Clinical Case 117: Cancer Fishin’

OK – this case is for all the GPs and Internal Medicine types out there.  This is a relatively common scenario…  how do you play it?

Here’s the case.

Bruce is a 53 y.o. accountant.  He is a little overweight at 89 kg (BMI 31).  He is otherwise relatively well, he cycles to the cafe each morning in lycra and drinks a cappuccino in his helmet… why do they do that?

He has hypertension which is controlled by ramipril 5 mg daily.  No other meds or relevant medical history.  He is interested in his health and even has annual “Mens’ Health checks”.  He was in last month for one – which was unremarkable other than a borderline BP and his prostate screen (post full consent and shared decision-making) revealed a normal DRE and PSA level.

Today he has come to see you with a discharge letter from the local hospital.  He was admitted for work-up of “unilateral leg swelling” which occurred spontaneously last Friday.

The letter reads:

Dear Dr Leeuwenburg,

Thanks for following up Bruce who had an unprovoked DVT diagnosed on Doppler.  US showed a 5 cm proximal DVT at the Femoral-saphenous junction (L) leg.

He also had a series of tests: FBP, UECr, LFTs, Ca, Mg, PO4, CRP, TFTs, a prothrombotic screen was unhelpful and serum rhubarb – these were all normal.  WE did a CXR to be sure and this was also reported as normal.  

Bruce was commenced on enoxaparin until his warfarin was therapeutic.  He’s on 8 mg nocte with an INR of 2.3 today .  Please chase his subsequent INRs

Oh – and – please screen for occult malignancy as we have not found anything yet.

Yours truly….

So Bruce is sitting in front of you looking a bit worried.  He says that he feels fine, and the leg swelling is improving.  He was a bit spooked when the “young-looking” hospital doctor told him that DVTs “like this” are usually due to some underlying problem “like cancer”.  He really wants to know what to do next.  Does he have cancer?

OK – so here are my questions to you:

Q1:  What is the chances that Bruce has an occult malignancy?

Q2:  what screening tests, inquiries, imaging etc would you recommend / order for Bruce?

Specifically will you get a CT of the torso?

Q3:  Does it really matter if he has an asymptomatic cancer? Will it reveal itself in time anyway?

Let me know your thoughts…

But in case you were wondering.  Here is the link to the recently published SOME trial out of Canadia in the NEJM in June 2015

They looked at a limited vs. “limited + CT ado-pelvis” strategy and found not much difference.  Both groups had about a 1% cancer rate at work up and had a similar “diagnosis rate” of cancer in the following year.  So the CT didn’t help reduce the time lag to diagnosis much.

However, there is of course a risk of finding incidentalomas and the harms associated with those and their further IX or Rx…

So for me it si back to simple thorough Hx, Exam, do the things you would normally do for a 50 yo bloke and watch him.  Really a great case for Shared decision-making here now that we have some rough numbers that we can present to the patient as risk ?

Thoughts
Casey

Clinical Case 115: Pneumothorax puzzle

This case was interesting for a number of reasons.  It starts with a 50 year old lady whom has been assaulted.  She says she was kicked in the head and chest.  In ED she is looking sore but stable – and it was felt that she had enough mechanism to warrant a CT of her head and neck.  On the neck CT it was noted that she had some surgical emphysema on the lower slices – so she stayed in the tube for a chest scan too!  Here it is:

Pneumothorax = Tense CT!

 

Now – I know what you are all thinking…  that is a CT image that should never had been captured!  We have all heard the addage that you should always pick a tension clinically and never need to image it… but…  the honest truth is that we just are not that good at picking pneumothorax clinically.  As you know I am an ultraosund tragic – and I believe we can certainly pick em with a quick chest probe.  However, relying on clinical exam is just not, well, reliable.

In recent years one error that I have seen creeping into my practice is the tendency to “fast-track” trauma patients to imaging where appropriate without completing a fully thorough secondary survey.  There are a lot of reasons (? excuses) for this:

– trying to get the imaging done in office hours,

– trying to get patients out of collars ASAP,

– relying on second-hand info via handover which may be innaccurate….

– search satificing. Stopping at one major injury!

So my “lesson learned” here is to be systematic and make sure that you are imaging everything that needs imaging and that you have excluded the big “killers” before settling for a CT.

OK – back to the case.

