Paucis Verbis: Spinal epidural abscess

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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2017-08-03T00:29:11-07:00

Trick of the Trade: Corneal reflex test

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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2016-11-11T18:58:00-07:00

Paucis Verbis card: Generalized Convulsive Status Epilepticus

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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2019-01-28T23:06:29-07:00

Paucis Verbis card: Workup for first-time seizure

StatusEpilepticusHow do you workup adult patients who present with a new-onset seizure and now neurologically back to normal?

There unfortunately is very little recent literature about the best workup approach. In 1994, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) published a Clinical Policy based on expert consensus. The EM Clinics of North America series also just published a review on the topic. The bottom-line is that there are two types of workup approaches.

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2019-01-28T23:00:09-07:00

Paucis Verbis card: Subarachnoid hemorrhage high-risk characteristics

SAHIn Wednesday’s post about the Colorado Compendium, Graham mentioned a new 2010 BMJ article on the high-risk signs suggestive of subarachnoid hemorrhage by the gurus in clinical prediction rules in Canada.

We excessively work-up patients for a subarachnoid hemorrhage with a nonspecific headache and no neurologic deficitis. This is because it’s difficult to predict who is high, medium, and low risk for such a bleed. So we throw a wider net so that we don’t miss such a devastating diagnosis. This usually means a CT and LP for many patients with a headache.

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2019-01-28T23:15:47-07:00