences

Category: Misc

Title: Hypothermia

Keywords: Hypothermia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/19/2009 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Hypothermia Pearls:

  • Lidocaine is generally ineffective in preventing ventricular arrhythmias, as is cardiac pacing or atropine to increase the heart rate.
  • Should the patient fully arrest be prepared to perform CPR for a long time.  If your ED does not have a automatic CPR device consider calling your local fire department or ambulance service as they might have one that can be loaned to your department.
  • Warm fluids, heated blankets and heat lamps will typically increase a patients temperature about 1' C an hour.
  • Gastric lavage, peritoneal lavage and heated IV fluids can warm as much as 3' an hour.
  • To rewarm quickly as high as 18'C an hour requires cardiac bypass or thoracic lavage.

Finally, remember to monitor the patient closely when you first start rewarming as this can induce cardiac arrest.  This is thought to occur as colder peripherial blood returns to the central circulation as peripherial veins and arteries dilated from the warm fluid.

Category: Misc

Title: Reimburshment Pearls

Keywords: Reimburshment, Coding (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/7/2009 by Michael Bond, MD (Emailed: 10/11/2009) (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Reimburshment Pearls:

Often charts are down coded as it is not clear from the documentation that your medical decision making was complex.

For instance, if your final diagnosis is GERD, and you do not document that you were also concerned about angina or a pneumothorax your level 5 chart could be coded as a level 3, since the final diganosis does not seem that complex.  In order to prevent this document:

  • Your differential diagnosis and ideally why you were concerned about them
  • Instead of just checking a box stating that you reviewed old records take 5 seconds to summarize their last visit.  (i.e.: Admitted in May for CHF exacarebation, EF 50% by Echo, discharge on lasix).  This helps the coders prove that you looked at the chart and gives you 2 points for medical decision making.
  • Document the response or initial lack of response to therapy. (i.e.: Asthmatics might get discharged home and still qualify for critical care time or a level 5 chart if you document how they initially responded to nebulizers and it was the magnesium that finally broke the cycle.)

I realize that when you are busy this might be the last thing on your mind, but the difference between a level III chart and a level V chart is about $100, and the only additional work is the 3 minutes it would take to document what you did for the patient.

More to come...

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Category: Misc

Title: Radiation Risk

Posted: 9/7/2009 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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This week's monday pearl is from our very own Azher Merchant....who recently gave an excellent talk on the risks of radiation.

Be very afraid....

Radiation Risk:
Risk is based on acute exposure and is extrapolated largely from atomic bomb survivors.
Effective radiation dose = Sievert (Sv)

Lifetime Attributable Risk of Cancer 1:1000 at 10mSv
Lifetime Attributable Risk of Cancer Mortality 1:2000 at 10mSv
Risk estimates follow a linear rate of change such that:
Lifetime Attributable Risk of Cancer in Adults = Radiation Dose (mSv) x 0.0001
Risk is Cumulative

Lifetime Attributable Risk of Cancer is greater than for adults and is age-dependent
Lifetime Attributable Risk of Cancer Mortality 1:1000 at 10mSv

Common Effective Dose Estimates (mSv)

Background radiation                     3.5/year (chronic exposure)
CXR                                             0.1
    Head, Face                               2
    Neck, Cervical Spine                 2
    Chest, Thoracic Spine                8
    Abdomen                                7.5
    Pelvis                                     7.5
    Abdomen/Pelvis, Lumbar Spine 15
    Extremity                               0.5

Note that it doesn't take very much radiation to reach the 10 mSv level!

Bottom line: CT if you need to, but carefully consider whether it is worth it or not

One last pearl, carefully consider whether or not you want that d-dimer and don't order one unless you are prepared to order a CT scan.

Category: Misc

Title: Bradycardia

Keywords: Bradycardia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/13/2009 by Rob Rogers, MD
Click here to contact Rob Rogers, MD

Great case of bradycardia today in the ED-requiring transvenous pacemaker....cause?? K 7.6

Some bradycardia pearls:

  • The dose of atropine is 0.5 mg IV. Can be repeated.
  • Heart transplant patients will not respond to atropine as the transplant is denervated. Go right to pacing.
  • Consider glucagon if suspected beta blocker toxicity....and be prepared...most patients vomit!
  • DON"T FORGET THE K! A frequent cause of weird and insuspected bradycardia. I have had at least 3 cases of bradycardia (two requiring TV pacemaker insertion in the ED) due to hyperK in the last 3-4 weeks.
  • Capture of the ventricle occurs when the complexes on the monitor become wide (assuming they weren't already wide)
  • Search for the cause (MI, tox, metabolic, etc.)