A chest tube was placed and the pneumothorax decompressed.  Post ICC films showed a well expanded lung.  Our patient was admitted to the ward.  Lets jump to the next day…..

Our patient starts to deteriorate.  She is becoming more hypoxic with tachypnoea.  What is going on?

Well there is a few possibilities.  The chief concern was that the tube was occluded / dislodged resulting in reaccumulation of the Ptx.  So another CXR was performed…

Take a few minutes to look at this CXR.  It was reported by the Radiologist as “recurrence of pneumothorax on the right, with overlying subcutaneous emphysema mimicking lung markings.”

There is no recurrence of the pneumothorax. Clinically: the ICC is “swinging” but not “bubbling” – so the tube is patent and CXR shows it is still intrapleural. There is of course considerable mediastinal shift – which is due to the loss of volume on the left side which is collapsed.

Of course – Ultrasound will be useful. The left side is going to be tricky as there is a heap of SubQ emphysema – so the pleura will be hard to visualise. However, if you can find a gap you can see sliding, great. Really the utility of US is to define the collapse on the left side – consolidation, is there an effusion?

So here is where it gets easy – back to basics. The problem here on ultrasound was consolidation with likely atelectasis. The nurses noted the patient was too sore from rib fractures and had been positioning herself right-side up with some haemoptysis. It was very likely that she had plugged some largish bronchi with blood and debris. So we engaged a trusty expert chest Physio to bang out some mucus and blood. Provided good analgesia and got her up and walking. The next day – here lung was re-expanded and her hypoxia was resolved

OK –  let’s hear your comments.  I you were at #SMACCUS last week then you will have a distinct advantage over the other readers as this case was put up in a session there and discussed.

There are so many potential errors that we can make in even the simplest of cases.  Trauma is a complex scenario with information overload, serious sequelae and time critical decisions to be made. So over the next few months I am hoping got run with a theme of “common errors and their mitigation”.  Hoping to have a few special guests on to help show how we can avoid the pitfalls and do better on the floor.

Casey

Dr Dave Forster: A tough airway made easy

Welcome back!  Apologies for being away for a few weeks.  You may know that a large part of the FOAM community was attacked, hacked and disabled by malignant robots last month.

Thanks to Dr Mike Cadogan and his band of merry men we are now back online along with other awesome sites that fell victim to this pillaging ( KIDocs, St Emlyns, The RAGE podcast, etc).

In case you missed the podcast was still alive during the carnage over at the LITFL bunker… and I managed to record a little chat with my local hero and fellow Broome Doc – Dave Forster.

Dave is a man of many talents, he is a gadget guy = remote controlled airplanes etc.  He is therefore a master of the Atari and fiberoptic bronchoscope!  And many don’t know this – but if you download the free “Introduction to Bedside Ultrasound” textbook and check out the SUSSIT chapter – his is the really, really hairy chest used for still images.  (And yes, he does routinely wear a Bon Jovi T-shirt to work… overdressed for Broome some might say 😉

Dave F

What a man: sono-model and master of the airways.  You can even follow him on Twitter after a few years of arm twisting he is on there @DavidFo00088350

In this podcast he outlines his approach to a really tough, “back to the wall” case where an airway needed to be placed in a really difficult scenario.

Sure there are some great technical pearls in here, but for me it is all about the team and how a confident, communicative leader can turn a shit storm into a sleigh ride.

Have a listen HERE.  Then spend a moment thanking Mike Cadogan and his team for all this stuff that you, our fantastic audience, get for free.  Without folk like Mike we would not have FOAM… and the Medical world would be a bigger, emptier and less safe place.

Casey

PODCAST: Pushing Pressors in the Periphery

The mantra of the Broome Docs site is “bringing great care, out there.”  And today’s topic goes right to the heart of that theme.  It is one of my pet topics – so apologies in advance if the rant is too long or detailed.

This is a discussion about the early management of septic patients.  I live and work in an area where this is a common and deadly problem.  Care is far from the idealised ICU practice.  However in recent times the playing field has been levelled by new data that suggests that maybe a simpler approach can deliver good outcomes.  So this is my attempt to deal with a wicked problem – remote resuscitation of the shocked septic patient.

Although I am talking about how I think we can do it well in remote areas, I imagine some of this discussion is just as relevant in a big city ED.  Specifically this is an attempt to make a case for the early and liberal use of vasopressors [particularly noradrenaline] in patients with septic shock.

