UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Pediatric Laryngoscope Blade Size Selection Using Facial Landmarks

Keywords: Pediatric Laryngoscope blade size, RSI, Airway Management, Intubation (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/31/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 3/5/2024)
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Remember in the heat and pressure of a pediatric intubation (if you don't have your Pediatic Qwic Card handy) you can estimate what size blade to use very quickly and successfully by using facial landmarks!!

  • Distance from the upper incisor teeth to the angle of the jaw seems to be an excellent clinical landmark for laryngoscope blade length selection for pediatric intubations under 8 years of age 
  • Take the blade (excluding the handle insertion block) and place at the upper midline incisor teeth and if the tip is located within 1 cm proximal or distal to the angle of the mandible, oral tracheal intubations are more consistently accomplished on the first attempt!!!     90% on first attempt with correct size blade v. 57% on first attempt if blade too short

And remember to start with a straight blade (Miller, Wisconsin, Guedel, Wis-Hipple etc.) for your patients under 2 years of age because:

  • these blades make controlling the tounge and epiglottis easier than curved blades at this age
  • and they have a smaller flange profile in the oropharynx so visualization of the vocal cords is clearer

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Category: Critical Care

Title: Fluids and Acute Liver Failure

Keywords: jlactated Ringer's solution, dextrose, cerebral edema (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/27/2008 by Mike Winters, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
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Fluids in Acute Liver Failure

  • Acute liver failure is often complicated by intravascular volume depletion - insensible losses, vomiting, poor oral intake
  • Early and adequate fluid resuscitation is mandatory
  • AVOID lactated Ringer's solution - exogenous lactate load is poorly tolerated by lack of hepatic function
  • AVOID dextrose containing water solutions - will lead to hyponatremia and increase the risk of cerebral edema

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Category: Cardiology

Title: "Everybody clear!" before shocks

Keywords: cardioversion, defibrillation (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/26/2008 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Amal Mattu, MD

It is well-accepted that good, rapid compressions are one of the best interventions we can employ in managing patients with cardiac arrest. It is imperative that we minimize interruptions. Unfortunately, delivering shocks to a patient is a frequent cause of interruptions in compressions. It now appears that we may not need to discontinue compressions during shocks.

A recent study indicates that if shocks are delivered using the common self-adhesive pregelled pad electrodes and the person performing compressions is wearing gloves, the rescuers do not sense a shock at all. Compressions, therefore, do NOT have to stop during the cardioversion or defibrillation.

Whether this statement is true regarding handheld manual defibrillators also is uncertain.

Lloyd MS, Heeke B, Walter PF. Hands-on defibrillation: An analysis of electrical current flow through rescuers in direct contact with patients during biphasic external defibrillation. Circulation 2008;117:2510-2514.

Kerber RE. "I'm clear, you're clear, everybody's clear:" a tradition no longer necessary for defibrillation? Circulation 2008;117:2435-2436.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Clavicle Fractures

Keywords: Clavicle, fracture, surgery (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/25/2008 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
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I remember being taught as a medical student that clavicle fractures could be treated conservatively.  A direct quote was "if both ends of the clavicle are in the same room it will heal".

Though conservative treatment with a sling for 6 weeks with early pendulum ROM exercises for the shoulder is appropriate for the vast majority of clavicle fractures surgery should be considered for those that have:

  1. An open fracture
  2. Significant angulation with tenting of the skin
  3. Midshaft fractures that have overlap or displacement greater than 1 cm.
  4. Displaced fractures of the distal clavicle [high rate of non-union]
  5. Surgery can also be beneficial to those that do a lot of lifting or want to return to work as quick as possible.


Category: Pediatrics


Keywords: ALTE, Menningitis, Sepsis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/24/2008 by Don Van Wie, DO (Updated: 3/5/2024)
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ALTE and Infections - when to do full septic workups?

Given some recent cases of newborns with ALTEs at UMMS and Wash Co I thought I'd offer the following Pearls:   

  • Overall the number of children with bacterial meningitis or bacteremia / sepsis as a cause of the ALTE is very low, much less than 1%
  • However there is no data regarding the risk of meningitis in a well-appearing, afebrile infant with an ALTE

That being said THE RISK OF MISSING A SERIOUS LIFE THREATENING INFECTION is much greater than the risk of doing a complete septic workup, administering antibiotics, and admitting an infant with an ALTE.




