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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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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Heparin Induced Thrombocytopaenia

 

A 75 year old was admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit following aortic valve replacement for severe aortic stenosis. He had no other significant past medical history. He remained intubated and ventilated overnight until cardiovascularly stable, and was extubated the following morning. He suffered bleeding into the pericardial drains, and went back to theatre on day 3. He remained intubated on his return from theatre. On day 7 it was noticed that he had developed thrombocytopenia, with a platelet count of 34, reducing from 103 the previous day. A heparin induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) screen was sent, and he was changed to alternative anticoagulation.

The HIT screen was positive. His platelet count fell further and he continued to bleed slowly from any puncture sites and from around his mouth and gums. He remained intubated and ventilated and developed a requirement for inotropic support. Transfusions of platelets were required for any intervention. He was anticoagulated with lepirudin to prevent thrombosis. His platelet count continued to remain in single figures over the next 10 days despite treatment with steroids. Unfortunately he deteriorated, suffering an arterial thrombosis in his arm, renal failure and developed a necrotic skin rash all over his body, likely to be related to the HIT. Following discussions with his family, who felt he was suffering and would not want a poor quality of life, treatment was withdrawn on day 26 of his intensive care stay and she died.

What are the clinical implications of heparin-induced thrombocytopaenia?Read More »

Refractory Status Epilepticus

 

A middle aged man presented with seizures. For 4 days he had been feeling unwell with coryzal symptoms, frontal headache and dizziness. He had ‘not been himself’ for some months. He had no previous medical history and had never had a seizure before. The ambulance crew noted that he was confused and witnessed a generalised tonic-clonic seizure. On arrival in hospital he was severely agitated and uncooperative and received IV lorazepam.

He was not adequately protecting his airway, saturations were 100% on high flow oxygen, temperature was 37.8, his pulse was 88, BP 129/90mmHg, blood sugar was 7.7. Clinical examination did not reveal any abnormality except for diminished level of consciousness. A presumptive diagnosis of meningitis / encephalitis was made. His trachea was intubated, he received fluids, parenteral vitamins, IV ceftriaxone and acyclovir. A CT head (with contrast) was obtained and a lumbar puncture were normal. His blood tests, CXR, urinary toxicology screen, and ECG were non-contributory. Arterial blood gas analysis revealed changes consistent with being post ictal and then (whilst ventilated) normalised.

His sedation was weaned and once extubated he remained very drowsy, even 18 hours after his last sedation. A Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) was recorded at E1V1M5 (7/15). His pupils were equal and reactive, and he was moving all 4 limbs. Both plantar responses were down-going, and tone and reflexes were symmetrical. He had myoclonic jerking of his left hand but no rhythmical muscle activity was evident. To protect his airway he required reintubation of his trachea and re-institution of ventilation.

In addition to sedation with propofol and alfentanil he received therapeutic phenytoin. An electroencephalogram (EEG) performed on his second day, off sedation, revealed continuous periodic sharp and slow wave complexes at around 1Hz with intermittent high amplitude waves in the left temporal region and bursts of rhythmical activity in the right temporal region. At the time of the EEG he had some abnormal motor activity – continuous movement of his fingers and twitching of an eyelid and rhythmical jerking of both of his arms. An MRI of his brain was normal.

In this clinical context the EEG was interpreted as being consistent with encephalitis and non-convulsive status epilepticus.  Phenobarbitone was started in addition to the phenytoin. Normothermia and normoglycemia was maintained. To improve the management of his non convulsive status we continuously monitored his cerebral electrical activity with a bispectral index (BIS) monitor and bitemporal EEGs. We targeted a burst suppression of 20-50%. Propofol was ineffective at reducing the BIS without causing limiting hypotension but midazolam was effective.

Further investigations did not further our search for the primary diagnosis. A further EEG was performed 24 hours later, off midazolam but whilst on 350mg/hr of propofol. He developed some rhythmical motor activity and his EEG revealed ongoing abnormal electric activity, consistent with continued non-convulsive status, which resolved in response to a bolus of propofol. A possible diagnosis of limbic encephalitis was considered and methylprednisolone (1g IV) was administered.

A repeat MRI showed increased abnormal signal changes in the amygdala and hippocampus, which is supportive of the diagnosis of limbic encephalitis.

