Palpitations – A Paroxysmal Pearl

Palpitations – A Paroxysmal Pearl

Medical Student Clinical Pearl

Scott Fenwick

Class of 2021

Faculty of Medicine
Dalhousie University

Reviewed and Edited by Dr. David Lewis


Case Presentation:

A 49-year-old female presented with palpitations for the past 2 hours. She had two similar episodes in the last 2 weeks, both of which resolved within 1-2 minutes. She had no other symptoms. She was otherwise healthy, with no past medical history. She was a non-smoke and non-drinker who leads an active lifestyle. She denied weight loss, diarrhea, and heat intolerance.

On physical exam, she was tachycardic at 130bpm with an irregularly irregular pulse. She did not display any tremor or diaphoresis. On auscultation, S1 and S2 were audible, with no murmurs or extra sounds. Respiratory and abdominal exams were unremarkable.


What to ask on History?

Common Symptoms: palpitations, tachycardia, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, light-headedness, reduced exercise capacity, mild dyspnea, and polyuria. It is essential to know when exactly the symptoms started. AF that presents before 48 hours can be safely rhythm controlled without anticoagulation.(1)

Severe/Secondary Symptoms: angina, dyspnea at rest, presyncope and, uncommonly, syncope. Embolic events and heart failure can be severe complications of AF.

Past Medical History: cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, COPD, obstructive sleep apnea, and hyperthyroidism.


What to look for On Examination?

ABCs and vitals: particularly pulse rate and rhythm.

General Assessment: look for signs of thyroid disease, PE, pulmonary disease, alcohol withdrawal, and signs of liver disease from excessive alcohol ingestion.

CVS: precordial scars from prior cardiac surgery, JVP, peripheral edema, and auscultation for murmurs or additional sounds that might suggest valvular AF. There is often an apical-radial pulse deficit where not every apical beat has an associated radial beat due to lack of left ventricular stroke volume.(2)


Case Continued – Testing:

The patient was put on a cardiac monitor and an ECG was performed, demonstrating atrial fibrillation. There was also a right bundle branch block that was consistent with a previous ECG performed in 2017. Laboratory testing was unremarkable.

Depending on clinical suspicion, initial testing may include CBC, electrolytes, blood glucose, PT/INR, creatinine, BUN, TSH, cardiac enzymes, LFTs, and chest x-ray.2

See Basic ECG interpretation Pearl for a great guide to ECGs

Basic ECG Interpretation


 

Classifying Atrial Fibrillation:

AF is classically described as an irregularly irregular heartbeat, as can be observed from the variable RR intervals in the ECG above. In AF, there are no distinct P-waves due to the uncoordinated atrial activity. Broadly, AF can be divided into valvular and non-valvular subtypes. Non-valvular AF can be classified into the following categories:(1)

  • Paroxysmal – AF terminates spontaneously or with intervention within 7 days of onset.
  • Persistent – AF fails to terminate within 7 days of onset; often a progressive disease.
  • Long-Standing Persistent – AF has persisted for greater than 12 months.
  • Permanent – Joint decision between patient and provider to no longer pursue rhythm control.

AF commonly progresses from paroxysmal to persistent states. The above classification only refers to primary atrial fibrillation, not AF that is secondary to cardiac surgery, pericarditis, myocardial infarction, valvulopathy, hyperthyroidism, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary disease, or other reversible causes.

For persistent and permanent AF, the CHADS2 score can be used to estimate a patient’s 1-year risk of ischemic stroke without anticoagulation (0 = low risk, 1-2 = moderate risk, 3+ = high risk).(1)

Calculate it here

 

CAEP and CCS now recommend using the CHAD-65 Score to determine anticoagulation requirement.

 


 

Treatment

DC and chemical (e.g. procainamide) cardioversion are two well-described methods of treating uncomplicated AF. The goal of treatment is to return patients to NSR. Some important points about the two methods include:

  • DC cardioversion can be administered at an initial energy dose of 100J and increased up to 360J as needed.(2)
  • Procainamide is often given in doses of 15-18mg/kg, or more simply, 1g over 60 minutes. Average time to cardioversion is about 1 hour.(1)
  • DC cardioversion requires procedural sedation; whereas, chemical cardioversion does not.
  • In a recent RCT, combination therapy achieved NSR in 99% of patients; Attempting DC cardioversion first decreased length of hospital stay by 1.2 hours.(3)
  • Both therapies are generally well-tolerated by patients.

