Wicked Clinical Case: POCUS & Prone save the day! #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #FOAMer

So I get a call from a colleague in the ED at about 2am, telling me about a 39 yr old woman post-arrest. So I start putting on my boots and warming up the car (it’s January in Montreal folks).  Apparently she had presented earlier in severe acidosis, the diagnosis is unclear, but she apparently got 2 units for an Hb of 49, then went into respiratory failure and got intubated. She arrested about 30 minutes later, cause unknown.

I tell the ICU to prepare a bed but I want to see her in the ED first. Twenty minutes later I put probe to patient and see a full IVC with spontaneous echo contrast. On that I tell the nurse to hold the fluids – there was a bag and tubing and a pump with 100ml/hr on it – and turn into a subxiphoid view to see a normal RV and a hypokinetic LV with some WMAs. She has marked consolidations  in both posterior lung fields and B lines laterally, with small effusions and dynamic air bronchograms (indicating patent airways). At this point she has a HR of about 120, but there is neither perceptible BP (by NIBP) nor saturation. She’s on levophed at 20mcg. She’s about an hour post arrest which was witnessed and brief (<10min to ROSC).

The theories about the arrest are possible hyperkalemia: she was intubated with succinylcholine before the K of 6.1 was back from the lab, and her pre-intubation pH was 7.0, and post-intubation she was only ventilated at 400 x 18, possibly precipitating a drop in pH and a rise in K. Her EKG had some nonspecific signs at this point, but also a poor anterior R wave.

So we head to the ICU, as instrumentation was needed. Cerebral saturation (SctO2) is 42% and ETCO2 is 20mmhg, which reassures me that the BP is probably in the measurable range (normal SctO2 is >60% and varies, but 47% is certainly viable)…  A jugular CVC with continuous ScVo2 and a femoral arterial line goes in:


So with a BP of 59/44 (ignore the 100/46, not sure whose arm that was on!) I start epinephrine, as the POCUS is similar, as I want some added beta-agonism. ScVO2 matches SctO2 in the 40’s. We get the BP up the the 90-1oo range, the ETCO2 goes to 30, the SctO2 and ScVo2 go up into the high 40’s, which is very reassuring, because with this I know that my epi drip is improving perfusion and NOT over-vasoconstricting. Without looking at a real-time tissue perfusion index of some sort or other, it is nearly impossible to know rapidly whether your therapy is helping or harming (will discuss tissue saturation & resuscitation monitoring in more detail in another post sometime soon).


So now the sat finally starts to record in the low 60’s. We have a PEEP of 5, so start bringing it up. We hit 16 before the BP starts to drop, and that only gets us to the mid 70’s sat%. She actually squeezes my hand to command.


At this point I take a few seconds to recap in my mind. I’d spoken to the husband briefly and she had had recurrent episodes of feeling unwell with headache, nausea and diaphoresis, and that had been out for dinner earlier and she felt fine until later in the evening when this came on and eventually brought her to hospital. There was also a notion of hypertension at an ER visit a couple of weeks ago. Her history was otherwise not significant. Nonsmoker.

Pheo? Maybe, but shock?  I repeat the EKG, and now, in I and AVL, there is perhaps a 1mm ST elevation. She’s 39 and essentially dying. Lactate comes back >15, pH 6.9.  I give her a few more amps of NaHCO3. You can see the BP respond to each amp. I decide we need to go to the cath lab and get the cardiologist on call to get on the horn with the interventional team at a nearby hospital with a cath lab and ECMO, which is what I think she needs. Hb comes back at 116, making that initial 49 that prompted 2 PRBCs probably a technical or lab error…very unfortunate. There are no visible signs of significant bleeding.

But back to the patient, because this isn’t really a transferrable case.

Recap: a 39yr old woman in cardiogenic shock AND in severe congestive heart failure exacerbated by fluids and packed red cells, with a PO2 in the 40’s and sat in the 70’s.

So I decide to prone her.


Along with draining tamponades, this had to be one of the most rapid and rewarding maneuvers I’ve done. There was a scry drop of sat to the 40’s for a few seconds (may have been a technical thing), but then within a few minutes: BP to the 130’s, SctO2 to 59% and sat 100%!




We dropped the vasopressors, the FiO2, and all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Now for the novices out there, prone ventilation improves VQ mismatch by moving perfusion from diseased, posterior lung fields to now-dependant, relatively healthy, anterior lung fields.

So transfer at this point was in the works. I planned to leave her prone until the last minute. The miraculous effect started to slowly wane within about 30 minutes, with sat and BP creeping down. At the time of transfer, we were back up to 80% FiO2.

