All posts by TheTraumaPro

Pop Quiz! The Answer!

Time for the answer! There were lots of well thought out guesses, and a few correct answers. 

Here’s the story. This is a young male who presented in the trauma room with a small penetrating injury on the lateral aspect of his right arm, and another one just medial to the top of the scapula. If you look at first image last Wednesday, you can see an obvious humeral fracture, a not so obvious lack of lung markings, and a few tiny metallic foreign bodies (bullet fragments picked up by Canuck ER MD, injuries surmised by Kurt Rubach, paramedic). I provided a zoomed in view on Thursday to make them a little more obvious.

What I didn’t tell you (besides the fact that there were bullet holes) was that there were no pulses in the arm. The patient was hemodynamically stable, so after evaluation in the ED and insertion of a chest tube, he was taken to angio to evaluate the injury location. Unlike many penetrating injuries where the location is obvious, this was a deep mediastinal hit possibly involving Zone I of the neck (thanks Traumahst). Angio was selected because this was in the days before chest CT.

This shows a cutoff of the right subclavian artery. The patient was taken to the OR for sternotomy with a right neck extension and resection of the medial third of the clavicle (see Friday’s xray). The injury was successfully repaired with good return of function, and some residual hemothorax. He was discharged home in a week.

Bottom line: This one was tough because I didn’t give you much of what trauma professionals really need: clinical context. An isolated xray without a clinical history is not enough. It’s very easy to see things that really aren’t there and end up on a wild goose chase. Keep that in mind the next time you expect your radiology colleagues to come up with miracle diagnoses while sitting in a darkened room. Give them the whole story, or have them pop over to the ED to see for themselves.

Pop Quiz: Part 3

Still no correct answers! Told you it was difficult.

Hint! It was not blunt trauma!

Okay, so here’s the after photo, after everything’s been fixed. What the #*!% did we do?? And why? Answer on Monday! 

And by the way, ignore the shotgun pellets over the left chest. Old injury!

Pop Quiz: Part 1

Okay, this one’s tough! This is by far the hardest one I have posted. I don’t think anyone has a clue! It’s so hard, I’m going to post another image as a hint tomorrow. Then on Friday, I’ll show the after photo so you can tell me what the final problem was. Answer Monday!

Have a look at the image below and tell me what you think. Seems simple, right? How did it happen? What other injuries might be present? Comment below or tweet or email your thoughts!

FAST Cardiac Ultrasound And Traumatic Arrest

Cardiac arrest in trauma patients is bad. Really bad. There are few survivors, mainly those who have some signs of life when they roll into the resuscitation room. One of the signs we look for is cardiac electrical activity, especially a narrow complex rhythm. But most of the time these patients don’t survive either. Could there be a way to fine tune the use of pulseless electrical activity (PEA) to better determine when further care is futile?

The trauma group at UCSF-East Bay did a nice, retrospective review on the use of the cardiac portion of the FAST exam to assess patients arriving in PEA arrest after either blunt or penetrating trauma. The numbers were a bit thin, but they were able to study 162 patients who had both FAST and EKG upon arrival. Of those patients, 71 had electrical activity, but only 17 had cardiac motion. However, 4 of these 17 survived (24%) vs only 1 of the 54 who did not have cardiac motion.

About a third of these 71 patients suffered blunt trauma, the remainder had penetrating injury. Of the 17 with cardiac activity, 14 were penetrating and 3 were blunt. And of the 4 survivors mentioned above, 3 were penetrating.

Only 1 of the 71 patients with PEA and no cardiac activity survived, and this was a blunt arrest(!).

Bottom line: Traumatic arrest is a generally fatal problem. However, it appears that use of the cardiac portion of the FAST exam in penetrating or blunt trauma can help fine tune the aggressiveness of resuscitation. PEA without cardiac activity is uniformly fatal (although there was one blunt survivor, the authors did specify the quality of this survival). It may be wise to forego further resuscitative efforts in PEA patients without cardiac activity because they will not survive, even as an organ donor.

Reference: The heart of the matter: Utility of ultrasound of cardiac activity during traumatic arrest. J Trauma 73(1):103-110, 2012.