Case Continued – Treatment:

The patient was diagnosed with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. The arrhythmia did not spontaneously resolve in the ED. DC and chemical cardioversion methods were considered and discussed with the patient. Direct Current (DC) cardioversion was performed under procedural sedation with propofol and fentanyl. Shocks of 100J and 200J were unsuccessful in converting the patient into normal sinus rhythm (NSR). A third shock at 300J was ultimately successful. The following ECG was obtained demonstrating NSR. As in the initial ECG, there is a RBBB present.

 

CHADS2 score was 0. Therefore anticoagulation or antithrombotic therapy not indicated.


 

Case Conclusion:

The patient was discharged home within 4 hours of arriving to hospital, anticoagulation was not prescribed. It is likely that she will experience AF again and require anticoagulation later in life.


 

References:

  1. January, C. T., Wann, L. S., Alpert, J. S., Calkins, H., Cigarroa, J. E., Cleveland, J. C., et al. (2014). 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS guideline for the management of patients with atrial fibrillation: Executive summary. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 64(21), 2246. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.03.021
  2. Wakai, A., & Neill, J.O. (2003). Emergency management of atrial fibrillation. Postgrad Med J, 79(932), 313. doi:10.1136/pmj.79.932.313
  3. Scheuermeyer, F. X., Andolfatto, G., Christenson, J., Villa-Roel, C., & Rowe, B. (2019). A multicenter randomized trial to evaluate a chemical-first or electrical-first cardioversion strategy for patients with uncomplicated acute atrial fibrillation. Academic Emergency Medicine, 26(9), 969-981. doi:10.1111/acem.13669
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Color Flow Doppler to Assess Cardiac Valve Competence

Color Flow Doppler to Assess Cardiac Valve Competence

Resident Clinical Pearl (RCP) April 2019

Dr. Scott Foley – CCFP-EM PGY3 Dalhousie University, Halifax NS

Reviewed by Dr. David Lewis

 


 

Background:

When colour Doppler is initiated, the machine uses the principals of the Doppler effect to determine the direction of movement of the tissues off which it is reflecting.

The Doppler effect is the change in frequency of a wave in relation to an observer who is moving relative to a wave source. It was named after the Austrian physicist Christian Doppler who first described the phenomenon in 1842. The classic example is the change in pitch of a siren heard from an ambulance as it moves towards and away from an observer.

These principles are applied to POCUS in the form of colour Doppler where direction of flow is reflected by the colour (Red = moving towards the probe, Blue = moving away from the probe), and the velocity of the flow is reflected by the intensity of the colour (brighter colour = higher velocity).
*Note: the colour does not represent venous versus arterial flow.

 

The use of colour Doppler ultrasound can be useful in the emergency department to determine vascular flow in peripheral vessels as well as through the heart. It is one way to determine cardiac valve competency by focusing on flow through each valve.


 

Obtaining Views:

To optimize valve assessment, proper views of each valve must be obtained. It is best to have the direction of the ultrasound waves be parallel to the direction of flow. External landmarks for the views used are seen below:

  • Mitral Valve and Tricuspid Valve: The best view for each of these is the apical 4 chamber view. If unable to obtain this view, the mitral valve can be seen in parasternal long axis as well.
  • Aortic Valve: The best view is the apical 5 chamber or apical 3 chamber but are challenging to obtain. Instead, the parasternal long axis is frequently used.
  • Pulmonic Valve: Although not commonly assessed, the parasternal short axis can be used.
  • Visit 5minutesono.com for video instruction on obtaining views

Parasternal long axis: MV, AV

Parasternal short axis: PV, TV

Apical 4 chamber: TV, MV


 

Assessing Valvular Competency:

How to examine valvular competency:

  1. Get view and locate valve in question
  2. Visually examine valve: opening, closing, calcification
  3. Use colour Doppler:
    1. Place colour box over valve (as targeted as possible (resize select box) to not include other valves)
    2. Freeze image and scroll through images frame by frame
    3. Examine for pathologic colour jets in systole and diastole
  4. Estimating severity:
    1. Grade 1 – jet noticeable just at valve
    2. Grade 2 – jet extending out 1/3 of atrium/ventricle
    3. Grade 3 – jet extending out 2/3 of atrium/ventricle
    4. Grade 4 – jet filling entire atrium/ventricle

See video tutorial below for more


Mitral Regurgitation A4C

Tricuspid Regurgitation A4C

Aortic Stenosis PSLA


Bottom line:

Color flow Doppler on POCUS is a straightforward way to assess for valvular competency in the Emergency Department. A more detailed valvular assessment requires skill, knowledge and experience.

