Albumin for Resuscitation in Critical Illness

 

A 50-year-old man was brought to the emergency department. He had sustained a burn affecting 55% of his total body surface area and a significant inhalational injury.  In the emergency department he was intubated and ventilated, central venous, arterial and urinary catheters were placed and resuscitation begun using the Parkland formula.

He was transferred to burns intensive care.  Fluid resuscitation was continued using Hartmann’s solution.  A bronchoscopy was performed; 1.26% sodium bicarbonate was used for lavage.  He became increasingly tachycardic and hypotensive.  He was oliguric.  His haematocrit was 0.45.  Fluid status was difficult to assess clinically; he felt warm to touch.  An oesophageal Doppler probe was sited which demonstrated low stroke volume and corrected flow time.  His Doppler parameters improved with each 250ml bolus of Hartmann’s solution but the effect was short lived.  Noradrenaline and then adrenaline infusions were used in an attempt to maintain blood pressure.  After a significant volume of crystalloid had been given, approximately 12 hours after the time of injury, 4.5% human albumin solution was requested.  This seemed to have a more prolonged effect than Hartmann’s solution.  Over the next 12 hours the patient’s haemodynamic status stabilised and he was able to undergo initial surgical management of his burn 36 hours after presentation.

What is the evidence for the use of human albumin solution for fluid resuscitation in critically ill patients.Read More »

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Management of Variceal Bleeding

A 50 year-old man with a history of alcoholism attended to the emergency department having been found at home comatose.

He had a reduced Glasgow coma score on admission and was vomiting blood. He was not protecting his airway and was tachypnoeic, tachycardic and had a reduced systolic blood pressure. His oxygen saturations were low and there were coarse crackles on his chest. Old notes showed that on previous endoscopy oesophageal and gastric varices were found. He was cachectic with hepatosplenomegaly but no signs of ascites.. He was rumoured to be abstinent from alcohol and had been previously well up to one day ago when he was last seen. There was some report that he had been behaving oddly over the last 5 days though.

 

Supplemental oxygen was provided and the decision to intubate was made. An initial attempt to insert a Sengstaken-blakemore tube was abandoned until the patient was intubated using a rapid sequence intubation technique. The gastric balloon was inflated and put under tension. Blood tests showed a reduced haemoglobin level but no clotting abnormality. Transfusion of packed red cells was made.

Medical therapy included beginning a course of prophylactic antibiotics. Terlipressin was started at 2mg intravenously four times daily. He was also started on high dose proton pump inhibitors, lactulose and thiamine supplements.

The gastric balloon was left inflated for 10 hours and as there was no haemodynamic sign of further bleeding was then deflated. Oesophagogastrocopy the next morning on the intensive care unit showed only grade 1 varices with no recent stigmata of bleeding and some mild gastric erosions.

He continued to be haemodynamically stable and sedation was weaned. He did not wake up as expected on sedation hold and his ammonia level was found to be raised. Over the course of the next 2 days he improved and was extubated successfully and discharged to the ward.

Describe the management of variceal bleeding.

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Vasopressin Versus Vasopressin Analogues in Septic Shock

A 52 year old female was admitted to the ICU with septic shock secondary to cholangitis. She had liver cirrhosis secondary to alcoholic liver disease, although she had been abstinent since an admission with acute alcoholic hepatitis  2 years previously. She had recently entered the assessment pathway for orthotopic liver transplantation.

She presented to the Emergency Department with a short history of fever and confusion and falls. She was pyrexial, tachycardic and hypotensive. Her inflammatory markers were elevated and her liver enzyme profile suggested cholestasis. There were no other localising features on examination or preliminary investigation.

She was commenced in the ED on broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy (piperacillin-tazobactam) and fluid resuscitation consisting of Hartmann’s solution and 4% human albumin solution. Her blood pressure remained labile throughout the early part of her admission. She fulfilled the criteria for septic shock with evidence of evolving multi-organ dysfunction.

 

The patient received early, aggressive multi-organ support. Tracheal intubation and pressure-controlled ventilation were instituted due to grade III/ IV encephalopathy and a high work of breathing in response to profound metabolic acidaemia. A thorough clinical assessment of intravascular volume status was conducted, suggesting that the patient was adequately filled. Vasopressor therapy was initiated using noradrenaline to achieve a target MAP of 65mmHg. CVVHDF was commenced to control the severe acidaemia and hyperlactataemia.

