Advance Decisions in Critical Care

 

An 85 year old man with good pre-morbid function was admitted to the ICU following emergency laparotomy for a ischaemic perforation of small bowel. He had undergone a small bowel resection and primary anastomosis. Preoperatively, the patient had been delirious and unable to consent for surgery, assent was granted by his wife.

Postoperatively, the patient required mechanical ventilation, vasopressor support and renal replacement on admission. He stabilised by day 5, but remained mechanically ventilated. On day 5 of admission, during a discussion between the surgeon and the patient’s wife, the wife admitted regret that she had not had “better” discussions with the surgeons pre-operatively and raised doubts as to whether the patient would have wanted such treatment. Following those discussions between the wife and surgical team, limitations on care were placed; renal replacement therapies would not be restarted and vasopressor support would not be escalated beyond the existing level. A DNR order was implemented. On day 10, during discussion with the duty ICU consultant, it emerged that the patient had a written advance decision refusing “aggressive medical treatment”.

 

The patient continued to improve but could not be weaned from ventilation. A percutaneous tracheostomy was sited on day 10. On day 15 he was liberated from mechanical ventilation and able to use a speaking valve. He had regained mental capacity sufficient to discuss his care and wished to continue given the progress he had made. It was agreed that he would not be mechanically ventilated in the event of deterioration and the existing DNR order was confirmed. Subsequently, it became apparent that the small bowel anastomosis was leaking; it was agreed that treatment would be non-operative.

In total the patient was treated on ICU for 20 days before he was placed on an end of life pathway and died.

 

What are the implications of Advance Decisions on Intensive Care?Read More »

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Sleep Deprivation on the ICU

A 70-year-old lady was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with respiratory failure and septic shock secondary to pneumococcal pneumonia. She developed multi- organ failure, requiring a prolonged period of mechanical ventilation and weaning, and also developed acute kidney injury requiring haemofiltration. Once a tracheostomy was performed and sedative infusions weaned, she was noted to be acutely delirious. Her sleep pattern was severely disrupted, with extended periods of nighttime wakefulness and sleep fragmentation, increased daytime sleep and difficulty with sleep initiation requiring pharmacological intervention.

Following exclusion of organic causes including CT brain imaging, the delirium was managed with a combination of antipsychotic medications including haloperidol, mirtazapine and quetiapine. Benzodiazepine-based night sedation was used but found to be ineffective in establishing sustained sleep.

A trial of night sedation with infusion of Propofol did not have any ongoing or long-lasting benefit other than the immediate sedative effects and providing control of agitation. A trial of Dexmedetomidine infusion also yielded similar results, although a more sustained daytime anxiolytic effect was noted. Benzodiazepine therapy was changed to supplementation of Melatonin. At around this time, the delirium began to resolve and the patient was able to more actively engage in physiotherapy and patient care. By the time of ICU discharge over thirty days later, and following successful weaning and decannulation, the patient’s sleep pattern had improved significantly.

What are the implications of sleep deprivation in the critically ill patient and how can it be managed?

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Post Operative Cognitive Deficit after Cardiac Surgery

A middle-aged  man underwent an elective re-do aortic arch replacement for a 6.1cm ascending aortic aneurysm distal to a pre-existing composite graft. Past medical history included a Bentall procedure (metallic aortic valve replacement, aortic root and ascending aorta replacement with coronary re-implantation into the composite graft) 20 years ago. Preoperative echocardiogram showed a well seated AVR and good biventricular function. Drug history included Warfarin (target INR 2-3) and Atenolol.

Anaesthetic induction and re-sternotomy were uneventful. Cerebral oximetry (rSO2) monitoring was utilized in this case. Cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) was achieved uneventfully and deep hypothermic circulatory arrest (DHCA) was instituted. The patient was cooled to 18°C using CPB and icepacks. Prior to CPB and DHCA being commenced, intravenous thiopentone and methylprednisolone were administered for neuroprotection. Total DHCA time was 40 minutes and selective anterograde perfusion via the right axillary artery (chosen as it is relatively free of atheroma) was employed when rSO2 dropped to <40% and they remained >40% for the remainder of DHCA. Total CPB time was 105 minutes.

