SAEM Clinical Images Series: Incidental Finding on Bedside Echo


A 48-year-old female with a past medical history of opioid use disorder on suboxone presents with abdominal pain for one day. The patient developed sharp diffuse upper abdominal pain the evening prior to arrival that resolved. The pain recurred again today and was associated with bilious emesis. The patient notes persistent upper abdominal pain with paroxysmal exacerbation. She has a history of a hysterectomy, but no other abdominal surgeries. No history of gallstone pathology.

Vitals: HR 38; BP 120/63; RR 14; SpO2 100%

HEENT: No jugular venous distention, no scleral icterus.

CV: Normal S1, S2, regular rhythm.

Respiratory: Clear breath sounds bilaterally.

Abdominal: Mild tenderness to palpation in the epigastrium, without rebound or guarding.

Extremities: Warm and well perfused, no edema.

White blood cell (WBC) count: 11

Alk phos: 123

Total Bilirubin: 0.5

Lipase: 24

Troponin: 0

Lactate: 1

An echo was performed for bradycardia and a brief episode of hypoxia in the emergency department. A large, tethered mass is seen likely originating from the left atrium. This finding is most consistent with an atrial myxoma, though it can also represent a clot. The patient was ultimately diagnosed with gallstone ileus and an atrial myxoma.

Take-Home Points

  • Myxomas are the most common type of cardiac mass. They occur more commonly in females, arising between the fourth and sixth decade of life. They are most commonly located in the left atrium.
  • Patients can experience obstructive and thromboembolic symptoms. Distal embolic events can cause neurologic deficit, visceral ischemia, STEMI, and limb ischemia amongst other critical presentatations.
  • Bernatchez, J., Gaudreault, V., Vincent, G., & Rheaume, P. (2018). Left atrial myxoma presenting as an embolic shower: a case report and review of literature. Annals of vascular surgery, 53, 266-e13.
  • Nguyen T, Vaidya Y. Atrial Myxoma. 2022 Jul 4. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 32310500.

11 Tips to Improve Epistaxis Management in the Emergency Department

epistaxis 11 tips

Managing epistaxis is often challenging, time-consuming, and takes practice. Even under the best circumstances, epistaxis often results in return visits for rebleeding and poor outcomes. Rarely should you do “nothing” for adults who present to the ED with or following epistaxis. If it produced enough blood to seek care (even without hemodynamic compromise), epistaxis frequently recurs even if currently resolved. This is a less true in pediatric patients. A careful and comprehensive evaluation is essential in both populations, whether epistaxis is ongoing.

The following 11 pearls with a bonus tip should help you avoid common pitfalls, improve outcomes, and increase both patient and physician satisfaction:

  1. Wear proper protection during the procedure, including a face shield and gown. Nasal manipulation often causes patients to cough or sneeze, resulting in blood spray.
  2. Prepare your equipment in advance. Work with your nurses or techs to develop a policy where it is placed at the bedside when the patient is roomed. A bright, focused light is essential, ideally as a headlamp so both hands are free. This way, no assistant is needed. Cordless headlamps are easier to use but should be charged after each use.
  3. Although an elevated blood pressure or hypertension can worsen epistaxis, acute treatment is generally not required. Help your patient relax by establishing a calm presence, demonstrating confidence, and explaining your approach in advance. Done well, these actions are often sufficient to reduce their blood pressure.
  4. Have your patient slowly but firmly blow their nose to remove any clots that have formed, which not only will reduce or prevent medications from absorbing but will also interfere with visualization. After this, have your patient hold firm pressure with a clip or clamp for at least 15 minutes while you gather your supplies. If available, spray a vasoconstrictor such as oxymetazoline into the affected nostril(s) prior to holding firm pressure.
  5. Tight packing of your selected medications and your preferred method of their administration (e.g., cotton balls, pledgets, swabs) is crucial, as the vasoconstrictor/anesthetic won’t be well absorbed without direct contact and pressure. Tight packing also helps tamponade any bleeding. It may be necessary to pack both nasal cavities to achieve adequate tamponade because the septum is mobile.
  6. Avoid touching the nasal septum when using the nasal speculum. This is likely the area of bleeding and can be sensitive. Carefully insert the tip along the inner edge of the ala, open the speculum, then pull out with gentle traction to provide optimal visualization with your high-intensity light.
  7. If using silver nitrate to cauterize a friable area or visible vessel, ensure the field is dry and the site is anesthetized. Chemical burns are painful, and this area is sensitive. Using light pressure with a gentle rolling motion, cauterize an area slightly wider than the area of bleeding, limiting the number of repeat cautery attempts.
  8. If using commercial nasal packing that is too large (they come in several sizes, although some EDs stock only the largest sizes), shorten and trim the tip at an angle. Apply a topical antibiotic ointment to the nasal tampon to aid with insertion; this serves both as an antibiotic and lubricant. In some situations, using a hemostatic agent with the nasal tampon or in the nasal cavity may prove helpful. Follow the contour and direction of the nasal passage to ease insertion and minimize pain. Some patients poorly tolerate the placement of nasal packing and/or the packing itself.
  9. Add 1-3 ccs of water or saline using a syringe (no needle) to wet the packing following insertion. This allows the packing to expand and soften. Be prepared for a small amount of leaking, coughing, or spitting. If using an inflatable device for packing, be prepared to inflate the balloon to the optimal size with air or appropriate fluid (depending on the device).
  10. Do not immediately discharge a patient after successful epistaxis management. Observe your patient for a post-procedure recheck to ensure the bleeding remains well-controlled, your patient is tolerating the packing or balloon, and the vital signs are stable. This can be 15–30 minutes (or longer) depending on the amount of blood loss, the findings, the procedure, and your patient’s comorbidities.
  11. Know how and when to call for help. Call for help early in situations such as hemodynamic compromise due to blood loss, hypoxia or acute cardiopulmonary distress, post-surgical epistaxis, bleeding tumors (especially those that have been irradiated), patients with underlying bleeding disorders, an inability to control the bleeding, or other circumstances that make poor outcomes more likely.

Charting Bonus Tips: You can complete your patient’s discharge paperwork while waiting for the pre-procedure topical anesthetic/vasoconstrictor to take effect. During the post-procedure observation period, complete your chart and document your findings, the procedure, whether the patient tolerated the procedure, and any complications while observing your patient and awaiting the final set of vital signs before discharge.

Additional recommended reading

  • Gottlieb M, Long B. Managing Epistaxis. Ann Emerg Med. 2023;81(2):234-240. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2022.07.002. PMID 36117013

Updated March 23, 2023

By |2023-03-23T23:41:34-07:00Mar 3, 2023|ENT|

ALiEM AIR Series | Orthopedics Lower Extremity Module

AIR Orthopedics Lower Extremity badge module


Welcome to the AIR Orthopedics Lower Extremity Module! After carefully reviewing all relevant posts in the past 12 months from the top 50 sites of the Social Media Index, the ALiEM AIR Team is proud to present the highest quality online content related to related to neurologic emergencies in the Emergency Department. 4 blog posts met our standard of online excellence and were approved for residency training by the AIR Series Board. More specifically, we identified 1 AIR and 3 Honorable Mentions. We recommend programs give 2 hours of III credit for this module.

AIR Stamp of Approval and Honorable Mentions

In an effort to truly emphasize the highest quality posts, we have 2 subsets of recommended resources. The AIR stamp of approval is awarded only to posts scoring above a strict scoring cut-off of ≥30 points (out of 35 total), based on our scoring instrument. The other subset is for “Honorable Mention” posts. These posts have been flagged by and agreed upon by AIR Board members as worthwhile, accurate, unbiased, and appropriately referenced despite an average score.

Take the AIR Orthopedics Lower Extremity Module at ALiEMU

Interested in taking the AIR quiz for fun or asynchronous (Individualized Interactive Instruction) credit? Please go to the above link. You will need to create a free, 1-time login account.