The patient was vasoplegic and remained profoundly hypotensive despite rapidly escalating doses of noradrenaline and the addition of hydrocortisone. Continued assessment of intravascular status confirmed adequate filling and cardiac output monitoring using a pulse-contour analysis system confirmed a low SVRI- high cardiac output state.  Her noradrenaline requirements soon exceeded 0.4mcg/kg/min-1, at this point a vasopressin infusion was introduced at 0.03units/hr-1. This was associated with an improvement in haemodynamic indices; the target MAP was achieved and thereafter remained stable with a slow reduction in noradrenaline requirement. On day 2 the continuous vasopressin infusion was converted to terlipressin by bolus dose regime (2mg QDS).

An urgent ultrasound scan of her biliary system revealed an obstructed common bile duct which was treated by percutaneous biliary drainage. An Enterococcus was isolated from drain fluid and blood cultures within 48 hours and antibiotic therapy tailored accordingly. The patient was weaned from organ support and discharged to the hepatology unit 9 days after admission.

What is the rationale for the use of vasopressin in septic shock? Are vasopressin analogues as effective?Read More »

Propofol Infusion Syndrome

A 28-year-old man was involved in a high-speed road traffic accident suffering severe head injury (diffuse axonal injury) with bilateral haemopneumothoraces and pulmonary contusions. He was transferred intubated and ventilated to the neurointensive care unit from a district general hospital for intra-cranial pressure (ICP) monitoring.

He was initially managed with bilateral chest drains and conservative neuroprotective measures for difficult to control ICP. He was heavily sedated on propofol (300mg/hr), midazolam (30mg/hr) and fentanyl (300mcg/hr).

Over the next few days his temperature increased and he became increasingly hypoxic. He subsequently developed ECG changes and a echocardiogram showed right heart failure. A diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, which was confirmed on CTPA a few days later which showed evidence of a small PE. He was not anticoagulated due to neurosurgical concern regarding his head injury.

Over the next few days he developed renal failure requiring renal replacement therapy and acute liver failure with hypoglycaemia and lactic acidosis. He developed severe cardiovascular failure requiring multiple inotropes and pulmonary artery catheter guided therapy. Lipids were found to be elevated, with creatine kinase >50,000 and myoglobin found in the urine. Propofol infusion syndrome was diagnosed. Sedation was stopped and he started to make a recovery.

What are the clinical features of propofol infusion syndrome?

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Intra-Abdominal Hypertension

 

A 48 year old male was admitted to the ICU with rapidly evolving multi-organ dysfunction. He was in type I respiratory failure, hypotensive and had stage II acute kidney injury. He had been an inpatient recovering from a laparotomy for major urological surgery 5 days prior to his ICU admission. This was complicated by a major intraoperative haemorrhage.

The patient was commenced on treatment for presumed hospital acquired pneumonia. He was placed on mechanical ventilation and a noradrenaline infusion was commenced to maintain a mean arterial pressure of ≥65mmHg. Over the following 24 hours the patient displayed worsening lung compliance in the context of adequate oxygenation and an atracurium infusion was started. Simultaneously the patient appeared to develop an ileus and he became anuric. Repeated clinical examination revealed an increasingly distended abdomen. A CT of the abdomen and pelvis showed a large left sided retroperitoneal haematoma with evidence of pelvico-ureteric leak on the left and an associated fluid collection. The patient was taken to theatre for urgent re-laparotomy.

At the conclusion of the operation, the surgical team was unable to close the abdomen due to significant bowel oedema. They accepted a laparostomy and returned the patient to ICU with a negative pressure wound dressing in-situ. Post-operatively, there was significant improvement in lung compliance, vasopressor requirement and urine output. Enteral feeding was quickly re-established. The abdomen was closed during the same hospital admission and the patient survived-to-discharge home. At no point was this patient’s intra-abdominal pressure measured.

 

Describe the management of intra-abdominal hypertension.

Christopher Westall

Intra-abdominal hypertension (IAH)- abdominal compartment syndrome (ACS) is a well-recognised cause of morbidity and mortality in critically ill patients, rising to prominence in the 1990s with increased early survival of patients with intra-abdominal pathology requiring emergent laparotomy (principally abdominal aortic aneurysm repair and blunt trauma).1,2 IAH/ ACS may be precipitated by a range of insults local (primary IAH) and distant (secondary IAH) to the abdomen.3 The syndrome encompasses a spectrum of severity and there are a range of treatment options, though with little high quality evidence to support these.

