861 e-Letters

  • Pain is a central consideration

    A timely and interesting read if for no other reason colleagues and I were discussing / bemoaning recurrent abdominal pain presentations only last week. Many of the features that act as obstacles were well recognised and omnipresent.

    The solutions are an excellent mixture of skills and I can see much utility, I can also foresee the care pathways being highly personalised in our healthcare institutions (Daniels et al allude to this by describing one the ED consultants with an interest in HIU) and once that person moves job the pathway crumbles.

    To an extent excluding medical emergency (the 1st E in ERROR) does require medicalisation whether it be vitals being taken or the initial bloods including lactate. I can see the purpose and benefit of not repeating unnecessary blood tests and I suspect not doing tests will be a feat more easily achieved with seniority, There is benefit in letting HIUs be seen exclusively by such.

    I was surprised that Daniels and the other authors claim that "pain is not a central consideration in RCEM guidelines...". The college guidelines page (https://www.rcem.ac.uk/RCEM/Quality_Policy/Clinical_Standards_Guidance/R...) lists at east 3 where pain is most certainly the central consideration, or was this in relation to abdominal pain only?


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  • Traffic lights for a storm?

    I enjoyed reading this article, however, the reference to a cytokine storm warrants clarification. An editorial in JAMA Internal Medicine doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.3313 suggested little evidence for such a storm and this has been supported by more recent studies by Remy et al in JCI Insight (10.1172/jci.insight.140329) who demonstrated severe immunosuppression and Kox et al in JAMA (doi:10.1001/jama.2020.17052) who found multiple cytokines were reduced in severe COVID-19.

  • Takotsubo cardiomyopathy-related cardiogenic shock might be a contraindication

    The use of Angiotensin II for cardiogenic shock(1) might be counterproductive in patients who have cardiogenic shock attributable to Takotsubo cardiomyopathy(TTC) characterised by left ventricular outflow tract(LVOT) obstruction. The following are the reasons justifying non-use of that treatment modality:-
    Angiotensin II induces catecholamine release(2), thereby potentially exacerbating the catecholamine surge which characterises TTC. This catecholamine surge is mimicked by exogenous administration of epinephrine, the latter well documented as a trigger for de novo TTC in 22 patients reviewed in the literature search by Madisa et al(2). In another literature review, dobutamine(also a catecholamine ) triggered the onset of TTC in 22 patients(3). A typical example of the latter was a 61 year old woman who developed chest pain at 70% of her age-predicted heart rate, when she was on a 40 mcg/min infusion of dobutamine. Her electrocardiogram(ECG) then showed inferolateral ST segment elevation. Transthoracic echocardiography showed severe akinesia of the apical, anteroseptal, and apicolateral segments at peak dobutamine infusion. Coronary angiography disclosed normal epicardial vasculature(5).
    When LVOT obstruction occurs in TTC it can give rise to severe hypotension, exemplified by a 60 year old woman with a nadir systolic blood pressure(SBP) of 80 mm Hg in association with a gradient of 58 mm Hg across the LVOT. After landiolol( a beta blocker) inf...

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  • Behind the scenes of COVID-19- Thoughts about illicit drug use during a pandemic

    The enforcement of lockdown in the UK in March 2020 saw businesses shut up shop and most of the general population barricade themselves in the safety of their homes. NHS and community facilities had to implement downgraded versions of their services to comply with social distancing with a reduced workforce available to deliver these services. One such cohort affected by these measures is those who take recreational drugs, either socially or habitually.

    The number of people who use recreational drugs regularly is unknown. NHS Digital data states that there were 14,053 patients admitted to hospital with ‘poisoning by illicit drugs’ in England in 2018. 53% of these patients were male and two-thirds fell into the 16-44yrs age bracket. Men were more than twice as likely to use cannabis or cocaine compared to women and older age groups were more likely to use opiates alone (1).

    One in 12 adults were found to have taken an illicit drug between 2016 and 2017 (1). Whilst lockdown may have caused many inconveniences to the everyday lives of most of us, many habitual drug users have found themselves with additional stressors extending beyond contracting COVID-19 itself. This may not be someone’s chosen path in life but it is the reality that many are living with. This lifestyle is intertwined with medical and psychological difficulties which may necessitate NHS support.

    If your first thought upon waking is how you are going to obtain your next fix, then how are...

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  • Glucose as an additional parameter to National Early Warning Score (NEWS) in prehospital setting enhances identification of patients at risk of death: an observational cohort study.

    Dear Editor,

    We have read with great interest the article by Vihonen et al, ‘Glucose as an additional parameter to National Early Warning Score in prehospital setting enhances identification of patients at risk of death: an observational cohort study’, recently published in your journal.(1)
    Traditionally, the scores published to assess the risk of mortality in patients attended in a prehospital setting, the predictive value of which had been questioned until recent studies, did not include the quantification of glycemia among the parameters analysed in the initial assessment of the patient.(2-4)
    Overlooking its systematic determination in the initial care of any critically ill patient represents an easily avoidable risk, due to its accessibility and to the ease in interpreting results in any setting. This shortcoming is especially relevant in the initial care of patients with acute poisoning, due to the limitations of the anamnesis and the need to establish a rapid and reliable differential diagnosis in patients with often complex and plural clinical symptoms.(5,6) In this regard, the prognostic value of glycemia as a biomarker in some acute, highly lethal levels of poisoning must also be taken into account.(7,8)
    In Catalonia, two studies undertaken by the Prehospital Medical Emergency Service in recent years have shown that only 30.1% of those poisoned by caustic products or 15.2% of the 1,930 people poisoned by carbon monoxide or smoke released f...