 


Useful Video Tutorials:

Mitral Regurgitation

 

Aortic Stenosis vs Sclerosis

Tricuspid Valve


References:

  1. https://www.radiologycafe.com/medical-students/radiology-basics/ultrasound-overview
  2. By Patrick J. Lynch and C. Carl Jaffe – http://www.yale.edu/imaging/echo_atlas/views/index.html, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21448310
  3. 5minutesono.com
  4. ECCU ShoC 2018 powerpoint, Paul Atkinson, David Lewis
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EM Reflections – January 2018

Thanks to Dr Joanna Middleton for leading the discussion this month and providing these tips and references.

Edited by Dr David Lewis 

 

  1. Occult Fractures of the Upper Limb

  2. Door to Needle/Balloon Times

  3. Mycotic Aneurysms

  4. CME Quiz


Occult Fractures of the Upper Limb

In patients (particularly the elderly)who present with upper limb pain following a fall or other trauma, be careful not to miss an occult fracture. Localization may be impaired by dementia, acute confusion or other soft tissue injuries. Commonly missed fractures of the upper limb include:

  • Clavicle fracture
  • Supracondylar fracture
  • Radial Head/Neck fracture
  • Buckle fractures of the radius/ulna
  • Scaphoid fracture
  • Carpal dislocation
  • Any impacted fracture

Impacted fractures of the humeral neck may still allow some shoulder joint movement. Pain can be referred to the elbow (just as some hip injuries have pain referred to the knee).

When a fracture is strongly suspected ensure that the entire bone is included in the radiograph. If localization is impaired consider obtaining radiographs of the entire limb, starting with the most symptomatic area. Also follow the old mantra – “include the joint above and below” when ordering radiographs for suspected fracture.

Commonly missed fractures in the ED

Misses and Errors in Upper Limb Trauma Radiographs

 


Strategies to reduce door to ballon time

Delays in door to balloon time for the treatment of STEMI have been shown to increase mortality.

 

 

JACC 2006 Click on here for full text

 

BMJ 2009 – Click here for full text

 

This evidence has led to an international effort to establish strategies that can reduce door to balloon times

This rural program in the USA published their strategy for reducing door to ballon times below 90mins over a 4 year period. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109710043810. Their strategies included the following:

2005
• Community hospital physicians visited by interventional cardiologist with recommendations to:

∘ Perform ECG within 10 min of arrival for chest pain patients

∘ Communicate with PCI center physicians via dedicated STEMI hotline

∘ Treat and triage patients without consulting with primary physicians

∘ Give aspirin 325 mg chewed, metoprolol 5 mg IV × 3 when not contraindicated, heparin 70 U/kg bolus without infusion, sublingual nitroglycerin or optional topical nitropaste without routine intravenous infusion, and clopidogrel 600 mg PO

∘ Eliminate intravenous infusions of heparin and nitroglycerin.

2006
• Nurse coordinator hired to oversee program and communicate with emergency department personnel at all referring hospitals.

• Recommendations for medications listed above were formally endorsed for all STEMI patients.

• Formal next-day feedback provided to referring hospitals, including diagnostic and treatment intervals and patient outcomes.

• Quarterly “report cards” issued to each referring hospital emergency department.

2007
• PCI hospital emergency physicians directly activated the interventional team (instead of discussing it first with the interventional cardiologist on call).

• A group page was implemented for simultaneous notification of all members of the interventional team and catheterization laboratory staff of an incoming STEMI patient.
ECG = electrocardiogram; IV = intravenous; PCI = percutaneous coronary intervention; PO = by mouth; STEMI = ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction.

 

However recent commentaries have highlighted the pitfall of this metric

 

The Challenges and Pitfalls of Door-to-Balloon Time as a Performance Metric

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/537538

 

and further evidence has shown no improvement in mortality despite reducing door to balloon times. However, it should be noted that these centres were already achieving < 90 min.

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1208200

This may be a result of multiple confounding factors:

total ischemic time may be a more important clinical variable than door-to-balloon time

it has been suggested that the association between door-to-balloon time and mortality may be affected by an “immigration bias” – healthier patients are likely to have shorter door-to-balloon times than are sicker patients with more complex conditions, for whom treatment may be delayed because of the time needed for medical stabilization

 

Whilst strategies to ever reduce door to balloon times may not be the correct focus to reduce overall mortality, it is clear that the presence of significant delays (>90mins) is associated with increased mortality.

 


Mycotic Aneurysms

Any kind of infected aneurysm, regardless of its pathogenesis. Such aneurysms may result from bacteremia and embolization of infectious material, which cause superinfection of a diseased and roughened atherosclerotic surface.