The World Society of the Abdominal Compartment Syndrome (WSACS) consensus guidelines recommend that intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) is measured using the trans-bladder technique in any critically ill patient with an associated risk factor for IAH. The normal value for IAP is <12mmHg. IAH is then categorized by increasing pressure increments from grade I (IAP 12-15mmHg) to grade IV (>25mmHg). Abdominal compartment syndrome is defined as sustained IAP >20mmHg associated with new organ dysfunction.3

The WSACS Consensus proposes a management algorithm for IAH/ ACS that is loosely analogous to commonly encountered algorithms for managing raised intracranial pressure The abdomen is considered a fixed compartment with intra-luminal and extra-luminal volumes that can be manipulated through neutral-negative fluid balance, nasogastric and colonic decompression and percutaneous drainage of ascites/collections. In this instance, however, the compliance of the “box”, the abdominal wall, can also be manipulated by patient position, ventilatory strategy and neuromuscular blockade. Decompressive [laparotomy] therapy is reserved for algorithm failure.

The efficacy of protocolised management of IAH/ACS has never been demonstrated. A single prospective observational study suggested reduction in morbidity and mortality using algorithm based management of IAH; the authors quoted an increase in survival-to-discharge rate from 50 to 72% (p= 0.015) across 6 years with improved rates of same-admission closure. However the study was single centre, recruiting patients only after the laparostomy, with substantial selection and observer bias. Furthermore it was unclear which parts of the protocol were effective.4 While the basic principles underlying the WCASC 2013 algorithm are sensible, it must be acknowledged that proposed therapies such as resuscitation with hypertonic fluids, diuretic-driven diuresis and ultrafiltration through renal replacement therapies have no evidence to support them and have potentially serious implications for the patient.

Given that the efficacy of protocolised management of IAH/ACS is uncertain, is there then any evidence to support the measurement of IAP in every “at risk” patient, especially since the list of risk factors for IAH is so extensive that it is difficult to imagine a critically ill patient that is not at risk. This would not be without significant task-burden to critical care nursing staff, and as with any clinical index in ICU, risks morbidity from misinterpretation. There are only two small studies that have examined whether clinical examination can reliably predict intra-abdominal pressure; both small studies with significant methodological flaws and both conducted between 1996- 2000 when awareness of IAH was comparatively low. Importantly both studies compared examination to IAP measurement at pressures well below 20mmHg, where there is little evidence that specific intervention improves patient outcome, beyond highlighting that that patient is at risk of ACS.5,6

Decompressive laparotomy is recommended for the treatment of all patients with ACS refractory to medical therapy.3 In modern practice it is difficult to accurately assess the performance of this strategy in primary IAH/ACS, such is the absence of clinical equipoise. As many reviews acknowledge, the improvement in patient survival rates associated with primary laparostomy in abdominal trauma patients in the 1990s caused a fundamental paradigm shift from which it is now difficult to ethically justify alternative treatment strategies.1,2 That is to say that many patients with IAH/ ACS will now present to the ICU once decompressive laparostomy has either occurred or is imminently planned.

The benefits of decompressive laparotomy in secondary ACS are certainly less; data exists only for acute severe pancreatitis and sepsis associated with secondary peritonitis. While in both instances it must be acknowledged that laparostomy reduces IAP, like many interventions in a critically ill patient population, this does not translate into mortality benefit.7,8 As commentators note, laparostomy may often be performed because of a conceptual benefit of relook-laparotomy 48 hours later, rather than inability to close the abdomen or specific concerns regarding ACS.2 Indeed, regarding secondary peritonitis, there is good evidence that primary closure with on-demand re-laparotomy is non-inferior to laparostomy and planned re-laparotomy, and is associated with fewer surgeries and lower healthcare costs.9 This strategy is now [weakly] endorsed by the WCACS.3

One point that is widely agreed upon is the management of laparostomy. It appears universally agreed that negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT, i.e. “vac dressings”), with or without a form of dynamic retention system, is superior to previously popular methods such as bioprosthetic mesh and Bogota bag. The largest systematic review on the subject suggests that NPWT is associated with improved rates of primary delayed fascial closure (57.8%, 95% CI 50.8- 64.7) and mortality (22.3%, 95% CI 17.5- 27.5) with lower rates of entero-atmospheric fistulation (7.0%, 95% CI 5.0- 9.3) and abscess formation (4.2%, 95% CI 2.3- 6.9).10 This systematic review heavily influenced the most recent NICE review on the topic leading to endorsement of NPWT in clinical guideline IPG467, “Negative pressure wound therapy for the open abdomen” (2013).