So why is this?  Simple enough, this being simple pulmonary edema – rather than consolidated pneumonia – it migrated to dependent areas  relatively quickly. This was confirmed by a quick POCUS check:screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-10-48-06-pmscreen-shot-2017-01-05-at-10-48-26-pm

So in the still shots, you see a pristine “A” profile (normal, no edema) from the patient’s back, and a severe consolidation or “C” profile with ultrasound bronchograms in the antero-lateral (now dependant) chest. Impressive. (for those wanting some POCUS pearls see other posts and here). This is the reverse of her initial POCUS exam.

So we flipped her back and transported her – lights & sirens – the the cath lab, where they were waiting with ECMO cannulae. As an aside, it was quite refreshing to speak to the ICU fellow who spoke POCUS as well as french and english – it’s not usually the case, but I’m glad to see the change. I do believe it to be a direct effect of the influence of my friend and mentor, Dr. Andre Denault, one of the POCUS deities.

So she turned out to have a normal cath and a large adrenal mass. She did well on ECMO, being weaned off it today, and is now alpha-blocked and waiting for surgery, neurologically intact for all intents and purposes. A big thanks to the interventionists and the ICU team at the Montreal Heart Institute. Puts a smile on my face.


Take Home Points:

  1. don’t resuscitate without POCUS. I wouldn’t want anyone guessing with my life on the line, would you?
  2. keep pheo in mind as a cause of “acute MI” and shock
  3. if you’re not using some form of realtime monitor of perfusion (continuous CO, SctO2, ETCO2, ScvO2) then all you’ve got is looking at the skin and mentation, so you are essentially flying blind. Lactate and urine output are not realtime in real life.
  4. get ECMO in the house, it’ll come in handy. I’m working on it.


Love to hear some comments!





ps I’ll try to add more ultrasound clips from this case in the next few days.

Tom Woodcock: The Revised Starling Principle and The Glycocalyx! #FOAMed, #FOAMcc

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So today, I had the chance of having a private tutorial with Dr. Thomas Woodcock (@thomaswoodcock) about the glycocalyx and the revised Starling principles.  For anyone interested in fluid resuscitation, this is an area you have to delve into. The basic principles we all learned (which are still being taught) are basically the physiological equivalent of the stick man we all started drawing as toddlers: overly simplified and far from an accurate representation of reality.

Now my first disclaimer is that I have been a colloid supporter for many years. My physiological logic for that had been to minimize the crystalloid spillover into inflamed/septic areas, particularly the lungs and abdomen, when those are the septic sources. However, I was likely misled by my education and lack of knowledge about the endothelium.

So I stumbled upon the whole glycocalyx thing a couple years ago, and this prompted me to try more enteral fluids – the only way fluids normally ever enter the vasculature – but little else. Aware that it’s there, but unsure what to do about it.

Now a year and a half ago, Andre Denault, my closest thing to a mentor, casually dropped the line to me about albumin not working. “Don’t use it. It doesn’t act the way we think it does.”  But it was a brief chat, and I didn’t get to pick his brain about it.  Just a few weeks ago, I discuss with Jon Emile (Kenny), and he’s coming to the same conclusion.  Damn. I’m finding it a bit harder to hang on to my albumin use, which is beginning to look a bit dogmatic and religious.

Here is Jon-Emile’s take on it – a must-read.

Here is Tom Woodcock’s site and article – another must-read.

And here is my discussion (in two parts) with Tom (to skip the silence, skip forward to about 30 seconds into each – sorry my editing skills are limited!)


Bottom line?

Probably stick to isotonic crystalloids, and some hypertonics.


Love to hear some thoughts!






The NYC Tracks with Jon-Emile: The Glycocalyx – The Next Frontier. #FOAMed, #FOAMcc

I was really psyched when Jon-Emile mentioned he would like to talk about the glycocalyx.  I first blogged about it here, basically when I stumbled on the extensive literature on this huge organ we have been completely ignoring in terms of physiology and therapeutics. It lines our entire endothelium, which is where most of our therapeutic interventions go, and we only heard of it in passing, possibly in histology class as med 1’s.   Hmmm.  Anyhow, here, Jon-Emile and I talk about it a little, discuss possible clinical implications, but more importantly Jon mentions the relatively new blog of Dr. Thomas Woodcock (@thomaswoodcock), http://www.fluidtherapy.org, who is one of the pioneer clinicians who have studied the glycocalyx, and who is now trying to bridge the bench to the bedside.

I’ve been fortunate enough to get in touch with him and we’re planning to record some discussions soon.

So, in my view, the glycocalyx is a formidable force we have been ignoring, and have been damaging often with our interventions. I’m hoping to see some developments allowing glycocalyx assessment outside of the labs in order to give us the tools to reassess every fluid in terms of the relative damage it does to what is essentially the gatekeeper between the blood and the tissues.

