Serotonin Syndrome

This case is written by Dr. Donika Orlich. She is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University who also completed a fellowship in Simulation and Medical Education last year.

Why it Matters

This case is an example of why it is important to keep a broad differential in our patients. It would be easy to assume this patient has sepsis and to form cognitive biases around only this as a possible presentation. Instead, by maintaining a broad differential diagnosis, a relatively rare presentation is recognized. This case highlights the following:

  • The presenting features of serotonin syndrome: agitation, confusion, clonus, and hyperthermia
  • The management priorities in serotonin syndrome include both minimizing patient agitation with benzodiazepines and aggressive cooling
  • The potential for sodium channel blockade (and a resultant wide QRS pattern on ECG) with cocaine use
  • The potential for patients with a prolonged QT interval to develop Torsades de Pointes
  • The need to treat Torsades de Pointes with magnesium sulfate and defibrillation

Case Summary

A 27-year-old female presents hot and altered to the ED with EMS. Likely cause is serotonin syndrome, precipitated by being on citalopram and methadone in the setting of a recent cocaine binge (all increase serotonin levels). She will develop Torsades de Pointes as a complication which must be treated with MgSO4. She will become increasingly agitated and febrile, requiring IV benzodiazepines, active cooling, and consideration of intubation with paralysis to achieve normothermia.

Clinical Vignette

A 27-year-old female was found by her boyfriend this morning seeming confused and warm. He called EMS. She has a history of opioid abuse and is on methadone, but he swears that she has takes this as prescribed and has not done any prescription pain meds lately. They did “party a lot yesterday,” but she was otherwise well, with no complaints of fever before today. With EMS the patient was noted to be diaphoretic, febrile and quite agitated. She has been placed in a resuscitation bay.

Download the case here: Serotonin Syndrome

1st ECG for the case (long QT and wide QRS) found here:

Wide QRS

(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/tca-overdose/)

2nd ECG for the case (long QT) found here:

Long QT ECG

(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/basics/qt_interval/)

3rd ECG for the case (Torsades de Pointes) found here:

Torsades ECG

(ECG source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torsades_de_pointes)

Normal CXR found here:

normal female CXR radiopedia

(CXR source: https://radiopaedia.org/cases/normal-chest-radiograph-female-1)

Post-intubation CXR found here:

normal-intubation2

(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)


Multi-Trauma: Blunt VSA and Burn

This case is written by Dr. Donika Orlich. She is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University who also completed a fellowship in Simulation and Medical Education last year.

Why it Matters

This case is an excellent example of the challenges faced in Emergency Medicine. Not only are learners faced with a worst-case airway scenario, but they must also manage two critically ill patients at once. In particular, it draws attention to the following:

  • The need to plan for and manage resources appropriately when faced with two critically ill patients simultaneously
  • The importance of recognizing and adequately preparing for a difficult airway
  • The acknowledgement of a failed intubation/ventilation scenario requiring expedient placement of a surgical airway

Case Summary

The case will start with an EMS patch indicating that they are 2 minutes out with multi-trauma from a 2 car MVC. Two patients will then arrive within 1 minute of each other. The first will have gone VSA en route from presumed blunt trauma. This patient will not regain a pulse. The second patient will arrive with significant burns from a car fire, and will have GCS of 3 necessitating intubation. All attempts at intubation will be unsuccessful, and a surgical airway must be performed. The team will need to prioritize resources between the two patients and realize that an ED thoracotomy is not reasonable in the first patient.

Clinical Vignette

Before first patient:

You are working in a tertiary care trauma center. EMS patch: We have a 50ish M unbelted driver in a head-on MCV at about 60km/hr. He was ejected from the vehicle and found about 30m from the crash site with a GCS of 3. He has an obvious head injury, torso injury and unstable pelvis, which we’ve bound. Initially had RR 40, O2 85% on NRB, HR 150 and a questionable femoral pulse. Since then, he’s been pulseless. We’ve been en route about 5 minutes and should be there in about 2 min. He’s received 1mg Epi so far with no shocks advised x2. Smells of EtOH, but no other known history. There was one other car involved that caught on fire, so you’ll probably get them, too, if they survive. Please prepare for this patient.

Upon arrival of second patient:

EMS Handover: This 30ish male belted driver was in a head on MVC with both cars going ~60km/hr. His car was on fire when we got there, and he’s got 2nd/3rd degree burns everywhere. We found him outside the car, so he must have self-extricated. His GCS has been 3 the entire time with us. He’s tolerating an oral airway. His last vitals were HR 120, BP 130/80, RR 30, O2 95% NRB

How to Run the Case

At McMaster University, we successfully ran this case with our PGY4 residents. To do so, we had two confederate nurses at the bedside (one nurse per patient). We also had dedicated sim techs running each mannequin. Finally, we had three faculty instructors. One instructor to observe the management of each patient, and one instructor to play the role of the arriving paramedic and to coordinate between the two instructors and sim techs. We are able to run the case with four of our emergency medicine resident learners playing the roles of a trauma team (one team leader, one senior emerg resident, one senior anesthesia resident, and one surgical resident). It went very well and received positive feedback from the learners. Of note, this case is ripe with opportunity for incorporating other learners. In particular, inter-professional education using ED nurses, RT’s, and learners from other services could work as well.