Conclusion

The measurement of IAP in all at-risk critically ill patients is probably unnecessary and burdensome in resource terms. Critical care practitioners should have a low index of suspicion for ACS in their patients; if this develops then decompressive laparotomy is the treatment of choice (unless there is a large extra-luminal collection amenable to urgent drainage), particularly since modern laparostomy management appears to be associated with an increasingly low complication rate, if the abdomen cannot be closed.

The consensus guidelines for IAH/ACS remind us that attention to detail; such as ensuring that enteral nutrition is succeeding, that bowel care is optimal and that fluid balance is tightly controlled, may prevent numerous serious ICU-associated syndromes from ever developing.


References

1. Balogh ZJ, Lumsdaine W, Moore EE, Moore FA. Postinjury abdominal compartment syndrome: from recognition to prevention. Lancet,  2014; 384:1466-75

2. Leppaniemi AK. Laparostomy: why and when? Critical Care 2010; 14: 216. DOI: 10.1186/cc8857

3. Kirkpatrick AW, Roberts DJ, De Waele J, Jaeschke R, Malbrain MLNG, De Keulenaer B, Duchesne J, Bjorck M, Leppaniemi A, Ejike JC, Sugrue M, et al.  Intra-abdominal compartment syndrome: updated consensus definitions and clinical practice guidelines from the World Society of the Abdominal Compartment Syndrome. Intensive Care Med, 2013; 39:1190-1206

4. Cheatham ML, Safcsak KRN. Is the evolving management of intra-abdominal hypertension and abdominal compartment syndrome improving survival? Crit Care Med,  2010; 38:402-407

5. Kirkpatrick AW, Brenneman FD, McLean RF, Rapanos T, Boulanger BR. Is clinical examination an accurate indicator of raised intra-abdominal pressure in critically injured patients? Can J Surg, 2000:43:207-11

6. Sugrue M, Bauman A, Jones F, Bishop G, Flabouris A, Parr M, Stewart A, Hillman K, Deane SA. Clinical examination is an inaccurate predictor of intra-abdominal pressure. World J Surg, 2002; 26:1428-31

7. Mentula P, Hienonen P, Kemppainen E, Puolakkainen P, Leppaniemi A. Surgical decompression for abdominal compartment syndrome in severe acute pancreatitis. Arch Surg, 2010; 145:764-9

8. Robledo FA, Luque-de-Leon E, Suarez R, Sanchez P, de la Fuente M, Vargas A, Mier J. Open versus closed management of the abdomen in the surgical treatment of severe secondary peritonitis: a randomized clinical trial. Surg Infect (Larchmt), 2007; 8:63–72

9. van Ruler O, Mahler CW, Boer KR, Reuland EA, Gooszen HG, Opmeer BC, de Graaf PW, Lamme B, Gerhards MF, Steller EP, van Till JW, et al. Comparison of on-demand vs planned relaparotomy strategy in patients with severe peritonitis: a randomized trial. JAMA, 2007; 298:865-73

10. Quyn AJ, Johnston C, Hall D, Chambers A, Arapova N, Ogston S, Amin AI. The open abdomen and temporary abdominal closure systems- historical evolution and systematic review. Colorectal Dis, 2012; 14: e429–38

 

Adjunctive Therapies in Bacterial Meningitis

 

A 42 year old female with type 2 diabetes presented to hospital with fevers, malaise and headache. She had become unwell 7 days earlier with coryzal symptoms, feverishness, and cough with green sputum. On examination she was unwell and intermittently drowsy but gas exchange was adequate and she was haemodynamically stable with lactate 1.5 units. Temperature was 39.6oC and glucose was 15.8 units. Chest x-ray showed bibasal consolidation. CRP was 35 units and white cell count was 12.9. She received ceftriaxone 2 g, clarithromycin 500 mg, intravenous crystalloid 1000 mL and an insulin sliding scale.

One hour after admission the patient deteriorated with GCS 6 and non-purposeful shaking movements of the right arm and leg, which resolved with diazepam 5 mg intravenously. Her airway became partially obstructed despite nasopharyngeal and oral airways and she was urgently intubated. Aciclovir 900 mg was given and the patient was transferred to the ICU.

CT head showed no abnormality. A lumbar puncture revealed turbid yellow-tinged cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Dexamethasone 10 mg was given. A phenytoin infusion was started. Sedation was maintained with propofol and fentanyl.