Despite optimal medical treatment his EEG showed more severe and continued abnormal electrical activity. Thiopentone was added to his anti-seizure regime. By the 19th day from initial presentation multiorgan failure had developed. He required ventilation with high airway pressures and high inspired oxygen concentrations for lung injury due to ventilator associated pneumonia, vasoactive drugs to support his cardiovascular system through the associated sepsis, haemofiltration for renal failure and had ileus with failure of enteral feeding. There were still signs of seizure activity despite concurrent administration of propofol, midazolam, phenytoin, levetiracetam, phenobarbitone and sodium valproate. Supportive treatment was withdrawn following diagnosis of brain-stem death. His family did not permit a post mortem examination.Read More »

Management of Variceal Haemorrhage

A 60-year-old alcoholic was admitted with large-volume, frank haematemesis. On presentation he was hypotensive, tachycardic and obtunded with multiple stigmata of chronic liver disease including a moderate volume of ascites and palpable splenomegaly. Initial phlebotomy revealed a haemoglobin of 6.4 g/dL, INR of 4.5 and bilirubin of 54 μmol/L. Arterial blood gas analysis demonstrated a significant metabolic acidosis and lactate of 11 mmol/L. Large bore intravenous access was established and administration of crystalloid initiated, targeting a systolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg. Urgent cross-match of 10 units of packed red blood cells, clotting products and platelets was requested and the patient was transferred to theatre where upper gastrointestinal tract endoscopy was performed under general anaesthesia. This demonstrated three columns of varices involving the gastro-oesophageal junction. Attempts at banding and injection of sclerosant met with variable success. A Senstaken-Blakemore tube was inserted due to incomplete haemostasis and further attempts at endoscopic therapy abandoned.

The patient was transferred to intensive care. Intravenous cefotaxime and terlipressin were commenced. Further transfusion of clotting products continued as guided by thromboelastography with some slowing of transfusion but red cell requirements persisted at a rate of 1-2 units of blood per hour. At 12 hours, repeat endoscopy was performed – further attempts at sclerotherapy were unsuccessful and transjugular intrahepatic porto-systemic shunting was performed by the interventional radiology team. Upon return to intensive care, a significant reduction in bleeding was noted and both haemodynamic indices and coagulopathy improved over the following 12 hours. A repeat endoscopy demonstrated no evidence of active ongoing bleeding. At this point sedation was stopped; some encephalopathy was evident although this improved in the following 24 hours. Extubation occurred on day 3 after admission and he was discharged to the high-dependency unit at day 5 without significant ongoing acute issues.

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Invasive Ventilation of Life-Threatening Asthma

Invasive Ventilation in Life-Threatening Asthma

An 18-year-old known asthmatic presented with a two-day history of increasing shortness of breath on a background of a recent coryzal illness. She had a background of reasonably poor control and had been admitted to the intensive care unit for mechanical ventilation twice as a child. Her current medication included regular inhaled serotide 250, montelukast 10mg and theophylline MR 450mg BD. At presentation she was in extremis; pulse rate was 65 per minute, blood pressure 75/54 mmHg and respiratory rate 14 per minute. Arterial blood gas analysis demonstrated a PaCO2 of 11 kPa and PaO2 of 7.6 kPa with associated respiratory acidosis. Nebulised salbutamol and intravenous magnesium sulphate therapy was administered. along with 200mg of intravenous hydrocortisone. On arrival of the intensive care team, the patient’s respiratory rate deteriorated to a rate of 4 per minute. Assisted ventilation with a self-inflating bag and 100% oxygen was performed; rapid-sequence intubation was performed using ketamine and rocuronium.

Following intubation, immediate difficulties were experienced with mechanical ventilation. High airway pressures in excess of 40 cmH2O with tidal volumes of less than 200 ml were observed. Immediate chest radiography confirmed correct positioning of the endotracheal tube and excluded a pneumothorax. Adequate sedation and neuromuscular blockade were confirmed. Auscultation confirmed severe, widespread wheeze with limited air entry. Further nebulised salbutamol was administered and an aminophylline infusion initiated. The patient was transferred to the intensive care unit where magnesium, ketamine and vecuronium by infusion were added. Various modes of mechanical ventilation were tried including volume and pressure triggered with varying success; this included lengthening the I:E ratio, frequent disconnections to allow deflation and adjustment of PEEP to maximum compliance. Continuous salbutamol was administered via an ultrasonic nebuliser. Airway pressures remained high and there was little improvement in her acidosis. 2 hours after admission the patient suffered a PEA cardiac arrest from which she could not be resuscitated.

What are the difficulties in ventilating severe asthmatics, and what strategies can we use to overcome them?

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Hepatorenal Syndrome

Hepatorenal Syndrome

A 54 year old man with a history of alcohol excess was admitted under the medical team with an upper gastro-intestinal bleed. He had a background of pulmonary fibrosis that limited his exercise tolerance to 30 yards. Antibiotics, terlipressin and fluid resuscitation, including blood, were given. An oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy demonstrated severe portal gastropathy but no active bleeding or varices. An abdominal ultrasound demonstrated cirrhosis and some moderate ascites. On day two of the patient’s hospital admission he was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) with respiratory failure and non-invasive ventilation was started. Over the next few days his condition deteriorated and he required vasopressor support. By day 6 the patient was oliguric, and his creatinine had risen from 102 to 155 µmoles/l.

What is the cause for his acute kidney injury? Could it be hepatorenal syndrome? Read More »