• Dix Hallpike Pillow

Trick of the Trade: Dix-Hallpike maneuver variation

By |Categories: ENT, Neurology, Tricks of the Trade|

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 2 things challenging in this maneuver. The patient often does not like to be [...]

  • Poison Oak

Paucis Verbis: Approach to rashes

By |Categories: ALiEM Cards, Dermatology|

Doc, what’s this itchy rash? Answer: Contact dermatitis from poison ivy We see a variety of rashes in the Emergency Department. The first step is to accurately describe the rash. Is this a macule or nodule? Is this a vesicle or bulla? The next step is to quickly “profile” the rash to see if it fits any classic pattern by patient age, rash distribution, or presence of hypotension. And finally, if you are still stumped, use an algorithm based on the rash type. […]

  • Sciatica

Trick of the Trade: Crossed straight leg raise test

By |Categories: Orthopedic, Tricks of the Trade|

A 35 year old man presents with low back pain which radiates down his right leg to the level of the knee. Is this sciatica? Low back pain is one of the most common chief complaints that we see in the Emergency Department. In addition to the examination of the back and distal neurovascular function, we also need to test for evidence of a radiculopathy (compression or inflammation of a nerve root typically from a herniated disk). Because most disk herniations occur at the L4-L5 and L5-S1 level, you should test for irritation of the L4-S1 nerve roots. This is [...]

  • Sinus Tachycardia

Paucis Verbis: An approach to persistent tachycardia

By |Categories: ALiEM Cards, Cardiovascular|

Tachycardia is a common clinical occurrence in the ED. Most of the time the etiology can be discerned through the history and physical exam, but sometimes it cannot. This is problematic especially when we are about to discharge a patient home but his/her heart rate is still 115 beat/min. We can’t send this patient home yet. Do we then have to admit them for work-up of persistent tachycardia? […]

  • Ear Splint

Trick of the Trade: Splinting the ear

By |Categories: ENT, Trauma, Tricks of the Trade|

One of the hardest bandages to apply well is one for auricular hematomas. After drainage, how would you apply a bandage to prevent the re-accumulation of blood in the perichondrial space? Traditionally, one can wedge xeroform gauze or a moistened ribbon (used for I&D’s) in the antihelical fold. Behind the ear, insert several layers of gauze, which have been slit half way to allow for easier molding around the ear. Anterior to the ear, apply several layers of gauze to complete the “ear sandwich”. Finally, secure the sandwich in place with an ACE wrap, which ends up being quite challenging [...]

  • spinal epidural abscess

Paucis Verbis: Spinal epidural abscess

By |Categories: ALiEM Cards, Infectious Disease, Neurology|

One 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 [...]

  • Pulmonary embolism

Paucis Verbis: Fibrinolytics for PE

By |Categories: ALiEM Cards, Cardiovascular, Pulmonary|

When would you give fibrinolytics for a Pulmonary Embolism? This Paucis Verbis card summarizes recommendations found in Circulation’s recently published Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Although it is rare to give fibrinolytics for a pulmonary embolism (PE) in the Emergency Department, it is important to remember when lytics are indicated. […]

Trick of the Trade: Making a beanie hat

By |Categories: Tricks of the Trade|

Scalp lacerations are a common condition in the Emergency Department. Some require no bandage over once the injury is repaired. Because the scalp is so vascular, others require a pressure dressing over the site to minimize hematoma formation. How do you bandage these patients? It is difficult to secure any wrap or square gauze over the site, because the head is round and the hair is slippery. […]