All posts by TheTraumaPro

When To Image The Aorta In Blunt Trauma

Blunt injury to the thoracic aorta is one of those potentially devastating ones that you (and your patient) can’t afford to miss. Quite a bit has been written about the findings and mechanisms. But how do you put it all together and decide when to order a screening CT?

There are a number of high risk findings associated with blunt aortic injury. Recognize that they are associated with the injury, but are still not very common. They are:

  • Fractures of the sternum or first rib
  • Wide mediastinum
  • Displacements of mediastinal structures (left mainstem down, trachea right, esophagus right)
  • Loss of the aortopulmonary window
  • Apical cap over the left lung

Here’s a sensible method for screening for blunt aortic injury, using CT scan:

  • Reasonable mechanism (fall from greater than 20 feet, pedestrian struck, motorcycle crash, car crash at “highway speed”) PLUS any one of the high risk findings above.
  • Extreme mechanism alone (e.g. car crash with closing velocity at greater than highway speed, torso crush)

Note on torso crush: I have seen three aortic injuries from torso crush in my career, one from a load of plywood falling onto the patient’s chest, one from dirt crushing someone when the trench they were digging collapsed, and one whose chest was run over by a car.

Related post:

Technology: EEG Monitoring Using A Smartphone App

Remember when EEG monitoring in patients with severe TBI looked like a maze of multicolored spaghetti plugged into a small refrigerator? Well, technology is advancing rapidly and the hardware is shrinking fast.

This EEG monitor uses an EEG headset, which has fewer leads than the old standard. The headset connects to a Nokia smartphone using a wireless connection. And while it can’t compete with a regular EEG on fine detail like localizing seizure foci, it should easily be able to measure something as crude as burst suppression in trauma patients in pentobarb coma.

EEG headset

Expect more advances like this. Computing and monitoring is leaving the realm of the dedicated (and physically large) device, and moving toward handheld monitoring using off-the-shelf hardware like smartphones.

AAST 2011: Predicting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) After Trauma

Today is the last day of the annual AAST meeting, so I’ll wind up with one last abstract presented at this meeting.

PTSD can cause significant morbidity after trauma. Most centers manage this problem reactively, when the patient exhibits obvious symptoms in the hospital or after discharge. Wouldn’t it make more sense to screen for it routinely? Is there a way to figure out which patients are at higher risk?

The University of Pittsburgh prospectively screened 1,386 injured patients presenting to their followup clinic using the PTSD Checklist – Civilian (PCL-C) instrument. A score of>=35 has a sensitivity of 85% and was considered a positive result.

The authors found that more than 25% of their outpatient clinic patients met the threshold. The most common mechanism was assault, both blunt and penetrating. Younger age (<55), female gender and motor vehicle crash were also found to be predictors.

Bottom line: Consider routine PTSD screening in patients with the listed risk factors, just like we perform routine TBI screening in patients with head injuries. The PCL-C is self-administered and takes only about 5 minutes to complete. The most reliable way is to send it home with your patient, with instructions to complete it before they see you or their primary physician in the outpatient clinic.

Resources:

Reference: Predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following civilian trauma: highest incidence and severity of symptoms after assault. AAST 2011 Annual Meeting, Paper 33.

AAST 2011: Placement of ICP Monitors By Non-Neurosurgeons

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common injury world-wide, but neurosurgeons are scarce. Traditionally, neurosurgeons are the ones to place invasive monitors to watch intracranial pressure (ICP). But what about injured people who are taken to a hospital where there is no available neurosurgeon?

A group at Wichita, Kansas looked at their 10 year experience with ICP monitor placement, where it can be done by neurosurgeons, trauma surgeons or general surgical residents (under trauma surgeon supervision). A total of 63 were placed by neurosurgeons, 30 by trauma surgeons, and 464 by residents under supervision. The usual demographics, including hospital stay, were the same across groups. There were essentially no significant differences based on who placed the monitor. The abstract did not state whether the monitors were extradural or intraventricular, or both.

There were only three iatrogenic bleeds, and all occurred with resident placed monitors. None were clinically significant. Malfunction rate was about 5% across all groups. Monitors had to be replaced at some point in about 11% of all three groups. One CNS infection occurred in a patient with a resident-placed monitor.

Bottom line: With proper training and supervision, ICP monitors can be placed by just about anyone. This is particularly important in more rural locations where there are few if any neurosurgeons. But as always, this process needs to be monitored carefully by the hospital’s Trauma Performance Improvement / Patient Safety program (PIPS).

Related posts:

Reference: Placement of intracranial pressure monitors by non-neurosurgeons: good outcomes are achieved. AAST 2011 Annual Meeting, Paper 72.

Novel Hip Reduction Technique: The Captain Morgan

I wrote about posterior hip dislocation and how to reduce it using the “standard” technique about 9 months ago. Emergency physicians and orthopedic surgeons at UCSF-Fresno just published their experience with a reduction technique called the Captain Morgan.

Named after the pose of the trademark pirate for Captain Morgan rum, this technique simplifies the task of pulling the hip back into position. One of the disadvantages of the standard technique is that it takes a fair amount of strength (and patient sedation) to reduce the hip. If the physician is small or the patient is big, the technique may fail.

In the Captain Morgan technique, the patient is left in their usual supine position and the pelvis is fixed to the table using a strap (call your OR to find one). The dislocated hip and the knee are both flexed to 90 degrees. The physician places their foot on the table with their knee behind the patient’s knee. Gentle downward force is placed on the patient’s ankle to keep the knee in flexion, and the physician then pushes down with their own foot, raising their calf. Gentle rotation of the patient’s hip while applying this upward traction behind the patient’s knee usually results in reduction.

Some orthopedic surgeons use a similar technique, but apply downward force on the patient’s ankle, using the leverage across their own knee to develop the reduction force needed. The Captain Morgan technique use the upward lift from their own leg to develop the reduction force. This may be gentler on the patient’s knee.

The authors report a series of 13 reductions, and all but one were successful. The failure occurred due to an intra-articular fragment, and that hip had to be reduced in the operating room. 

I’m interested in hearing comments from anyone who has used this technique (or the leverage one). And does anyone have any other techniques that have worked for them?

Related post:

Reference: The Captain Morgan technique for the reduction of the dislocated hip. Ann Emerg Med (in press) dol:1016/j.annemergmed.2011.07.010, 2011.

Thanks to Sam Stellpflug MD at Regions Hospital for bringing this article to my attention.