 

Download the case here: Multitrauma Cric and Blunt VSA Case

Cardiac U/S for Patient 1 found here*:

FAST for Patient 1 found here:

RUQ FF

ECG for Patient 2 found here:

sinus-tachycardia

(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/sinus-tachycardia/)

Pre-intubation CXR for Patient 2 found here:

Normal CXR Male

(CXR source: https://radiopaedia.org/cases/normal-chest-x-ray)

PXR for Patient 2 found here:

normal-pelvis-male

(PXR source: http://radiopaedia.org/articles/pelvis-1)

Post-intubation CXR for Patient 2 found here:

Normal Post-Intubation CXR

(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)

Cardiac U/S for Patient 2 found here*:

FAST for Patient 2 found here*:

no FF

Lung U/S for Patient 2 found here*:

*All U/S images are courtesy of McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program.


standstill-2
no PCE
lung sliding

Multi-Trauma: Blunt VSA and Burn

This case is written by Dr. Donika Orlich. She is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University who also completed a fellowship in Simulation and Medical Education last year.

Why it Matters

This case is an excellent example of the challenges faced in Emergency Medicine. Not only are learners faced with a worst-case airway scenario, but they must also manage two critically ill patients at once. In particular, it draws attention to the following:

  • The need to plan for and manage resources appropriately when faced with two critically ill patients simultaneously
  • The importance of recognizing and adequately preparing for a difficult airway
  • The acknowledgement of a failed intubation/ventilation scenario requiring expedient placement of a surgical airway

Case Summary

The case will start with an EMS patch indicating that they are 2 minutes out with multi-trauma from a 2 car MVC. Two patients will then arrive within 1 minute of each other. The first will have gone VSA en route from presumed blunt trauma. This patient will not regain a pulse. The second patient will arrive with significant burns from a car fire, and will have GCS of 3 necessitating intubation. All attempts at intubation will be unsuccessful, and a surgical airway must be performed. The team will need to prioritize resources between the two patients and realize that an ED thoracotomy is not reasonable in the first patient.

Clinical Vignette

Before first patient:

You are working in a tertiary care trauma center. EMS patch: We have a 50ish M unbelted driver in a head-on MCV at about 60km/hr. He was ejected from the vehicle and found about 30m from the crash site with a GCS of 3. He has an obvious head injury, torso injury and unstable pelvis, which we’ve bound. Initially had RR 40, O2 85% on NRB, HR 150 and a questionable femoral pulse. Since then, he’s been pulseless. We’ve been en route about 5 minutes and should be there in about 2 min. He’s received 1mg Epi so far with no shocks advised x2. Smells of EtOH, but no other known history. There was one other car involved that caught on fire, so you’ll probably get them, too, if they survive. Please prepare for this patient.

Upon arrival of second patient:

EMS Handover: This 30ish male belted driver was in a head on MVC with both cars going ~60km/hr. His car was on fire when we got there, and he’s got 2nd/3rd degree burns everywhere. We found him outside the car, so he must have self-extricated. His GCS has been 3 the entire time with us. He’s tolerating an oral airway. His last vitals were HR 120, BP 130/80, RR 30, O2 95% NRB

How to Run the Case

At McMaster University, we successfully ran this case with our PGY4 residents. To do so, we had two confederate nurses at the bedside (one nurse per patient). We also had dedicated sim techs running each mannequin. Finally, we had three faculty instructors. One instructor to observe the management of each patient, and one instructor to play the role of the arriving paramedic and to coordinate between the two instructors and sim techs. We are able to run the case with four of our emergency medicine resident learners playing the roles of a trauma team (one team leader, one senior emerg resident, one senior anesthesia resident, and one surgical resident). It went very well and received positive feedback from the learners. Of note, this case is ripe with opportunity for incorporating other learners. In particular, inter-professional education using ED nurses, RT’s, and learners from other services could work as well.

 

Download the case here: Multitrauma Cric and Blunt VSA Case

Cardiac U/S for Patient 1 found here*:

FAST for Patient 1 found here:

RUQ FF

ECG for Patient 2 found here:

sinus-tachycardia

(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/sinus-tachycardia/)

Pre-intubation CXR for Patient 2 found here:

Normal CXR Male

(CXR source: https://radiopaedia.org/cases/normal-chest-x-ray)

PXR for Patient 2 found here:

normal-pelvis-male

(PXR source: http://radiopaedia.org/articles/pelvis-1)

Post-intubation CXR for Patient 2 found here:

Normal Post-Intubation CXR

(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)

Cardiac U/S for Patient 2 found here*:

FAST for Patient 2 found here*:

no FF

Lung U/S for Patient 2 found here*:

*All U/S images are courtesy of McMaster PoCUS Subspecialty Training Program.


standstill-2
no PCE
lung sliding