47 e-Letters

published between 2017 and 2020

  • Hospital readmissions among mechanically ventilated in ED. Is it feasibly a preventative strategy?

    Dear Editor,

    It is widely recognised that the management of patients with acute respiratory failure in the Emergency Department (ED) is a pivotal point that may influence outcomes at later stages in patient care pathways. In particular, the decision to submit patients to invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) and the mode of ventilator settings utilised are of relevance in determining patient outcomes. It is also acknowledged that early hospital readmission following an episode of acute critical illness is a major problem not only for patients’ quality of life but also healthcare systems in general. Thus we read with great interest the recent retrospective study by Page DB et al., in which the authors investigated the relationship between ED pathways of care and the risk factors for unplanned 30-day readmissions. We applaud the authors on their efforts, however we also feel that there are several confounding issues that warrant further discussion.

    Firstly, the length of the time for which patients were treated and mechanically ventilated in the ED was relatively short - at 5 hours and 30 mins - compared the total length of stay (LOS) in hospital. We feel that this short period is unlikely to have contributed any meaningful effect on overall patient outcomes. Moreover, it would have been of great interest to discuss any changes in ventilator parameters between ED and ICU, and if the initial choice of ventilator settings could have influenced patient outcomes, i...

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  • Reply to Zhou and Wu

    We would like to thank Zhou and Wu for their thoughtful comments on our paper.

    The discrepancy in Table 1 between the first and second to last row is due to an error. The first row should note ‘Admitted to ICU (n=53)’.

    The NEWS, SIRS, and qSOFA scores were directly recorded in the patient electronic medical record (EMR), and our initial step was to extract these scores from the EMR. When these values were missing, the individual components of the scores were extracted from paper records, and the scores calculated. The high number of missing values of the qSOFA were due to the fact that it was not routinely recorded until part way through the study period. The fact that 6% of subjects still had missing values after manual chart review resulted from one or more of the components of any of the three scores not being recorded (or the record being missing) when the patient initially presented to the emergency department (ED).

    Regarding the time window, the qSOFA, NEWS, and SIRS scores used in our analysis were all based on their initial values when the patient was assessed, which would typically be within minutes of ED arrival. This therefore reflects the values upon which clinicians initially treating the patients would base their decisions.

    The high proportion of patients who died that were not admitted to ICU reflects the fact that many patients with advanced age and co-morbidities ultimately die from infection, which at some stage may meet sepsis...

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  • The relationship between qSOFA score and NEWS score

    The relationship between qSOFA score and NEWS score

    We read with interest the paper by Goulden R and colleagues 1 who compare the efficacy of qSOFA, SIRS and NEWS score in predicting the inhospital mortality of septic patients. Though the research seems to be scientific, we still have some concerns to put forward.
    To begin with, there are some minor errs existed in Table 1 of the commented paper 1, as indicated in the first row of Table 1, the total number who was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) was 52, however, the second row from the bottom of Table 1 indicates 53 persons had ICU admission, so, how to explain this discordance?
    Additionally, according to the data provided by Goulden R et al, the study initially included 1942 patients, nevertheless, to our surprise, 1117 (58%) of them had missing values of qSOFA score, far more than the number of 103 (5%) and 335 (17%) who had missing SIRS scores and missing NEWS scores respectively. There were still 6% missing values in the final analysis of 1818 patients, though most of missing values were supplemented by manual review of paper charts, thus, we are afraid that the major missing values were from qSOFA score, which will result in underestimated sensitivity of qSOFA in predicting the inhospital mortality. As we all know, the qSOFA score contains 3 elements 2 - respiratory rate, mental status, and systolic blood pressure, while NEWS score incorporates 7 elements - respiratory rate, mental stat...

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  • Triage in a developing country

    Dear Sirs
    We read with interest your article entitled ‘Inter-rater and intrarater reliability of the South African Triage Scale in low-resource settings of Haiti and Afghanistan (1).’
    We undertook a study in one of our Accident and Emergency departments which utilised a modified version of the Canadian Triage Acuity Scale (2). Our country is Trinidad and Tobago, in the same geographical region as Haiti. Trinidad, although not classified as a low to middle income country is a developing country. The health expenditure as a percentage of the gross domestic product is 6%.
    We appreciated your article and the findings on reliability among nurses about the South African Triage Scale for use in a low to middle income country.
    The Accident and Emergency department we studied provides care and treatment to patients with a wide variety of illnesses ranging from motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds to presentations such as back pain. Briefly, our study found that those in the immediate category were seen almost immediately. Those in other categories needed to wait and some waited more than 4 hours for a bed once a decision to admit was made. We cited staffing and systematic issues as possible reasons for the delays seen. Our study suffered from not documenting presenting symptoms and signs in order to validate the assigned triage category. The South African Triage Scale is perhaps more realistic in a developing country setting with the green category se...

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  • Vitamin C may shorten ICU stay

    The paper by Sheikh and Horner [1] does not properly describe the context for vitamin C.

    Fourteen trials have investigated the effect of vitamin C against post-operative AF (POAF), and significant heterogeneity has appeared between studies carried out in the USA and outside of the USA [2]. In 9 non-US studies vitamin C decreased the incidence of POAF on average by 46% (P<0.00001), but no benefit was seen in 5 US studies.

    In 5 non-US studies, intravenous vitamin C shortened the duration of hospital stay on average by 16% and by 1.47 days (P<0.00001). In 7 non-US studies, oral and intravenous vitamin C shortened the duration of ICU stay on average by 7% (P=0.002)[2]. Thus, there is strong evidence from randomized trials indicating that vitamin C may influence the duration of hospital stay and ICU stay in some contexts. It is not reasonable to restrict to mortality as the only outcome of interest [1], when considering potential effects of vitamin C on ICU patients.