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Category: Toxicology

Title: Summer is Coming - Toxicity from around the Pool

Keywords: chlorine, pneumonitis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/22/2008 by Fermin Barrueto, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
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Pool Cleaner Toxicity - Chlorine Gas Exposure 

The "shock" treatment that is utilized in pool cleaner is often contained in a large plastic container and is calcium hypochlorite. Chlorine gas accumulates in the small amount of airspace found in the container. If a future patient opens the container either in an enclosed space or within close proximity of the face that allows for large inhalational exposure.

  • Toxicity looks like CHF with hypoxia, rales and acute lung injury on CxR
  • Chlorine gas will bind hydrogen ion in the aveoli forming HCl - hydrochloric acid
  • Nebulized NaHCO3 would theoretically neutralize this acid but has not been found to improve clinical outcome though it has been found to improve symptoms.
  • Supportive care and observation including CxR  4-6 hours after exposure are necessary since the effects of the chlorine gas may be delayed.


Category: Neurology

Title: Respiratory Abnormalities in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Keywords: traumatic brian injury, TBI, respirations, cheyne-stokes, hyperventilation (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/22/2008 by Aisha Liferidge, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Aisha Liferidge, MD

  • Respiratory drive can be affected by injury to certain parts of the brain.  This is often seen in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • In the setting of TBI, recognizing abnormalities in respirations can be helpful in localizing the injury.
  • Cheyne-Stokes respiration, in which breathing is rapid for a period and then absent for a period, is associated with injury to the cerebral hemispheres or diencephalon.
  • Hyperventilation can occur when the brain stem or tegmentum is injured.

Category: Misc

Title: SVC Syndrome...when to suspect

Keywords: superior vena cava, svc syndrome (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/20/2008 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
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Superior Vana Cava Synrome....when to suspect


Two common causes of SVC syndrome include thrombus (secondary to CV catheters) and lung tumors/lymphoma

Consider this diagnosis in patients with a history of cancer and/or who have a central line in place and the complaint of facial swelling. Patients may not look swollen to you.

In addition, make sure to look at their necks and chest wall-presence of asymmetric, prominent veins should prompt consideration for this diagnosis. 

A useful clinical tool is to look at the patient's driver's license (assuming they have one) and compare to their appearance on presentation.

Workup in most cases will involve a CT of the chest.

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Category: Critical Care

Title: COPD and mechanical ventilation

Keywords: bicarbonate, pH, COPD, mechanical ventilation (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/20/2008 by Mike Winters, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Mike Winters, MD

COPD and mechanical ventilation

  • In some studies, the failure rate of non-invasive positive pressure ventilation (CPAP, BiPAP) in acute exacerbations of COPD has been as high as 50%
  • When setting the ventilator in patients with COPD, keep in mind that the majority have chronic ventilatory failure with a chronic compensatory respiratory acidosis
  • Pearl: Look at the serum bicarbonate level obtained from a recent period of stability
  • A recent serum bicarbonate level can provide an indirect indication of the patient's baseline PaCO2 if you have no prior ABGs
  • Rather than target a PaCO2 of 40 mm Hg, manipulate the ventilator to target the patient's baseline serum bicarbonate or a pH of 7.35 - 7.38.

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Category: Orthopedics

Title: Extensor Tendon Injuries

Keywords: Mallet finger, Extensor Injury (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/18/2008 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
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Extensor Tendon Injuries [Mallet Finger]

  • Due to jamming the finger or to use a Pittsburgh term "stoving it".
  • Can result in a swan neck deformity or permanent flexion of the DIP joint.
  • Due to stretching of the extensor tendon,or avulsion of the extensor tendon off the distal phalanx.
  • Approximately 50% will develop a complication.
  • Conservative treatment is splinting the DIP joint in full extension for 5-6 weeks. 
    • The DIP joint must not be flexed for the full treatment period.
    • If the patient does flex their DIP, the 5-6 week time frame needs to completely restart.
  • Due to the high complication rate all of these patients should be referred to a hand specialist early.

Category: Cardiology

Title: The ECG and Rescue PCI

Keywords: electrocardiography, ECG, STEMI, acute myocardial infarction, rescue PCI (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/18/2008 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
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According to the most recent (2007 Updated) ACC/AHA Guidelines for management of STEMI, the ECG is one of the most important tools to assess for successful reperfusion after thrombolytics. The treating physician should assess the ECG at 90 minutes after administration of lytics. Failure of the ST elevation to decrease by at least 50% in magnitude in the lead with the greatest initial amount of ST elevation is an indication of failed thrombolysis...regardless of whether or not the patient has persistent symptoms. In fact, the Guidelines specifically state that signs and symptoms are considered unreliable indicators of successful reperfusion.