Category: Misc

Title: elderly patients and dehydration

Keywords: geriatrics, elderly, pharmacology (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/1/2009 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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With few exceptions, always assume that elderly patients presenting to the ED with an acute illness are very dehydrated. Here are a few reasons why the elderly patient, even on a normal day, may be mildly dehydrated:
1. The elderly have been shown to have decreased total body water.
2. The elderly have a decreased thirst response.
3. The elderly have a decreased renal vasopressin response.

Given these issues, when an elderly patient develops a systemic illness (especially pulmonary process), they lose even more fluid via insensible losses. By the time they arrive in the ED, unless they are presenting because of overt pulmonary edema, they almost always will benefit from generous IV fluid administration.


Category: Misc

Title: Diagnostic Errors in the Emergency Department

Keywords: Errors (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/14/2009 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Diagnostic Errors in the Emergency Department

Believe it or not, there is actually a field of medicine that is devoted to examining how physicians think in clinical practice, i.e. how we make diagnostic decisions. Much of the work on this has been done by Pat Croskerry. This is extremely important for emergency physicians because we frequently have to make split second medical decisions with little to no information.

Why is this so important? If we can understand where errors are made, we can actually improve our own diagnostic skills and reduce our errors rates.


Some key pitfalls that we all fall victim to:

  • Bias-this refers to the chart that says under past medical history "fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, bipolar, chronic constipation." This type of chart has set us up to potentially miss a diagnosis because our thought processes shut down before we have even started. Ever miss a diagnosis or almost make a mistake because of your feelings about a patient (sometimes BEFORE seeing them)? This is bias. Being aware of this dangerous pitfall in practice is the first step in preventing bias-related mistakes.
  • Premature closure of the differential diagnosis-Now, we do this a lot in medicine. Some diagnosis falls in our lap (patient gives it to us, or a consultant tells us that is what it is) and we fail to r/o other things on our list. Key mistake we make is related to not considering other entities on the differential diagnosis. Take home point: Don't narrow the differential diagnosis until it is time to do so.

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Category: Misc

Title: G6PD Deficiency

Keywords: G6PD, Deficiency (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/11/2009 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
Click here to contact Michael Bond, MD

Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency

  • G6PD Deficiency is a genetic disorder which can cause hemolytic anemia when people with the disorder come into contact with drugs, food and other substances which cause oxidative stress.
  • It is the most common genetic enzyme deficiency.
  • G6PD is an inherited disorder with over 400 different known variants.
  • Oxidative stress can cause the premature distruction of RBC's due to the lack of the enzyme reduced glutathione which G6PD helps produce.
  • Drugs that are at high risk for causing hemolytic anemia in those with G6PD deficiency are:
    • NSAIDS (Asprin, Tylenol, Ibuprophen)
    • Quinolones
    • Sulfa drugs
    • Drugs metabolized known to cause blood or liver related problems or hemolysis
    • Primaquine
    • Nitrofurantoin
    • Glyburide
    • Dapsone

Also make sure that you are not G6PD deficiency if you are eating with Hannibal Lecter as Fava beans and other legumes can also cause an episode of hemolysis.

A good reference for G6PD deficiency is

Category: Misc

Title: The Pearls and Pitfalls of Hyphema

Keywords: Hyphema IOP Ophthalmology (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/11/2009 by Ben Lawner, DO (Updated: 12/10/2022)
Click here to contact Ben Lawner, DO

Hyphema is an urgent ophthalmologic condition. Due to the high risk of rebleeding and increased intra-ocular pressure, strict follow up with an ophthalmologist is warranted. SELECTED low grade hyphemas in reliable patients may be managed on an outpatient basis. Some pointers that may be helpful for the EM inservice exam: 

  • Measurement of intra-ocular pressure (IOP)  is crucial to proper treatment and prognosis.
  • Many drugs are available to lower IOP, these are generally used in association with opthalmologic consultation
    ->acetazolamide (has potential to "sickle" RBC's)
    ->aminocaproic acid
    ->B blockers
  • Hyphema > 5 days are associated with high incidence of synechiae formation
  • Avoid NSAIDs/ ASA
  • Eye patching,  HOB (head of bed) elevation recommended
  • Corneal bloodstaining indicates a poor prognosis
  • Incidence of rebleeding estimated at 30-40%
  • Graded from 0-IV. Grade IV hyphemas cover the entire anteror chamber; often called, "8 ball" or "blackball" hyphema. Grade 0=only visible on slit lamp.
  • Trauma is most common etiology
  • Low IOP and trauma? ---> Rule out globe rupture! 