    Sheikh and Horner do not mention that sometimes vitamin C levels are very low in hospital patients. For example, in one study 18 patients with clinical symptoms of scurvy were identified out of 145 consecutive patients [3]. Scurvy has been reported also in modern ICUs [4].

    In their clinical scenario, Sheikh and Horner described a patient with pneumonia, but ignored the association between vitamin C and pneumonia. Vitamin C deficiency increases the risk of pneumonia, and pneumonia d...

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  • A brief history of the specialty of emergency medicine

    Dear Dr Beecham

    Thank you for your detailed response to my recent article outlining the history of the specialty of Emergency Medicine. You are, of course, absolutely right that the Royal Charter was granted at the time of the formation of the College in 2008 and I should have written that in 2015 the Queen granted the College its Royal title. Thank you for pointing out this error.

    With best wishes


  • Reply to: Diphenhydramine should be co-administered with intravenous prochlorperazine to prevent akathisia

    Dear Editor,
    We thank Drs. Vinson et al. for their thoughtful comments as well as their important research that was the basis for our systematic review.1 While we proposed that difference in administration time was one possible explanation for the heterogeneity that we identified, Dr. Vinson’s proposal that the between-drug differences could also explain the heterogeneity is just as plausible. Although we did not include the two trials investigating different administration times of prochlorperazine since we limited our inclusion criteria to trials that used diphenhydramine prophylaxis, we do acknowledge the importance that infusion time of prochlorperazine does not affect the incidence of akathisia given the current evidence.2 3 We completely concur with Dr. Vinson’s conclusion that the differences between prochlorperazine and metoclopramide deserve to be further explored in a randomized trial, but until then, his suggestions of how to proceed appear consistent with our study’s findings.

    1. D'Souza RS, Mercogliano C, Ojukwu E, et al. Effects of prophylactic anticholinergic medications to decrease extrapyramidal side effects in patients taking acute antiemetic drugs: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Emerg Med J 2018.
    2. Collins RW, Jones JB, Walthall JD, et al. Intravenous administration of prochlorperazine by 15-minute infusion versus 2-minute bolus does not affect the incidence of akathisia: a prospective, randomized, contro...

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  • Diphenhydramine should be co-administered with intravenous prochlorperazine to prevent akathisia

    Dear Editor,

    We commend Dr D’Souza et al for their systematic review of the effects of prophylactic diphenhydramine in the reduction of akathisia induced by intravenous dopamine D2 antagonist antiemetics.1 Akathisia is a dysphoric feeling of restlessness that ranges from mild to severe, the more severe expressions of which can be quite distressing to patients.2 Attention to its prevention is welcome. We took particular interest in the systematic review because we led three of the four studies included in the meta-analysis.2-4

    The authors conclude that adjunct diphenhydramine reduces akathisia when dopamine D2 antagonist antiemetics are administered over 2 minutes, but diphenhydramine fails to augment the reduction in akathisia achieved by simply slowing the antiemetic infusion to 15 minutes. They report moderately high heterogeneity among the four included studies (I2 =43%).5 This reveals an inconsistency in results between studies that precludes a one-size-fits-all recommendation on the use of prophylactic diphenhydramine. Such an elevated I2 requires explanation. The authors attribute this heterogeneity to rates of infusion and determine that a 15-minute infusion is less likely to cause akathisia.

    But another explanation for the heterogeneity is at hand that the authors did not explore: prochlorperazine and metoclopramide behave differently when it comes to akathisia preventio...

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  • Abnormal stress response from mTBI often sometimes leads to headaches

    Post traumatic headaches are seriously debilitating. They are often a late symptom in the recovery from brain injury. They tend to be more frequent in female patients with post-concussion syndrome and may be associated with prior migraines. A headache log may help identify environmental underpinnings and shape the treatment plan. I am using a biofeedback protocol here in the Boston area to help down-train the sympathetic-parasympathetic mismatch that is common in TBI. The protocol involves paced breathing and has a growing body of literature in support of treating poor regulation in the autonomic nervous system. Stress of all kinds correlates highly with post-concussion syndrome often prolonging recovery. The protocol I use tends to reduce the impact of the physiological reactivity seen in many TBI and mTBI cases who are still recovering. Sleep hygiene may be a further underlying source of post-concussion syndrome and the heads associated with concussion. I have a few posts on this topic: www.concussionassessment.wordpress.com

  • A right royal title

    The article is incorrect when it states that "... in 2015, the Queen granted the college its royal charter. True independence had at last been gained ..." A glance at the footer of any printed communication sent on the college's official notepaper will reveal that the College of Emergency Medicine (as it was then named) was, in fact, incorporated by royal charter in 2008. The Privy Council granted the college its royal seal on 29 February that year, giving the college its autonomous legal identity. It had previously separated from its six parent colleges in 2006, by means of the Faculty of Accident and Emergency Medicine reconstituting itself as a limited company under the new name.

    The title "Royal" is a separate matter; it is not conferred by the Privy Council, and does not necessarily imply that the organisation holds a Royal Charter. It is instead a mark of favour, granted with the permission of the monarch but in practice conferred on the advice of the Ministry of Justice and, latterly, the Royal Names Team at the Cabinet Office. The process is somewhat opaque, and the CEM (as it then was) had begun seeking the royal appellation as early as 2009. Other newer medical colleges in the UK have experienced similar lag periods between their promotion to full college status and the conferral of the royal title.

    It is worth noting that royal patronage is yet another concept; the Princess Royal has served as the college's patron sinc...

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