Highlighted Quality Posts: Orthopedic Lower Extremity Emergencies

PedEM MorselsLisfranc Injuries in Pediatric PatientsChristyn Magill, MD3/18/22AIR
Rebel EMCompartment SyndromeAnand Swaminathan, MD5/4/22HM
EM CasesEmergency Orthopedics Differential: SCARED OF Mnemonic – When X-rays LieArun Sayal, MD and Yatin Chadha, MD10/25/22HM
PedEM MorselsTibial Shaft Fractures in ChildrenSean Fox, MD5/6/22HM

(AIR = Approved Instructional Resource; HM = Honorable Mention)


If you have any questions or comments on the AIR series, or this AIR module, please contact us! More in-depth information regarding the Social Media Index.

Thank you to the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) and the Council of EM Residency Directors (CORD) for jointly sponsoring the AIR Series! We are thrilled to partner with both on shaping the future of medical education.

SAEM Clinical Images Series: A Rare Cause of Post-traumatic Neck Pain

neck pain

A 15-year-old male presents to the pediatric Emergency Department (ED) for evaluation of neck pain for three weeks. The patient is vague as to the development of his symptoms, but his mother reveals patient was assaulted by peers three weeks ago and has had progressively worsening neck pain and stiffness. The patient states symptoms have gotten to the point where he is unable to turn his head but denies fevers, chills, nausea, vomiting, focal weakness, or sensory changes.

Vitals: Temp: 99.4°F; HR 80; RR 18; SpO2 98% on room air

Constitutional: No distress, sitting rigidly in bed.

Neck: Cervical midline tenderness noted with rigid neck and severe tenderness with manipulation, no swelling, erythema, or masses noted.

HEENT: No pharyngeal injection, no visible masses in the oropharynx, no trismus.

CV: Regular rate and rhythm, no murmurs, rubs, or gallops. Good peripheral perfusion.

Abdomen: Soft, non-distended and non-tender.

Neuro: 5/5 motor function to the bilateral upper and lower extremities, normal sensory examination, cranial nerves intact. Negative Kernig’s sign.

White blood cell (WBC) count: 9.5

Platelets: 639

Glucose: 105

CRP: 128

ESR: 100

CSF: Color- Clear; Nucleated Cells- 1; Protein- 25; Glucose- 6

This patient was found to have septic arthritis of the atlantooccipital (AO) joint, noted on the CT shown above, with joint space narrowing and erosion (red arrow) of the right AO joint with associated soft tissue swelling and effusion. Seen on the MRI is further confirmation of the findings suggested on CT of septic arthritis, with additional noting of attenuation of the prevertebral space of C2/C3 suggestive of phlegmon, bilateral AO joint arthritis, and involvement of the atlantoaxial joint, all of which can be seen on the above sagittal cut of the MRI, with the most notable being the pre-vertebral phlegmon (red arrow).

Septic arthritis of the facet joints is a rarity, particularly in pediatrics and in the cervical spine; case reports largely describe a lumbar location in elderly adults with predisposing comorbidities (intravenous drug use, diabetes, immunosuppression) for spontaneous infection. There are no published case reports of traumatic, pediatric AO joint septic arthritis. This patient developed septic arthritis following trauma. As with peripheral septic arthritis, the most common cause is hematogenous spread, and even non-penetrating trauma can predispose a joint to infection as likely occurred in this case. Septic arthritis of the facet joints presents similarly to spondylodiscitis, generally with fever, neck or back pain, and elevated inflammatory markers such as CRP/ESR. If left untreated, it can be a dangerous and refractory cause of sepsis that leads to deadly complications such as concomitant epidural access formation. Oftentimes patients are initially misdiagnosed and re-present multiple times as the preferred image modality for diagnosis is MRI which is not always readily available or ordered. In general, treatment generally includes weeks-long courses of intravenous (IV) antibiotics, though this patient was discharged on oral antibiotics after significant symptomatic improvement on IV therapy after four days.

Take-Home Points

  • Septic arthritis of the cervical facet joints, namely the AO joint, is a rare cause of neck pain in patients with fever and elevated inflammatory markers, and can present after trauma. Generally, it is hematogenously spread and associated with comorbidities such as diabetes, intravenous drug use, and immunosuppression, it should be considered in patients with refractory symptoms or in which there is strong suspicion as it can have dangerous complications.
  • The preferred imaging modality for diagnosis is MRI, though CT can be useful in making the diagnosis radiographically. Treatment generally consists of weeks of IV antibiotics.