 

Aneurysmal degeneration of the arterial wall as a result of infection that may be due to bacteremia or septic embolization 

  • Symptoms:  pulsatile mass, bruit, fever
  • Risk Factors:  arterial injury, infection, atherosclerosis, IV drug use
  • #1 cause = staph, #2 = salmonella

Download (PDF, 1.14MB)

 


 

CME QUIZ

EM Reflections - Jan 18 - CME Quiz

EM Reflections – Jan 18 – CME Quiz

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ED Rounds – October 2015

This month ED Rounds were presented by Dr Mike Howlett  , Dr James French and Dr Wendy Alexander (Pediatrician SJRH).

 

Congestive Heart Failure – Dr Mike Howlett

Dr Howlett presented 4 cases that highlighted the differences in pathophysiology and approaches to treatment for CHF in the ED.

The definition of Congestive Heart Failure (ESC 2012 Guidelines)

a syndrome in which patients have typical symptoms (e.g. breathlessness, ankle swelling, and fatigue) and signs (e.g. elevated jugular venous pressure, pulmonary crackles, and displaced apex beat) resulting from an abnormality of cardiac structure or function

Diagnosis of CHF

The diagnosis of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (Systolic) and Heart Failure with preserved ejection fraction (Diastolic) is summarised in the box below.

Diagnosis HF

The mortality of Diastolic and Systolic HF are similar

CHF_Oct_2015_pptx

Dr Howlett’s full presentation can be downloaded / viewed below:

Download (PDF, 7.3MB)

 

How to be Awesome at Simulation – Dr James French

Dr French presented an interactive session that highlighted the important steps to designing, running and debriefing a simulation.

See our Simulation Program page for more details

Presentation to be uploaded here soon…

 

Pediatric Asthma – Dr Wendy Alexander

Dr Alexander presented pediatric pearls accumulated over her 25 years of practice.

See the SJRHEM Pediatric Asthma Guidelines

 

 

 

 

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ED Rounds – June 2015

Thanks to Dr Emily Love for preparing this useful post that summarizes the ED Rounds presentations for June 2015.

Resident Elective to South Africa.

Dr Leanne Hewitson and Dr Sarah Compeau

This was a great presentation. The girls talked about their work in several different hospitals in South Africa where they had an opportunity to assess and treat a large volume of trauma patients. In terms of some of the ways these hospitals differed from ours, there were often less resources (for example, there would be only so many suture trays for the night and they had to be careful not to use these up unnecessarily; also there were only two bags of O negative blood in the department in one of the hospitals – if they needed more they had to call a driver who would transport the blood from a facility 45 mins down the road).  

Another difference was staffing. There typically was not an attending staff on site, and they had a lot of independence in terms of diagnosing and treating their patients. they worked closely with a junior resident, a medical student and a senior physician who was not yet an attending (I can’t remember the name they assigned to this role).

Examples of hands-on opportunities: chest tube insertion, assessing and treating stab wounds and patients with multiple traumas

In terms of the discussion after the presentation, we talked about safety. In one of the cities, it was not safe to go out alone at night and was necessary to always have a route planned out so they would not get lost and end up in a dangerous area. The girls did feel  that with good planning and proper cautions the benefits of the experience outweighed the risks.  

Hands on experience: We talked about how valuable this experience was in terms of seeing a large volume of trauma patients, which we don’t see here in Canada. The girls both feel they are much more comfortable treating trauma patients here after their experience and would recommend it to other residents.

Teaching residents in other centers: Sarah and Leanne were able to both learn from house staff at the hospitals and also share some of their own skills. For example, they were able to teach ACLS protocols to the residents at one of the centers as they did not have formal  ACLS training as they did here.

Download (PDF, 7.5MB)

ST elevation in a 33 year old in RAZ

Dr Nicola Smith

This was a very interesting prevention and a good lesson to all of us on recognizing our own biases that may affect patient care.

When a 33 yo otherwise healthy female presented to RAZ with a headache, some potential biases were as follows

1- the triage note mentioned that she was quiet anxious but had settled

2-  she was in RAZ which gives the impression the patient is not acutely ill

3- it was the end of the day after a long busy day

The resident who saw this patient recognized these biases, and spent time with her to do a thorough history and physical. She was prompted to order an ECG which showed the ST elevations when the patient spoke about pain starting in her abdomen and moving up to her head and also left arm numbness.  

the patient turned out to have a pheochromocytoma. Lessons we learned about this are as follows:

1- close blood pressure and HR control are key before any surgery as there is a risk with surgery of further release of catecholamines and  a hypertensive emergency

2- these patients need close work-up for MENS syndromes

3 – there are some case studies reporting ST elevations in pheochromocytoma.

Download (PDF, 15.07MB)

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