Patients with ECG evidence of failed thrombolysis at 90 minutes should be referred for emergent PCI ("rescue PCI").


Category: Pediatrics

Title: Retropharyngeal Abscess

Keywords: Retropharyngeal Abscess, Neck Pain, Torticollis, Fever (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/16/2008 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Sean Fox, MD

Retropharyngeal Abscess

  • Retropharyngeal Abscess is primarily a disease of younger children
  • Origin may be medical or traumatic (ie running with popsicle stick in mouth).
  • Complications:
    • Airway compromise
    • Sepsis
    • Mediastinal extension or invasion into other local structures
  • Presentation:
    • Neck Pain – most common
      • Limitation of neck movement, especially neck extension
      • Torticollis
    • Fever
    • Sore throat
    • Neck mass
    • Respiratory distress, stridor – rarely
  • Consider retropharyngeal abscess in pt with fever and limitation of neck mobility even in the absence of respiratory symptoms.
    • Were you considering Meningitis (fever and neck pain) and the LP results are normal? Think of retropharyngeal abscess.

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 Toxicology Trivia for $1000 - These are in fruits of the "rose" family and in some roots that contain cyanogenic glycosides and other cyanide containing compounds. It would actually take a fair amount of work to ingest enough to reach toxicity:

  • Bitter almonds
  • Apricot kernels
  • Peach pits
  • Plum sees
  • Apple and pear seeds
  • Cassava (actually have to wash the root prior to eating - skin contains the CN)
  • Lima Beans


Category: Neurology

Title: Ophthalmic and Neurologic Findings with Orbital Floor Fractures

Keywords: orbital floor fracture, neuropathy (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/14/2008 by Aisha Liferidge, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Aisha Liferidge, MD

  • Fractures of the orbital floor typically result from direct, blunt trauma with a rounded object to the eye. 
  • When describing associated ophthalmic and/or neurologic injury, to consultants in particular, be aware of appropriate terminology to use in relaying the presence or absence of related physical findings.
  • The following ophthalmic abnormalities are commonly associated with orbitla floor fractures:

              -- Enophthalmos (eye receded into the orbit) may occur when globe is 

                  displaced posteriorly, often with prolapse of tissue into maxillary sinus.

              -- Orbital dystopia (affected eye in a  lower horizontal plane than the other) may

                  occur due to the pulling of entrapped muscle and orbital fat.

  • Remember to check for facial sensation, as decreased sensation along the ipsilateral cheek, upper lip, or upper gingiva suggests injury to the infraorbital nerve.
  • The presence of a teardrop-shaped pupil suggests that the globe ruptured.

Category: Critical Care

Title: PEEP in Acute Lung Injury

Keywords: PEEP, acute lung injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/13/2008 by Mike Winters, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Mike Winters, MD

Acute Lung Injury (ALI) / Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

  • ALI and ARDS are defined as:
    • bilateral pulmonary infiltrates on CXR
    • pulmonary capillary wedge pressure < 18 mm Hg (no heart failure)
    • PaO2 / FiO2 < 300 = ALI
    • PaO2 / FiO2 < 200 = ARDS
  • The current management for patients with ALI or ARDS is low tidal volume ventilation and a conservative fluid management strategy
  • Two recent trials (EXPRESS and LOVS) evaluated different applications of PEEP in patients with ALI/ARDS
  • Both studies evaluated lower levels of PEEP (5-10) vs. higher levels of PEEP titrated to plateau pressure
  • Bottom line: different PEEP strategies did not influence survival, although higher levels did result in improved oxygenation.

Category: Vascular

Title: Management of Ruptured AV Fistula

Keywords: AV Fistula (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/13/2008 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
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Management of Ruptured AV Fistula

This pearl pertains to a case I had 2 weeks ago. A 65 yo male presented with a massively swollen left forearm in the region of his AV fistula. On ultrasound he had a 6 X 6 cm aneurysm. He was seen by vascular and transplant surgery and taken to the OR for repair.

So, the question came up, what would an emergency physician do if this bad boy actually ruptured? Well, obviously we would hold pressure. But what if that didn't work? Well, shouldn't the patient go to the OR? The answer is a resounding yes, but what if there is no surgeon around. There is not much literature on how to handle this devastating vascular catastrophe.