Following successful insertion of a new graft, the patient was carefully rewarmed to normothermia and weaned off CPB uneventfully, only requiring minimal vasopressor support. The patient was transferred to the cardiothoracic critical care unit.

After optimization of cardiorespiratory physiology, correcting coagulopathy and maintaining normothermia, with strict avoidance of hyperthermia, the patient was extubated the following day. For the first 48-72 hours postoperatively, delirium was the most active medical issues and this was managed according to conventional treatment. There was no focal upper or lower limb neurology. The patient did not require any other organ system support.

Following resolution of his delirium the patient was discharged to the ward to continue his rehabilitation. Prior to discharge, at approximately postoperative days 7-10, he was complaining of loss of short-term memory, reduced attention span and difficulty with finding words. A neurology review attributed this to cognitive dysfunction but no formal tests were carried out. A neurology clinic follow-up and an outpatient MRI scan were arranged.

What are the neurological complications after cardiac surgery?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 »

Advance Directives

An elderly man presented to hospital with an acute abdomen. He was fit and well, with a background of well-controlled hypertension and chronic back pain. He had previously had admissions with a recurrent gastric volvulus, each time it had resolved spontaneously.

A CT scan was performed and revealed a gastric volvulus which was decompressed endoscopically. He was transferred to the high dependency ward post-procedure for observation as it was deemed high risk for recurrence and therefore likely that he would need surgery to correct it. Overnight he required increasing amounts of fluid and analgesia and suddenly deteriorated with a tachycardia, rising lactate and peritonitic abdomen. He was taken for an emergency laparotomy and had a gastrectomy. A feeding jejunostomy was inserted during the procedure.

The post-operative course involved a period of septic shock and multi-organ failure. He remained intubated, on a noradrenaline infusion and was receiving CVVH for renal failure. On the third post-operative day, despite a 24 hour sedation hold, he was showing no sign of any neurological recovery and was not eye-opening or obeying commands. It was at this point that his wife presented the team with an advance directive.

The advance directive was presented at a point in the care whereby the patient was already receiving high levels of support for his cardiovascular system (noradrenaline 0.3mcg/kg/min), respiratory system, renal system (CVVH) and gastrointestinal system (jejunostomy feed). It was discussed and a plan was made to, for the current time, continue management, but it was explained that the outlook was bleak.

His renal function worsened over the next few days (urea 27, creatinine 400) and despite a long sedation hold, he was still unable to obey commands. However,care was continued as both the cardiovascular and respiratory support was decreasing, with the noradrenaline having been weaned by day 6. He was extubated by day, but remained mildly confused and agitated. The following day, he became more tachycardic, tachypneoic and hypotensive. He deteriorated significantly to the extent where he became peri-arrest and was re-intubated. A CT confirmed an intra-abdominal/mediastinal catastrophe.

He once again developed severe septic shock with multi-organ dysfunction. His antiobiotics were restarted (meropenum) and an anti-fungal (fluconazole) introduced. NJ feed was commenced. He improved to the point of extubation on day 11, but again deteriorated. At this point, a decision involving his wife was made to palliate him. He died later that day

What are the implications of advance directives on the ICU?Read More »

Intensive Care Acquired Weakness

Intensive Care Acquired Weakness

A cardiovascularly fit 65 year old man was admitted with septic shock secondary to community acquired pneumonia, which progressed to multi-organ failure. During his recovery it was noted that he had generalised weakness with no focal neurology. He underwent respiratory weaning, and rehabilitation therapy over the next 4 weeks but had persistent weakness at his ICU discharge.

How can ICU-acquired weakness be diagnosed and managed?Read More »