Graft versus Host Disease

A 34-year-old woman received a small bowel, pancreas and abdominal wall transplant.

Despite the operation being technically very difficult and prolonged, she initially recovered well after the procedure and her transplanted bowel started to work. However, after a few days she started developing respiratory complications eventually requiring re-intubation despite antibiotics. She went on to develop multi-organ dysfunction requiring vasopressor support and renal replacement therapy. Antifungals and co-trimoxazole were added, with no additional benefit noted.

A skin rash started to develop, which raised the suspicion of Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD). A diagnostic test was performed (chimerism of peripheral blood leucocytes), and it confirmed the diagnosis of GvHD.

Doses of immunosuppressants such as tacrolimus, mycophenolate mofetil were increased and steroids were started too.

An experimental therapy of mesenchymal stem cells infusion was also employed, but she continued to deteriorate further and she eventually died after a prolonged admission on ICU.

Graft versus Host Disease – what it is, how to diagnose it, how to treat itRead More »

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Thrombotic Thrombocytopaenic Purpura

A previously fit and well 64 year old gentleman presented to the acute medical unit with a two-week history of lethargy, bruising, dark urine and an episode of transient facial numbness, blurred vision and dysarthria lasting 30 minutes. Clinical examination revealed mild jaundice, multiple bruises and a palpable liver edge but was otherwise normal. His respiratory rate was 14 breaths/minute with normal oxygen saturations. He was in sinus rhythm with a pulse of 68 beats/minute and non-invasive blood pressure was 130/70. He was GCS 15 and was apyrexial.

His full blood count revealed a haemoglobin of 94 g/L, platelets 9 x109/L, and white cell count 9 x109/L. A blood film showed red cell fragmentation, spherocytes, polychromasia, poikilocytosis and no platelet clumps. Reticulocytes and lactate dehydrogenase were raised at 168.6 x 109/L and 3027 iu/L respectively. Liver function tests revealed a bilirubin of 49 µmol/L but were otherwise normal. A liver ultrasound showed fatty infiltration. Clotting was normal and direct antiglobulin test negative. Urea and electrolytes were normal, creatinine 80 µmol/L and the C reactive protein was 37. ADAMTS13 assay showed complete absence of activity. CT brain was normal.

He was reviewed by the haematologists who diagnosed thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura and referred him to the intensive care unit for plasma exchange. He received a three-day course of methylprednisolone, was intubated due to agitation, received plasma exchange with octaplas replacement that increased from 2 litre to 5 litre exchanges, and rituximab 750mg.

He deteriorated progressively with: vomiting, anaemia requiring blood transfusions, worsening thrombocytopenia, acute kidney injury with a peak creatinine of 457 µmol/L, an inferior ST elevation myocardial infarction, and a posterior cerebral artery territory infarct.

On day 5 he developed fixed and dilated pupils. Mannitol 1g/kg was administered and an urgent CT brain performed. This revealed multiple infarcts in both cerebral hemispheres and right cerebellum, loss of grey-white differentiation, 5mm midline shift and low cerebellar tonsils.

After discussion with the neurosurgeons it was decided this was an unrecoverable injury. In agreement with his family, end of life care was instituted and he died within 24 hours.

Describe the management of Thrombotic Thrombocytopaenic Purpura.Read More »

Dexamethasone in Bacterial Meningitis

Dexamethasone in Bacterial Meningitis

A previously healthy 25 year old female was admitted with low GCS and a fever. She had a 24 history of viral symptoms including sore throat and a headache. On admission she had a GCS of 3, temperature of 38.9°C and raised inflammatory markers. She was intubated but did not require vasopressor support. A CT brain showed diffuse cerebral swelling, effacement of the sulci, sylvian fissures, basal cisterns and 3rd/4th ventricles, and early cerebellar tonsillar herniation. Lumbar puncture was not performed due to CT appearances. She was commenced on intravenous (IV) ceftriaxone 2g twice daily, IV acyclovir 800mg three times daily, and IV dexamethasone 10mg four times daily. Unfortunately, her pupils remained fixed and dilated on sedation hold 36 hours later, and she was making no respiratory efforts. She subsequently became a DBD organ donor.

What is the evidence for dexamethasone in bacterial meningitis?

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Necrotising Fasciitis - Advances in diagnosis and management

Necrotising Fasciitis – Advances in diagnosis and management

A 40 year old man underwent a minor elective day case lower limb soft tissue operation. 72 hrs later he began to feel unwell and developed fevers and rigors. He was seen first thing in the morning with increasing pain and inflammation extending up from the foot to the knee. Intravenous antibiotics were started on admission. He was in theatre having a debridement by late morning, by which time the inflammation had spread to the inner thigh. He was in profound septic shock with disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. During the debridement, it was noted that the inflammation had spread to his pelvis. He had a laparotomy and it was determined that the resection he would require was unsurvivable. Treatment was withdrawn and he died on the operating table.

How is necrotising fasciitis diagnosed and how is it managed?

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