There has been a huge amount of evidence published and paradigms shifted in the last 12 months when it comes to the early management of sepsis.  EDGT is out.  What is in?   Well –  solid, careful and timely delivery of the basics of:

  1. resuscitation,
  2. early appropriate antibiotics with
  3. aggressive source identification and control.

It has been famously stated that in the  post-EGDT era: it doesn’t matter what “shit” you give, as long as you “give a shit”.  The substantial improvements in patient outcomes over the last 12 years have come about probably as the result of clinicians being more aware of the urgency of care and being proactive in their management.   We have also likely reduced the rate of iatrogenesis in that time period.

So this discussion focuses on the first part of that triad of early care for the septic patient: RESUSCITATION.  In most small hospitals the resuscitation basically includes IV fluids and after that has failed some sort of vasopressor.  Here in rural Australia there are really only 2 commonly used ‘pressors’ – metaraminol [darling of the bush anaesthetist] and noradrenaline [norepi for my N. American readers!].  Now I know that some will argue that Norad is not just a vasopressor, and that is true.  However, at the doses it is commonly used its main effect is on the venous circulation.  So humour me!

OK – so here we go.  I am going to try and convince you that we ought to be using:

  1. Noradrenaline
  2. through a peripheral cannula (initially)
  3. early in the Resus phase
  4. in a concomitant or synergistic manner with judicious fluids

Now I realise that there are several controversial / new ideas in that list.  So have a listen to the podcast as I try to make a case for using this newish, some may say aggressive, strategy in the early management of septic patients.  I am specifically referring to patients whom are being cared for in low-resource centres – places without 24 hour cover, no Crit Care facility or ICU trained Docs.  That maybe in the middle of the Kimberley – or it could be in your local hospital between the hours of midnight and six AM!

Have a listen.HERE

Casey

REFERENCES:

Dr John Myburgh’s excellent discussion of “FLUIDS: 2015” on the ICN Podcast is here

Dr Paul Marik’s recent dissection of : “the demise of EGDT” [from Acta Anaesthesilogica Scandinavia ]

the NEJMs trilogy of the:

Dr Bai et al Early versus delayed administration of norepinephrine in patients with septic shock.  From Critical Care Oct 2014

Ricard’s RCT of central vs peripheral catheters in ICU

Loubani & Green systematic review of peripheral vs. central vasopressors Journ of Crit Care June 2015.

Weingart: Podcast 107 – Peripheral Vasopressor Infusions and Extravasation

PODCAST: Dr Airell Hodgkinson

Gday and welcome back to the podcast after a short hiatus as I checked out the fish in Fiji…  Ahhh.

Today’s podcast is a conversation I had with my former colleague and mentor Dr Airell Hodgkinson.  Airell is a rural GP Anesthetist based in Albany – the southern end of WA.

He is a real thinker and has similar interests in trying to ensure our rural patients get the best quality care which they deserve.  Airell has recently concluded an audit of the local Albany cohort of “fractured NOF” patients.  He has collected the data to see how this group of high risk patients fare in Albany and compared it to those whom were transferred to a metropolitan hospital for surgery / anaesthesia etc.

The data is quite interesting – but not yet published… so watch this space.

Although it is an audit of older people with NOFs – there is a lot we can learn from this review – particualry when it comes to the decsion-making around transferring rural patients to tertiary care for serious illness.  Although it seems like a good idea on first thought – one has to consider a lot of factors when making these decisions with our patients.  As there are a lot of problems associated with transfer – especially for conditions with a time-critical course and where the rate of bad outcomes can be high.

From the outset – the Broome Docs motto has been: “delivering great care, out there!”  And it is something that I think about a lot – are we doing the best thing by this patient by keeping them in a small rural cetre – or could they get better care in the city?  This is a really tough call – especially when the patient wants to stay in the bush and for you to do “your best”.

In Broome, our capacity to provide great care has increased in recent years for conditions like sepsis, mental health clients, trauma and other medical emergencies.  As such the lines have moved in terms of who we keep or whom we send “south” (or east!)  Most of my practice is shaped by anecdote and receny bias – so it is really nice to see Airell has managed to collect some hard data around a group of patients where there is no good answer often.  This is a dynamic and wicked problem – one where there are many unknowns. BUt now we have a bit of data to have htat important discussion with our patients before deciding on the best place for their care.

OK – onto the podcast!
DOWNLOAD HERE