As a rule of thumb, if an AV Fistula ruptures (not leaks) and the patient is exsanguinating in front of you:

  • Strongly consider a tourniquet (don't worry about the arm, they are about to die). Yes, that is right, a tourniquet. Sounds like common sense, but according to the vascular surgeons I have spoken with, too often this isn't done, and the patient ends up dying. If the patient is dying, tie the arm off.
  • Consult a vascular surgeon ASAP


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Category: Cardiology

Title: Brugada syndrome and atrial fibrillation

Keywords: Brugada syndrome, atrial fibrillation (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/11/2008 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Amal Mattu, MD

Brugada syndrome, believed to be responsible for up to 4-5% of all episodes of cardiac arrest, has now been associated with atrial fibrillation as well (atrial fibrillation is the most common atrial dysrhythmia associated with Brugada syndrome). Patients with atrial fibrillation that have a full or incomplete right bundle branch block with ST segment elevation in leads V1-V2 should be referred to an electrophysiologist for evaluation of Brugada syndrome. The best treatment for these patients is still placement of an ICD.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Posterior Interosseous Nerve Compression Syndrome

Keywords: Posterior Interosseous Nerve, Compression, Radial Tunnel (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/11/2008 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Michael Bond, MD

Posterior Interosseous Nerve Compression Syndrome

As eluded to last week Posterior Interosseous Nerve (PIN) Compression Syndrome, a deep branch of the radial nerve, is felt to be radial tunnel syndrome with paralysis.

  • Symptoms depend on whether the PIN is compressed before or after it divides into medial and lateral branches.
    • Before: Results in complete paralysis of the digital extensors, and extensor Capri ulnaris. Wrist will become dorsoradial deviated.
    • After-Medial Branch: Paralysis of extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digiti quinti, and extensor digitorum communis
    • After-Lateral Branch: Paralysis of abductor pollicis longus, extensor pollicis brevis, extensor pollicis longus, and extensor indicis proprius
  • Common causes:
    • Synovitis and Joint Ganglions
    • Nerve compression following fracture repair
    • Idiopathic Compression can occur at these sites
      • Fibrous bands anterior to the radial head
      • Tendinous origin of Extensor Carpri Radialis Brevis
      • Arcade of Froshe –Most common, it is the tendinous proximal border of supinator
      • Distal Edge of Supinator –Least Common
  • Exam:
    • Increased pain with resisted supination of the forearm
    • Supination with Wrist Flexion symptoms will likely be reproduced.
    • Pain with resisted extension of the middle finger
    • Unable to extend thumbs or fingers at MCP joints, but can extend at PIP and DIP joints

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Topical Lidocaine for AOM

Keywords: Acute Otitis Media, Topical Lidocaine, Wait and See, Analagesia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/9/2008 by Sean Fox, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Sean Fox, MD

Topical Lidocaine for Acute Otitis Media

  • Up to 83% of children with have AOM at least once by their 3rd birthday.
  • In 2006, the AAP supported a “wait-and-see” plan for antibiotic prescription
    • Who can you withhold abx on?
      • Older than 6months
      • No severe infections (T>39°C)
      • If yes to both, may hold Abx for 48 hours.
  • This approach does not mean “No treatment.”  Pain management is imperative.
    • Oral Analgesics are recommended in all cases.
    • Topical aqueous 2% licocaine eardrops also provide Rapid Pain Relief
      • Randomized, double-blinded, placebo-control study of topical lidocaine vs. placebo (water) demonstrated decreased pain scores at 10, 20, and 30 minutes after administration.
      • These can also be used safely at home for a few days.

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Category: Toxicology

Title: Sudden Sniffing Death

Posted: 5/8/2008 by Fermin Barrueto, MD (Updated: 3/5/2024)
Click here to contact Fermin Barrueto, MD


  • Adolescents abuse inhalational agents due to lack of access to ETOH and illicit drugs
  • Often halogenated hydrocarbon propellants like computer cleaner and paint stripper
  • Sensitizes the myocardium to catecholamines
  • Child is caught huffing and is frightened causing a catecholamines surge then v-fib arrest
  • This was reported in a 1970 case series and "Sudden Sniffing Death" was coined (1)
  • Actual treatment would be to administer B-Blocker in this instance (theoretical)


Bass. Sudden Sniffing Death. JAMA 1970.