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  • Erratum in Article Citations Noted on July 13, 2020

    This article draws its evidence from two citations, one by Madsen et al., and the other from a systematic review, which has been mis-cited as a duplicate of the Madsen reference. The correct citation to the systematic review is not Madsen et al., but Tarnutzer et al., PubMed ID 28356464 (Tarnutzer AA, Lee SH, Robinson KA, Wang Z, Edlow JA, Newman-Toker DE. ED misdiagnosis of cerebrovascular events in the era of modern neuroimaging: A meta-analysis. Neurology. 2017;88(15):1468-1477. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000003814.).

  • Public and Political Influence on Frontline Practice

    Dear Editor,

    I read with interest the recent article by Carley et al., “Evidence-based medicine and COVID-19: what to believe and when to change”1. The authors pay homage to the challenges of keeping pace with a pandemic growing at unprecedented speeds, forcing the hand of clinicians to make therapeutic decisions on the basis of weak, often unvalidated evidence. They also note the influence of political opinion, referencing Donald Trump’s infamous declaration on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-192. In their concluding statements, the authors eloquently present the need to follow science rather than emotions or politics.

    Having worked in a large critical care unit over the pandemic, I question how easy this is in practice. Clinicians, nurses and Allied Health Professionals do not exist in a vacuum, but rather their opinions and knowledge are inevitably shaped by social and cultural rhetoric. I use the example of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), an acronym once reserved to select professions yet now colloquially used by the lay person. Information regarding the appropriate PPE to be worn was disseminated in multiple formats, from news broadcasts to social media platforms such as Twitter. As knowledge developed about how the SARS-COV-2 virus was transmitted, recommendations on PPE changed accordingly. As of July 23rd, it was recommended that double gloving was not necessary3, and in fact increased the risk of transmitting e-coli...

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  • Triage portals in to A&E departments

    What this proposed reset does not describe is a reorganisation of 'at the door' triage based on the type of presentation.
    The need for effective patient throughput (patient flow); the major problem in contemporary A&E (at least pre Covid19) has not been addressed.
    I propose triaging 'at the door' carried out by nurse practitioners (assisted by paramedic crews bringing patients in) and admin staff to access medical information rapidly (for example via the Great North Care Record). These insights were gained from camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

    There should be 4 key portals and pathways thereafter.
    a) The seriously ill (Major Trauma, Sepsis, Stroke, Cardiac Infarcts, Acute Abdomens etc.)
    b) Cases of frailty (mainly elderly people, including delirium / dementia, minor trauma)
    c) mental Health presentations (of all ages, including learning disability)
    d) overspill from General Practice

    These pathways would be staffed by specialist nurse practitioners, pharmacists and speciality doctors, working on prearranged algorithms with electronic prescribing and discharge / handover templates (ideally in a SBAR format) to assist patient flow. cross referral (called scaffolding in mental health) should be possible on occasion. Overall, a duty matron should keep overall control of activity through an electronic dashboard. Paramedic / ambulance crews should have access to this matron remotely to make crucial d...

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  • NEWS used without clinical judgement is of limited value

    Finnikin and colleagues describe a large data set of retrospectively calculated National Early Warning Scores (NEWS) in a system that was not using or responding to NEWS. Understanding the relationship between NEWS and referral practices is an important area of research which could help shed some light on the impact of introducing NEWS into primary care.

    The first important point is that only 31% (74,992/242,451) of patients who had face-to-face encounters had a full set of observations and the clinical characteristics of the 69% excluded from the study are unknown. In our experience, GPs tend to perform a full set of observations on patients who appear more unwell so it is possible that the population studied may not be representative.

    Finnikin and colleagues found that only 6.9% of patients referred to hospital had a NEWS≥5 and 69% with a NEWS ≥5 were not referred. There is emerging evidence that NEWS calculated by GPs at referral correlates with mortality (data from West of England accepted for publication) so the fact that it did not correlate with referral is of concern. Scott et al in the West of England (1, 2) and Inada Kim et al in Wessex (unpublished data) have demonstrated that the higher the NEWS on referral or arrival, the more likely the patient is to be admitted and the more likely the patient is to die.

    The lack of linkage to any outcomes is a major weakness of this work. While an increase in admissions of 16.2% is not ideal in an alr...

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  • Sustainable models of rostering for COVID19 crisis

    The courage with which emergency medicine specialists are responding to COVID19 crisis is admirable. They are in a situation similar to the battlefields of first World War. It is a protracted war unlike the disasters and tsunamis that we have faced in recent times. Lord Moran in his seminal book "The Anatomy of Courage" based on his WW1 experience of treating medical emergencies had noted that battle fatigue would set in the most courageous of soldiers after 30 days of trench warfare. This led to the deployment of battalions in formations, which provided relief to those in the front lines through planned rotation. This model may be useful in developing systems of rostering which provide planned periods of relief and recuperation for medics and paramedics manning the front lines of COVID 19 crisis.