>EM Reflections – January 2020

Thanks to Dr Paul Page for leading the discussions this month

Edited by Dr David Lewis 

 


Discussion Topics

  1. Esophageal Perforation

  2. Neonatal Status Epilepticus


Esophageal Perforation – Boerhaave syndrome

A spontaneous perforation of the esophagus that results from a sudden increase in intraesophageal pressure combined with negative intrathoracic pressure (eg, severe straining or vomiting) otherwise known as Effort Rupture.

Difficult diagnosis in first few hours due to nonspecific early symptoms. But, delayed diagnosis results in significant mortality. Diagnosis and surgery within 24 hours carries a 75% survival rate but drops to approximately 50% after a 24-hour delay and approximately 10% after 48 hours.

25 to 45 percent of patients have no clear history of vomiting, and those that do are often confusing with pain sometimes preceding vomiting due to coexisting pathologies e.g gastroenteritis, gastritis, pancreatitis etc.

Clinical manifestations — The clinical features of Boerhaave syndrome depend upon the location of the perforation (cervical, intrathoracic, or intra-abdominal), the degree of leakage, and the time elapsed since the injury occurred. Patients with Boerhaave syndrome often present with excruciating retrosternal chest pain due to an intrathoracic esophageal perforation. Although a history of severe retching and vomiting preceding the onset of pain has classically been associated with Boerhaave syndrome, approximately 25 to 45 percent of patients have no history of vomiting. Patients may have crepitus on palpation of the chest wall due to subcutaneous emphysema. In patients with mediastinal emphysema, mediastinal crackling with each heartbeat may be heard on auscultation especially if the patient is in the left lateral decubitus position (Hamman’s sign). However, these signs require at least an hour to develop after an esophageal perforation and even then are present in only a small proportion of patients. Within hours of the perforation, patients can develop odynophagia, dyspnea, and sepsis and have fever, tachypnea, tachycardia, cyanosis, and hypotension on physical examination. A pleural effusion may also be detected.

Patients with cervical perforations can present with neck pain, dysphagia or dysphonia.  Patients may have tenderness to palpation of the sternocleidomastoid muscle and crepitation due to the presence of cervical subcutaneous emphysema.

Patients with an intra-abdominal perforation often report epigastric pain that may radiate to the shoulder. Patients may also report back pain and an inability to lie supine or present with an acute (surgical) abdomen. As with intrathoracic perforation, sepsis may rapidly develop within hours of presentation.

Laboratory findings — Laboratory evaluation may reveal a leukocytosis. While not part of the diagnostic workup for an esophageal perforation, pleural fluid collected during thoracentesis may contain undigested food, have a pH less than 6, or have an elevated salivary amylase level.

UptoDate

 

Chest X-ray  showing a pneumomediastinum (closed arrows) and silhouette sign over the right heart border (open arrow).

Case Presentation 1

Case Presentation 2

 

Take Home

  • The diagnosis of Boerhaave syndrome should be suspected in patients with severe chest, neck, or upper abdominal pain after an episode of severe retching and vomiting or other causes of increased intrathoracic pressure and the presence of subcutaneous emphysema (crepitus) on physical exam.
  • While thoracic and cervical radiography can be supportive of the diagnosis, the diagnosis is established by contrast esophagram or computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Delayed diagnosis is associated with high mortality
  • Radiological signs develop over time, repeat imaging is often useful when considering this diagnosis

 

Neonatal Status Epilepticus

When an altered few-day-old baby is brought into the ED, other than requesting immediate pediatric support, opening PediStat on you phone and trying to keep calm – consider the causes of altered LOC in pediatrics – Think VITAMINS:

V – Vascular (e.g. arteriovenous malformation, systemic vasculitis)

I – Infection (e.g. meningoencephalitis, overwhelming alternate source of sepsis)

T – Toxins (e.g. environmental, medications, contaminated breast milk)

A – Accident/abuse (e.g. non-accidental trauma, sequelae of previous trauma)

M – Metabolic (e.g. hypoglycemia, DKA, thyroid disorders)

I – Intussusception (e.g. the somnolent variant of intussusception, with lethargy)

N – Neoplasm (e.g. sludge phenomenon, secondary sepsis, hypoglycemia from supply-demand mismatch)

S – Seizure (e.g. seizure and its variable presentation, especially subclinical status epilepticus)

 

Altered Mental Status in Children

 

What elements are highly suggestive of true seizures?

  1. Lateralized tongue biting (high specificity)
  2. Flickering eyelids, deviation of gaze
  3. Dilated pupils with a blank stare
  4. Lip smacking
  5. Increased heart rate and blood pressure, desaturations in pulse oximetry during event

Management of Pediatric Seizures


Newborn Resuscitation

 


Elemental EM: Pediatric Intubation

 

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