General indications for "very urgent" ophthalmologic consultation:

  • Severely impaired visual acuity=greater rebleeding risk
  • Patient with known SCD or sickle cell trait
  • Visible blood staining of cornea
  • High grade, covering > 1/3 of anterior chamber
  • Delayed presentation (risk of synechiae / vision loss due to IOP) 


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Category: Misc

Title: Pitfalls in ED Teaching

Keywords: ED Teaching (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/10/2009 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Pitfalls in ED Teaching

One of the best ways to improve as a teacher is to understand what mistakes expert educators have made in the past.

The following is a short list of pitfalls offered from some of the great teachers in our specialty:

  • Trying to teach for too long: "Teaching less is more"-that is to say, more will be remembered if the teaching session is brief.
  • Trying to teach too much: Trying to Stick to one main point, the "Educational Hit and Run," and move on
  • Failure to be enthusiastic when you teach: You must have some enthusiasm when you teach. Students/Residents won't learn as much or be as enthusiastic about learning without your enthusiasm!

Category: Misc

Title: Feedback as a Teaching Tool

Keywords: Feedback, Teaching (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/26/2009 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Feedback as a Teaching Tool

Why do we, in general, stink at giving feedback?

  • We were never taught how to do it
  • We fear we will hurt someone's feelings
  • It's painful to give feedback

Consider a few quick pearls that will increase your success at giving valuable feedback:

  • Realize that learners (students/residents) crave feedback....proven in multiple studies
  • Feedback IS a powerful teaching tool and isn't just a way of evaluating someone.
  • Avoid at all cost, the phrase,"good job." Be specific about what you mean
  • Praise in public, perfect in private
  • Avoid the "complain syndrome" and don't fall victim to it. This refers to the phenomenon in which we complain about a behavior or trait and NEVER actuall tell the person. We have all done it. Set yourself apart from others by giving the learner the needed feedback.
  • Learners won't improve without feedback. Just like the Nike commercial says,"Just do it!"

Category: Misc

Title: Frostbite

Keywords: Frostbite, treatment (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/24/2009 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
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Now that we are in the cold winter months, we are more likely to see patient with frostbite and hypothermia.  Here are some tips for treating frostbite.

  • Rapidly rewarm the affected body part.  Never attempt rewarming if there is risk of refreezing.
  • An appropriate warming technique tub of water at 40-42°C. Higher temperatures should be avoided secondary to the risk of burns. If a tub is not available, use warm wet packs at the same temperature.
  • It can take up to 40 minutes for the affected area to thaw.  Thawing is complete when the distal areas flush.
  • The only indication for early surgical intervention is debridement of blisters, necrotic tissue or fasciotomy if there is  compartment syndrome.
  • It often takes 1-3 months for frostbitten tissue to be declared viable. The affected area generally heals or shrivels and dries up without surgery. Amputation should be delayed as as long as possible. Early surgical consultation for amputation is rarely needed.

Adapted from Frostbite: Treatment and Medication by C. Crawfor Mechem, MD, MS, FACEP as posted on

Category: Misc

Title: EMS Pearls: Field Triage of Injured Patients and the MMWR

Keywords: EMS, trauma, injury, ISS, triage (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/22/2009 by Ben Lawner, DO (Updated: 12/10/2022)
Click here to contact Ben Lawner, DO


For the first time since its publication, the centers for disease control has dedicated an entire issue of their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report to an emergency medical services topic. Vol 55 RR-1 reviews the, "Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients." The report represents a consensus opinion of national experts in EMS, EM, and trauma care. It outlines which patients may be best served via transport to a trauma center.


  • GCS < 14, SBP < 90 mm Hg, RR < 10 or > 29 per minute (or less than 20 for infants) 
  • Penetrating wounds to neck, torso, head
  • Flail chest, two or more proximal long bone fractures
  • Proximal extremity amputation
  • Paralysis
  • Open or depressed skull fracture
  • Older patients on anticoagulation

From the MMWR: "The National Study on the Costs and Outcomes of Trauma identified a 25% reduction in mortality for severely injured patients who received care at a Level I trauma facility." 


The remainder of the report details the triage decision making process, explains trauma center capabilities, and provides an interesting and detailed review of trauma transport criteria. Link to the current issue is attached.




Category: Misc

Title: Teaching in the Emergency Department

Keywords: Teaching, Emergency Department (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/20/2009 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/10/2022)
Click here to contact Rob Rogers, MD

Teaching in the Emergency Department

Effective ways to teach in the ED:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend teaching (more teaching does not = more learning)....Take Home Point: teach a quick pearl about a case and move on. Dont belabor the point and keep teaching for 5-10 minutes. You will loose the learner.
  • Make teaching points applicable to the patient. Theoretical stuff is fine but no one cares about the Krebs cycle or ATP.
  • Teach "on the fly" (teach as good teaching moments come up on each case). "Board talks" are nice but are often times not practical in a busy ED.
  • Above all, be enthusiastic...without this all teaching will be ineffective

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