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2 12, 2011

Paucis Verbis: Acute vestibular syndrome and HINTS exam

2017-08-01T19:18:37+00:00

Dizziness HINTS examWhat is your diagnostic approach to the acutely vertiginous patient?

The bottom-line question is: Is the cause peripheral or central in etiology?

In this great 2011 systematic review article in CMAJ on Acute Vestibular Syndrome (AVS), the authors review how (un)predictive elements of the history and physical exam are. By definition of AVS, symptoms must be continuous for at least 24 hours and have no focal neurologic deficits.

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30 08, 2011

Trick of the Trade: Dix-Hallpike maneuver

2016-11-11T18:52:14+00:00

Hallpike

The Dix-Hallpike maneuver is used to help diagnose benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). 

  • Place the gurney’s head of the bed down flat. 
  • Reposition the patient so that s/he is sitting another 12 inches or so closer towards the head of the flat gurney. 
  • Rotate patient’s head 45 degrees.
  • Help the patient lie down backwards quickly.
  • The patient’s head should be hanging off of the gurney edge in about 20 degrees extension.
  • Observe for rotational nystagmus after a 5-10 second latency period, which confirms BPPV.

I find two things challenging in this maneuver. 

  • The patient often does not like to be moved AT ALL while feeling nauseously vertiginous. This even includes trying to reposition the seated patient closer to the head of the bed. This requires them to look behind them to see what where they are going, which sets off more vertigo.
  • In some of our ED rooms and hallways, the head of the gurney bed is often abutting a wall, a portable monitor, or some equipment. It takes a little fancy shuffling to make room for the Dix-Hallpike maneuver.

Trick of the Trade

Place blankets under the shoulders for the Dix-Hallpike maneuver
 
 

DixHallpikePillow

The key is to maintain about 20-30 degrees of neck extension to align the posterior semicircular canals with the direction of gravity. Placing several blankets under the patients’ shoulders can accomplish this same position without having to scoot the patient close to the gurney edge. I’m sure the patient would appreciate keeping their head movement to a minimum.

 
 
5 08, 2011

Paucis Verbis: Spinal epidural abscess

2017-08-03T00:29:11+00:00

afp20020401p1341-f2One of the most challenging diagnoses to make is that of a spinal epidural abscess (SEA), especially if you work in an Emergency Department which cares for many IV drug users and HIV patients. There’s never before been a published diagnostic guideline or algorithm which helps you with risk-stratification.

In the Journal of Neurosurgical Spine, a diagnostic guideline was prospectively evaluated on a small population (n=31) as compared to historical controls (n=55). They found that an ESR test had a sensitivity of 100% if a patient had at least 1 risk factor for SEA. A CRP test was much less helpful.
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20 04, 2011

Trick of the Trade: Corneal reflex test

2016-11-11T18:58:00+00:00

CornealreflexThe corneal reflex test (blink test) examines the reflex pathway involving cranial nerves V and VII. Classically the provider lightly touches a wisp of cotton on the patient’s cornea. This foreign body sensation should cause the patient to reflexively blink.

This maneuver always makes me a little worried about causing a corneal abrasion, especially if you are examining a very somnolent patient. You are wondering — Is there no blinking because you’re not touching the cornea hard enough? You apply harder pressure but still no blink. You repeat the test and now the patient finally blinks. That’s 3 times you’ve just scraped against the cornea.

What’s an alternative approach?

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21 01, 2011

Paucis Verbis card: Generalized Convulsive Status Epilepticus

2019-01-28T23:06:29+00:00

StatusEpilepticusHow do you manage patients who present in status epilepticus, knowing that “time is CNS function”? The longer patients remain seizing, the greater their morbidity and mortality.

Did you know that one study showed that 48% of their patients who presented in generalized convulsive status epilepticus (GCSE) had subtle persistent GCSE on EEG, despite no clinical evidence of overt seizure activity? That’s scary.

Do you send off a serum tricyclic toxicology screen for all your patients with GCSE? Because of the prevalence of TCA overdoses locally, our Neurology consultants definitely order it. We are picking up a surprising number of positive tricyclic tox screens.

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