All posts by TheTraumaPro

Removing The Backboard II

Ten months ago I wrote about getting patients off backboards as soon as possible. The question has arisen again, so I did a little digging to find some good science behind this. And I found it.

This problem has been looked at three ways. From best to worst they are: studies on OR patients who developed pressure ulcers postop, studies on animals, and studies on tissues. I’ll focus on the first because a real person who is chemically and physically restrained to an OR table is very similar to one who has been fastened to a backboard.

The most cited study (retrospective, of course) showed that patients who had tissue pressure over bony prominences that exceeded their diastolic pressure developed pressure ulcers within 6 hours, and even faster with higher tissue pressures. But even better prospective OR studies have been done, and these showed that ulcers could occur in as little as three hours.

Keep in mind that these studies involved patients in whom real efforts were made to pad bony prominences and actively avoid tissue injuries. Yet they still occurred. Contrast this with a patient who is strapped to a hard backboard in your ED, with little ability to adjust their position to improve circulation.

Related work has shown that:

  • Tissue injury is more likely in the elderly, probably because they have less adipose padding
  • Obesity is not protective! The increased weight increases tissue pressure out of proportion to the padding effect
  • A harder surface shortens the time to tissue damage
  • Hypotension is bad, both for the patient’s well-being and for the skin over their bony prominences

Bottom line: Get your patients off that backboard ASAP! I recommend sliding it out when they are logrolled to examine the back. The board is of little or no benefit to spine stability in a cooperative patient. And we have ways of encouraging cooperation if they are not.

Related post:

Reference: How Much Time Does it Take to Get a Pressure Ulcer? Integrated Evidence from Human, Animal, and In Vitro Studies. Ostomy Wound Management. 54(10):26-8, 30-5, 2008.

What’s The Diagnosis #1?

Okay, time for the answer. This 12 year old crashed his moped, taking handlebar to the mid-epigastrium. Over the next 3 days, he felt progressively worse and finally couldn’t keep food down.

Mom brought him to the ED. The child appeared ill, and had a WBC count of 18,000. The abdomen was firm, with involuntary guarding throughout and a hint of peritonitis. The diagnosis was made on the single abdominal xray shown yesterday. A closeup of the good stuff is above.

Emergency docs, your differential diagnosis list with this history is a pancreatic vs a duodenal injury based on the mechanism.

Classic findings for duodenal injury:

  • Scoliosis with the concavity to the right. This is caused by psoas muscle irritation and spasm from retroperitoneal soiling by the duodenal leak.
  • Loss of the psoas shadow on the right. Hard to see on this xray, but the left psoas shadow is visible, the right is not. This is due to fluid and inflammation along this plane.
  • Air in the retroperitoneum. In this closeup, you can actually see tiny bubbles of leaked air outlining the right kidney. There are also bubbles along the duodenum and a few along the right psoas.

We fluid resuscitated first (important! dehydration is common and can lead to hemodynamic issues upon induction of anesthesia) and performed a laparotomy. There was a  blowout in the classic position, at the junction of 1st and 2nd portions of the duodenum. The hole was repaired in layers and a pyloric exclusion was performed, with 2 closed drains placed in the area of the leak.

The child did well, and went home after 5 days with the drains out. Feel free to common or leave questions!

To see the full-size abdominal xray, click here.

Anticoagulation Reversal In Trauma

I’ve previously written about reversing specific agents that may interfere with clotting in trauma patients. Today I’m going to provide a reference sheet to help you reverse any of the common agents that your trauma patients may be taking. 

This reference is a work in progress and will change as new drugs are introduced. I’ll update it as revisions are made. And as always, comments and suggestions are welcome!

Click here to download the reference sheet.

Related posts:

Thanks to Colleen Morton MD from Regions Hospital for sharing this draft

Urinary Tract Infection in the Elderly Trauma Patient

Yesterday I talked about using a medical orthopaedic trauma service to provide better care to elderly patients with fractures. Many of these patients have multiple pre-existing diseases and are quite fragile. A recent paper from the Rhode Island Hospital shows just how fragile these patients may be.

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most common nosocomial infections, accounting for about 40% of all such infections. The vast majority are related to indwelling bladder catheters. It is so much of a problem that, in order to decrease federal spending in the US, Medicare now denies payment for care related to these infections.

This study looked at the relationship between UTI and bladder catheters and how this infection relates to overall mortality in older trauma patients. It was a retrospective review of 6 years of data from a single institution. After excluding patients who entered the hospital with a UTI, they found that 12% of their patients developed this infection and 72% were indeed related to catheters. Males had a significantly increasing risk of UTI with increasing age. And the risk of death from UTI increased about 7% per year after age 55.

Bottom line: Urinary tract infections are especially bad for the elderly. As part of your daily rounds on any patient, look at every tube and line and ask yourself “is that really needed any more?” If not, get rid of it before it kills your patient!

Related post:

Reference: The development of a urinary tract infection is associated with increased mortality in trauma patients. J Trauma ePub ahead of print, doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31821e2b8f, July 2011.