Love to hear some comments!

Here is the chat with Jon:





Fluids in Sepsis: An EmCrit Webinar! #FOAMed, #FOAMcc

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So a few weeks ago Scott (@EmCrit) asked me to be part of a pretty cool webinar organized by the Greater New York Hospital Association about fluids in sepsis. The gang consisted of David Gaiesky, Emmanuel Rivers and moderated by Scott himself. And for some obscure reason, he asked me to be part of it – much to my honour (terror, also), naturally.  It was only afterwards that he told me it was to help stir the pot and be controversial, challenge the “old school” etc… He seemed to have overlooked that I am Canadian, and inherently and perhaps overly polite and considerate – at least live and in “person”!

We talk about a bunch of stuff around fluids, which, how much, how to assess, etc.

Anyhow, I hope I got a few ideas across, but it was really cool to hear that these gurus do use ultrasound – don’t necessarily strictly adhere to, for instance, EGDT, and also advocate that guidelines are guidelines and not necessarily gold standards.

Here is the link to the webinar for those interested:




And here is the figure for the section where I refer to fluid responsiveness/tolerance:

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I further talk about this in a previous post here.

Scott and I also recorded a debrief which should be coming up in the next weeks on EmCrit – link to follow!




Enteral Fluid Resuscitation (EFR): Third-world medicine in the modern ED/ICU? (ORT part 2) – #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #FOAMer

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 7.15.16 PM Enteral Fluid Resuscitation in the ER/ICU? For those who did’t come across it, part 1 of this series can be found here: http://wp.me/p1avUV-e8 So back to bringing the basics back to our ultra-tech world… Can I actually use this field technique in my bright and shiny ICU? Can I use oral hydration as a cutting edge therapy in my life-and-death patients? Sounds strange. Sounds like I should be using a precise device which lets me know exactly how much fluid has gone into my vascular space, because that’s where I want it to go, and I want to control exactly the composition of my serum electrolytes, etc, etc.  We like to control. But do we really? We actually have absolutely no idea how much of a fluid bolus remains intravascularly, in any one patient.  It will depend on his/her pre-existing venous filling, his serum protein levels, the integrity of the glycocalyx, and probably a few more things we don’t even know yet.  And as I rapidly distend atria, I release ANP which damages my glycocalyx further. Hmmm… As I mentioned in the last post, the only way fluid enters our vascular space is via the endothelial cells at the level of the GI tract for the most part. All “venous access” is iatrogenic. I do believe that the endothelial cells, by and large, will do a better job – in concert with the kidneys and rest of the blood cells – of controlling the plasma than we will, if given the chance. What logically follows is that, in the presence of a functional gut, I can consider using Enteral Fluid Resuscitation – that is, giving fluid for hemodynamic purposes, not just “maintenance,” by an enteral tube of some sort. So what could I give?   What’s in it? The current reduced osmolarity WHO/UNICEF formula contains approximately the following: Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 7.24.28 PM So, lets take a closer look at the players: 75 mmol/l of sodium, 75 mmol/l glucose, some potassium and the rest basically to balance the electroneutrality. The whole thing hinges on the glucose-sodium cotransporter, which drags sodium and water in along with the “desired” glucose.  Optimal water absorption takes place with Na between 40-90 mmol/l, glucose 110-140 mmol/l, and an osmolality around 290.  A higher Na may cause some hypernatremia, and a higher osmolality may result in water loss. Here is our friend the enterocyte illustrating just how this kind of solution will allow sodium absorption: Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 7.31.54 PM   Do-it-Yourself Enteral Fluid Resuscitation Solution: So I’ve got a neat DIY option if I don’t want to break out the powder and start mixing in the middle of my unit: 0.45% or 1/2 NS plus 30 ml of of D50 would give us Na 77, Cl 77 and glucose 74, with an osmolality of 228. Pretty close. That’s what I’ve been using. How much? Well, I like the slow and gradual. Some of the rehydration data out there supports some pretty huge amount of fluids, but this has been done mostly in healthy but dehydrated athletes – not the case for most of our patients. I’ve been going with 250ml every 1-2h, as – for now – an adjunct to IV fluid therapy. This is conservative and completely arbitrary, but essentially a glass every hour or two certainly doesn’t seem excessively taxing. Who can I give this to? You do need a functional gut, so for now, my criteria are (1) essentially normal abdominal exam, (2) obviously no recent bowel surgery, (3) a patent and functional gut as far as I know, (4) no ultrasound evidence of ileus or gastric distension. But how can I be sure it’s going in the right place?  I can’t. Just like I can’t be sure my IV fluids are staying in the right place. But I do check – IVC ultrasound (gross but better than skin turgor!), urine output, HR, BP, etc. None of those are perfect as they are all multifactorial, but that is the nature of the game. The other thing I check is gastric distension by bedside ultrasound every couple of hours – obviously, if I’m just getting a fluid filled stomach, there’s no point, and eventually harm may ensue. When should I stop? Whenever you clinically decide you don’t need/want any further fluid resuscitation. As far as I am concerned, might as well stop the IV infusions first and have the enteral going after – in the end, you are hoping your patient will go back to drinking and not require a PICC line for discharge, aren’t you?  So you stop when the patient does it on his or her own. I’d really like to know if anyone out there is doing something like this. It would be great to compare notes and evolution. Drop a line!   cheers, Philippe