The CSF showed Gram positive cocci and a white cell count of 1274 units with neutrophils 1248 units. CSF glucose was 0.3 units and protein was 5.5 g. Ceftriaxone twice daily and dexamethasone four times daily were continued and acyclovir was discontinued. Blood cultures and CSF both grew Streptococcus pneumoniae. Viral PCR was negative. After 48 hours the patient was extubated and then discharged to the ward without any neurological deficit. She went home 5 days after admission. Ceftriaxone was given for a total of 14 days, facilitated by the outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy team. She was advised not to drive for 6 months.

What adjunctive therapies, if any, are effective in the treatment of bacterial meningitis?Read More »

Alpha-2 agonists for sedation

 

A 66 year old woman was admitted to the ICU with acute type II respiratory failure secondary to a community acquired pneumonia (CURB-65 score 4) complicating severe COPD (FEV1 40% predicted). Collateral history revealed many concerning features; the patient had a poor exercise tolerance (mMRC dyspnoea scale score 3, exercise tolerance <100m), was alcohol dependent (drinking 120 units per week) and previously had been admitted to hospital with an exacerbation of COPD requiring NIV, and treatment for acute alcohol withdrawal.

 

Mechanical ventilation was commenced using a lung-protective strategy with permissive hypercapnia. Sedation was achieved using remifentanil and propofol, targeting a Richmond Agitation Scale Score (RASS) of -2 to 0. A noradrenaline infusion was commenced to maintain a mean arterial pressure of ≥65mmHg. A neutral cumulative fluid balance was targeted. Broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapy was continued as per local antimicrobial guidelines. Intravenous B vitamins were administered and enteral feeding was established via a nasogastric tube.

In view of the patient’s comparatively poor pre-morbid function and high risk of delirium, early extubation to NIV was identified as the preferred strategy. By day 3 the patient had improved such that this became a realistic goal. In order to prevent acute alcohol withdrawal, yet use benzodiazepines sparingly to avoid associated respiratory depression, remifentanil-propofol sedation was substituted for a clonidine infusion, which was continued following extubation. Low doses of chlordiazepoxide were used as rescue therapy in accordance with Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol scale (CIWA-Ar) scoring.

The patient progressed well, was weaned from both NIV and clonidine and was discharged from HDU to a respiratory ward on day 8. She survived to hospital discharge.

 

What role do Alpha-2 Agonists have for sedation in critical care?Read More »

Hyponatraemia and Renal Replacement Therapy

A 63 year old woman was admitted to the ICU from the Emergency Department with acute alcohol withdrawal, severe hyponatraemia (serum sodium level 114mmol/L), rhabdomyolysis (creatine kinase 46930u/L) and acute kidney injury (serum creatinine 262umol/L, urea 8.7mmol/L, potassium 4.6mmol/L, base excess -6.8 and anuric from the point of admission). Her corrected calcium level was 1.92mmol/L. She had been discovered on the floor at home after a presumed fall. It was unknown how long she had been on the floor, but there were extensive pressure injuries to the left elbow, buttocks and left leg. A CT scan of the brain had excluded significant acute intracranial pathology and a 12 lead ECG showed atrial fibrillation at a rate of 130 beats per minute.

The patient was intubated and mechanically ventilated to allow emergency treatment. She was sedated with remifentanil and propofol. Intravenous pabrinex and enteral chlordiazepoxide was given to treat her alcohol withdrawal, aiming for early extubation if possible. A low-dose noradrenaline infusion was required to maintain a mean arterial pressure ≥65mmHg. Calcium replacement was prescribed and full pressure relief measures were instituted. No specific treatment was given to rate control or cardiovert the patient.

The patient was clinically hypovolaemic, but since the duration of hyponatraemia was unknown (with suspicion of some chronicity related to alcohol dependence), aggressive fluid resuscitation was avoided. Continuous veno-veno haemodiafiltration (CVVHDF) was commenced using standard replacement fluid at a post-filter replacement rate of 10ml/kg/hr-1 and dialysate flow rate of 10ml/kg/hr-1 (blood pump at 200ml/hr). Concomitantly, a 5% dextrose infusion was administered; the rate of infusion and net fluid loss through ultrafiltration were adjusted constantly with a view to restoring euvolaemia over 24 hours while increasing serum sodium to a maximum level of 120mmol/L over the same time period. This strategy was continued the following day with a target sodium of 128mmol/L, thereafter tight control of sodium correction was relaxed.

She was extubated on day 3 and renal replacement was discontinued on day 4. The patient was discharged from ICU on day 6. At the point of discharge her serum sodium concentration was stable at 142mmol/L. She was neurologically intact.

