Category Archives: General

Orbital Compartment Syndrome

Sure, you’ve heard about all the other compartment syndromes: leg, thigh, forearm, buttock, and abdomen to name a few. But how about a compartment syndrome of the orbit?

This isn’t your usual muscular compartment problem, although the basic concept is the same. The eye is surrounded by rigid bones or relatively stiff soft tissue (the eyelid, believe it or not). Any extra tissue or blood added to this compartment dramatically raises the pressure in the area, which is readily conducted to the eye itself. This rapidly results in:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Decreased extraocular movements, which may result in diplopia
  • Proptosis
  • Decreased visual acuity
  • Increased intra-ocular pressure (>40 torr)
  • Slow pupillary response

This syndrome should be confirmed rapidly and is one of the few true ophthalmologic emergencies. A lateral canthotomy and cantholysis should be carried out to make the lower lid freely mobile, decompressing the compartment (see diagram). This procedure is not for the faint of heart, but should be familiar in any ED where an ophthalmologist is not readily available. Urgent followup with an eye specialist is mandatory.

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Timed PI Audit Filters: When Does The Clock Start?

Several of the performance improvement (PI) audit filters typically used at trauma centers include a time parameter. These include:

  • Craniotomy > 4 hrs
  • Laparotomy > 4 hrs
  • OR for open fracture > 8 hrs
  • Compartment syndrome > 2 hrs

The question that needs to be asked is: 2 or 4 or 8 hours after what?

There are several possible points at which to start the clock:

  • Arrival in the ED
  • When the diagnosis is made
  • When the decision to operate occurs

The answer is certainly open to interpretation. Here is my opinion on it:

The purpose of a PI filter is to measure system performance. There are a myriad of system problems that can delay taking a patient to the OR. These include care delays in the ED, delays in getting or interpreting diagnostic tests, delays in contact or response for consultants, delays in diagnosis, delays in OR scheduling or availability, and more. Does it make sense to limit the evaluation of your system by setting one of the later decision points as your start time?

Bottom line: I recommend starting the audit filter clock at the time of patient arrival in the ED. This enables the PI program to evaluate every system that can possibly enable or impede your patient’s progress to the OR.

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Followup Cystogram After Bladder Injury

I’ve previously written about management of extraperitoneal bladder injuries. One of the tenets is that every injury needs to have a routine followup cystogram to ensure healing and allow removal of any bladder catheter. I routinely like to question dogma, so I asked myself, is this really necessary? A retrospective registry review from the Ryder trauma center in Miami helped to answer this question.

Over 20,000 records were screened for bladder injury and 87 were found in living patients. Fifty were intraperitoneal injuries, and half of them were caused by pelvic fractures (interesting). All were operated on, and 47 were classified as simple (dome disruption or through and through penetrating) and 3 were “complex” (involving trigone). All trackable patients (42 of the 50) had followup cystograms 9-16 days later. All of the simple injuries had a normal followup exam, but a leak was detected on one of the complex injuries.

There were 42 patients with extraperitoneal bladder injuries. All were due to blunt trauma, and 92% were associated with pelvic fractures. Most were found with CT cystogram. Two patients had operative repair, probably due to the need to fix the pubic bones with hardware. 37 of the 42 were available for followup, and 22% of repeat cystograms were positive (average study done on day 9). In the studies that showed a leak, repeat cystograms were done, and they took an average of 47 days to fully heal.

Bottom line: Patients with extraperitoneal or complex intraperitoneal bladder injuries (trigone) really do need a followup cystogram before removing the bladder catheter. Those who underwent a simple repair of their intraperitoneal injury do not.

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Reference: Cystogram follow-up in the management of traumatic bladder disruption. J Trauma 60(1):23-28, 2006.

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Trauma 20 Years Ago: CAVR For Hypothermia

Hypothermia is the bane of major trauma resuscitation, causing mortality to skyrocket. A number of rewarming techniques have been developed over the years. These are classified as passive (the patient generates their own heat) or active (we deliver calories to them), and noninvasive vs invasive. Rewarming speed increases as we move from passive to active and from noninvasive to invasive.

Continuous arteriovenous rewarming (CAVR) is one of the invasive techniques used today. Its use in humans was first reported 20 years ago this month. Larry Gentilello at Harborview in Seattle had experimented with this technique in animals, and reported one case of use in a human who had crashed his car into icy water. After a 20 minute extrication, the patient was pulseless with fixed and dilated pupils, but he regained pulse and blood pressure at the hospital.

The initial core temperature was 31.5C. Peritoneal, bladder and gastric lavage were carried out for warming, as was delivery of warm inspired gas via the ventilator. However, after an hour the temperature had dropped to 29.5C. CAVR was initiated as a last-ditch effort using a jerry-rigged Rapid Fluid Warmer from Level 1 Technologies. The core temperature was raised to 35C after 85 minutes.

The patient did have typical complications (ARDS, acute renal failure), but survived with recovery of his renal and pulmonary function, and a normal neurologic exam. At the time, the authors were unsure whether the complications were due to the near-drowning or the rapid rewarming.

Reference: Continuous arteriovenous rewarming: report of a new technique fo9r treating hypothermia. J Trauma 31(8):1151-1154, 1991.

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Procedural Sedation and Analgesia

The Regions Hospital Multidisciplinary Trauma Conference on August 4 dealt with the use of procedural sedation in the emergency department. The presentation was delivered by Ben Watters MD.

This presentation is 56 minutes long. 

Important disclosure information: off-label use of ketamine is discussed.

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