Musings with Jon-Emile & Philippe – Fluid Resuscitation: Physiology and Philosophy! #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #FOAMer

So here, Jon-Emile and I explore a topic I’ve posted about before (http://wp.me/p1avUV-bd) so I can see if a master physiologist agrees with my rationale (…not just my rationale but supported by a ton of literature many choose to overlook!).

Please visit http://www.heart-lung.org for Jon’s awesome physiology tutorials!

Love to hear listeners’ thoughts!




Enteral Fluid Resuscitation? The WHO to the rescue in the ED/ICU? (ORT part 1) #FOAMed, #FOAMcc, #FOAMer

So something has been trotting around my head for a few months, and it actually stems from a small and not-so-proud moment I experienced during a conversation with my wife, while she was still a resident.

She was telling me some of the stories of the day, and how one of her supervisors who had a mixed outpatient and ED practice, always pushed them to use PO fluids, get rid of IVs and get the patients home.  I kind of scoffed, in a sadly typical acute care physician mode, saying how you had to be a bit more aggressive and give them IV fluids to revert their dehydration a bit faster.

Then I caught myself. Hmmm. What exactly am I saying this (con brio) on the basis of. Knowledge, or belief?    I tried to find knowledge but came up woefully short. It seems I’m doing this out of habit, what I’ve seen/learned/believed in the two decades since someone handed me an MD degree. Damn.

So, I do believe in evolution. We have evolved platelets to stop bleeding, fibroblasts and osteoblasts that can fix bones, white cells that go mop up the messes, and all kinds of other good stuff.  One thing we do NOT have is small openings in vascular structures that allow unprocessed, man-made fluids directly into the bloodstream. We make these. We insert tubing into normally sterile environment and infuse a vast number of medications directly into this fragile matrix of cells and organic colloid – with the best of intentions.

In our physiology, however, the ONLY way fluid ever enters the vascular spaces is by diffusion from the outside of the endothelial cell into the lumen, molecule by molecule and ion by ion.

So let me seemingly diverge for a bit…

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Prior to the 1970’s, restricting oral intake was a “cornerstone” therapy of diarrheal illness, due to the pervasive belief that the GI tract needed time to heal and recover before resuming normal function. This was felt to be crucial. Hence, only IV therapy was used (in developed countries), and in the underdeveloped world, the death toll was appalling – especially among children.   In the 40’s, Dr. Darrow of Yale started actually studying the GI tract fluid and electrolyte issue, and advocating oral rehydration with mixed fluids. He was able to bring infant mortality radically down in his practice, but it would take over twenty years before a groups started to formally look at this in the 60’s.  Finally, in the late 70’s, the WHO pushed this out into the field, and the childhood worldwide mortality from acute diarrheal illness dropped by over 70%, from over 5 million deaths a year to a bit over 1 million – at that time.

Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) is now felt to be one of the most significant advances in modern medicine. Compared to that impact, all the critical care and cardiology trials are about as significant as a drop in a bucket. We’re not talking about composite end points and subgroup odds ratios of 0.85…

For a great review on this check out The History of Oral Rehydration Therapy by Joshua Nalibow Ruxin (google it).  A great story of science and humanity, good and bad.

So, back to 2015 ED/ICU’s.

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The question now becomes the following: why – in the presence of a functional gut – do I choose to entirely rely on non-physiological IV fluid resuscitation?

I can already hear the roars and the outrage and the cries of heresy.  And heresy is certainly what this is (Heresy is any provocative belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs – Wikipedia). But that doesn’t make it wrong.

So I would ask everyone – particularly the naysayers, to examine their knowledge and see if they actually have any at all that supports the strong conviction that IV fluids are the way to go in ALL cases (my N=1  principle precludes going for the one-size-fits-all therapeutic approach).

Now everyone agrees that, once patients are better, they should be on feeds with little maintenance fluids. I don’t think many will debate that. So that should be the basis to wonder whether, in the presence of a functional gut, a variable proportion of fluid resuscitation in acute illness should be enteral…

I’ll let everyone digest that.

Comments more than welcome.

More to come in Part 2.