What are the challenges in managing hyponatraemia in critically ill patients?Read More »

Massive Propranolol Overdose

A 35 year old male presented with massive (over 1500mg) propranolol overdose on a background of depression and anxiety. He called for help and was found alert and cardiovascularly stable by paramedics at 50 minutes post ingestion. By 80 minutes his conscious level had fallen to a Glasgow Coma Score of 11 and he had become hypotensive. He started fitting en route to hospital and lost cardiac output as he arrived at hospital. The initial cardiac arrest rhythm was broad complex slow pulseless electrical activity. After a prolonged resuscitation attempt he regained spontaneous cardiac output but never achieved cardiovascular stability and sadly died later that evening.

He was resuscitated according to standard resuscitation algorithms. In addition, several specific therapies were given in line with Toxbase recommendations1: Glucagon was administered as a 10mg slow bolus followed by a 100-150 mcg/kg/hr infusion. Insulin (actrapid) was given as a 60 unit bolus followed by a 1-2 unit/kg/hr infusion along with a glucose bolus of 0.5 g/kg followed by an infusion of 0.5 g/kg/hr. Intralipid was delivered as a bolus (100 ml 20%) followed by an infusion. Atropine 3mg was given and the adrenaline boluses were changed to an infusion at 10 mg/hr.

Cardiac arrest remained refractory until a 100 ml bolus of 8.4% Sodium Bicarbonate was administered prompting almost instantaneous restoration of circulation.

The circulation remained unstable with a broad complex bradycardia resistant to transcutaneous pacing. High dose adrenaline infusion, high dose euglycaemic insulin therapy and glucagon infusion were continued. Transvenous pacing was also ineffective and the patient sadly deteriorated into a refractory cardiac arrest from which he did not recover.

The patient regained his cardiac output when the sodium bicarbonate bolus was given. The temporal association between these two events was profound and led me to question why this therapy sits so far down the toxbase treatment algorithm.1

This case summary aims to answer: 

  1. What works in Propranolol overdose? 
  2. What doesn’t really work? 
  3. Which order should I give things?

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Post-operative Opioid-Induced Hyperalgesia

 

An elderly female was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU)following a planned hemi-hepatectomy to remove metastatic lesions from a previously resected primary colorectal cancer. The patient had declined neuraxial anaesthesia. The surgery proceeded uneventfully via a rooftop incision under general anaesthesia, which was maintained with remifentanil, sevofluorane and paralysis with atracurium.

30 minutes before the termination of the three hour operation, a bolus of 10mg of morphine was given intravenously and a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) morphine pump was prepared. At emergence from anaesthesia, paralysis was reversed, and the patient was successfully extubated. In the ICU the patient was instructed in the use of the PCA. She was initially comfortable, but within 30 minutes she complained of worsening abdominal pain around the upper abdominal incision and became tachycardic.

To address this patient’s worsening post-operative abdominal pain 10mg of morphine was given intravenously. Simultaneously she was reassessed and the potential cause of the pain was sought. The abdomen remained soft and mildly tender. Drains were dry, and parameters including blood pressure, respiratory rate, haemoglobin, and arterial blood gases were satisfactory.

The morphine was ineffective. She was given 1g of intravenous paracetamol, a further bolus of 10mg of morphine and two sequential 500mL aliquots of crystalloid. Surgical review was requested. After another 20 minutes the pain had not diminished so she received a bolus of fentanyl and a trial dose of 100mg of intravenous tramadol. Unfortunately these measures did not reduce the pain at all. Although vital signs were unchanged, the patient was increasingly distressed.

There was no apparent clinical deterioration to account for the increased pain. Yet, control of her symptoms had clearly been lost and routine analgesia was ineffective. Urgent senior review was requested. Suspecting that she had become refractory to opioid analgesia, and concerned about the severity of the pain and its potential complications, the consultant stopped the patient’s PCA, increased the inspired oxygen fraction to 0.80 through a non-rebreathe mask, and gave 50mg of ketamine intravenously.

These interventions significantly improved symptoms over the next ten minutes. The patient remained conscious though slightly drowsy and her tachycardia settled. Simple analgesics and a low dose infusion of 2-5 mcg/kg/min (approximately 10-25 mg/h) of ketamine were prescribed. These effectively controlled her pain. After the patient had remained comfortable and clinically stable for several hours, the PCA was gradually re-introduced and the ketamine was discontinued. She was discharged to the ward the following day.

What is opioid-induced hyperalgesia?Read More »