  • Sethi S, Vithayathil MK. Cervical facet joint septic arthritis: a real pain in the neck. BMJ Case Rep. 2017 Aug 3;2017:bcr2016218510. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2016-218510. PMID: 28775081; PMCID: PMC5612571.
  • Narváez J, Nolla JM, Narváez JA, Martinez-Carnicero L, De Lama E, Gómez-Vaquero C, Murillo O, Valverde J, Ariza J. Spontaneous pyogenic facet joint infection. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Apr;35(5):272-83. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2005.09.003. PMID: 16616150.

SAEM Clinical Images Series: Hey Doc, Can You Come Look at This Urine?


A 4-year-old male with no significant past medical history presents as a transfer from an outside hospital for suspected inhalation burn secondary to a house fire. The patient was home with his father and sibling when the apartment caught fire from a suspected flame in the kitchen. The patient was evacuated from the building by fire rescue after an unknown period of time. He was intubated at the outside hospital due to concern for inhalation injury. It is unknown if the patient sustained any trauma prior to extraction.

Vitals: T 98.1°F; BP 120/64; P 126; RR 29; O2 Sat 100% on vent

General: Intubated and sedated.

HENT: Singed hair and soot noted to nares, soot in mouth and secretions.

Cardiovascular: Regular rate and rhythm.

Lungs: CTABL, no wheezing or stridor.

GU: Normal appearing genitalia, no blood at meatus or from rectum, dark red urine noted in foley bag.

Skin: 0% TBSA burns, no obvious signs of trauma.


ABG at outside hospital: pH 7.0, carboxyhemoglobin 10, methemoglobin 3, lactate 3.7

Repeat ABG after transfer: pH 7.22, carboxyhemoglobin 1.7, methemoglobin 3.7, lactate 2.1

Hydroxocobalamin should be given in any case of suspected cyanide toxicity. House fires are the most common cause of cyanide toxicity in industrialized nations. Cyanide toxicity can also occur due to occupational exposures, medications, foods, or intentional ingestion. Cyanide inhibits the electron transport chain thus blocking aerobic metabolism, leading to hypoxia. Patients can present with altered mental status, hemodynamic instability, and dysrhythmias. Labs will be significant for lactic acidosis. Hydroxocobalamin should be given as soon as cyanide toxicity is suspected. Hydroxocobalamin works by chelating cyanide and forming cyanocobalamin which is renally excreted. Hydroxocobalamin is relatively safe and non-toxic but can cause transient hypertension. It also can cause a reddish discoloration of the urine, skin, and mucous membranes that can last up to several days. This is not harmful to the patient but can cause interference in urinalysis results.

Take-Home Points

  • Hydroxocobalamin is the antidote for cyanide toxicity and should be given as soon as possible in suspected cases.
  • Hydroxocobalamin binds cyanide to form cyanocobalamin, which is excreted in the urine.
  • Hydroxocobalamin is relatively safe but can cause transient hypertension and a red urine discoloration that can interfere with urinalysis results.

  • Cescon DW, Juurlink DN. Discoloration of skin and urine after treatment with hydroxocobalamin for cyanide poisoning. CMAJ. 2009 Jan 20;180(2):251. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.080727. PMID: 19153403; PMCID: PMC2621289.
  • Wong SL, Pudek M, Li D. Wine-Colored Plasma and Urine from Hydroxocobalamin Treatment. J Gen Intern Med. 2017 Feb;32(2):225-226. doi: 10.1007/s11606-016-3782-3. Epub 2016 Jun 23. PMID: 27338592; PMCID: PMC5264665.
  • Desai, S. & Su, Mark K. (2021). Cyanide Poisoning. In: UpToDate, Post TW (Ed), UpToDate,Waltham, MA. (Accessed on January 04, 2022.)
  • Lexicomp. (n.d.). Hydroxocobalamin (vitamin B12a supplement and cyanide antidote): Druginformation. UpToDate. Retrieved January 8, 2022,from

By |2023-02-11T20:46:19-08:00Feb 13, 2023|SAEM Clinical Images, Tox & Medications|
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