I was recently the author of a PV card for management of Salicylate Toxicity, which had some discrepancy with expert opinion. The point of contention was in regards to measurement of urine pH vs serum pH for alkalinization. In preparing the first version of the card, I began with notes from a recent toxicology rotation, and expanded by examining textbooks and review articles. Although there was mention of serum pH measurement, numerous sources emphasized urine alkalinization as the primary endpoint for the treatment of aspirin toxicity. Therefore I choose to include this on the size-limited PV card.

Despite review by numerous peers and colleagues, not long after publication we were met with concern from prominent toxicologists regarding an oversight in mentioning serum alkalinization. Utilizing the strengths of our blog and social media we were immediately able to initiate a discussion with experts on the topic.

Expert Peer Review Comments

Dr. Lewis Nelson of NYU was able to clarify that by prioritizing serum alkalinization, we will avoid the cerebral toxicity that is the primary etiology of mortality. Serum alkalinization should also facilitate urine alkalinization as well as allow time to arrange for hemodialysis. Dr. Bram Dolcourt from Detroit expanded that serum alkalinization and normokalemia alone do not guarantee an optimal urine pH and suggest measurement of both urine and serum. From Twitter, Dr. David Juurlink from Toronto also recommended measurement of both, stating his forthcoming publication will expand on the topic. Our own ALiEM clinical pharmacist Dr. Bryan Hayes also assisted with expert insight as I was revising the PV card.

My Reflections

As the ALiEM-CORD virtual fellow, I have had the challenging task of collaborating with experts in my field, while still very much in a learner role myself. I was fortunate enough to have been featured on a site that has a robust commenting system and pride in peer review, even if it is post-publication. There is certainly content on the web that may be inaccurate or ‘less-accurate’, and consumers of both FOAM and conventional publications, as always, should remain critical and review multiple sources. There is a broad range in teaching and practice based on region, and when we work together we can identify what is truly best practice. Hopefully this conversation and the forthcoming publication on the topic will translate into changes in practice and in the textbooks in the coming years. Luckily, utilizing the strengths of our medium, we are able to publish these corrections today.

PV Card: Acute Salicylate Toxicity

For those curious, here was the original version 1.

Sam Shaikh, DO

Sam Shaikh, DO

Editor, 60-Second Soapbox series
Assistant Clinical Professor, Rocky Vista University
Clinical Instructor, University of Colorado School of Medicine
2014-15 ALiEM-CORD Social Media and Digital Scholarship Fellow
Sam Shaikh, DO


Emergency Medicine Physician & Electronic Music Producer from Colorado Springs. Tweets are for educational purposes only and are not medical advice #FOAM