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Back pain…

October 7, 2014

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Back pain is one of the most frequent complaints in the ED.  The vast majority of patients do not have a life threatening or highly morbid pathology.  Unfortunately, this patient did:

 

CT LSpine 1 LS spine 2

This is a CT scan under bone windows.  It shows erosive changes based around the L4-L5 disc, eroding into the inferior endplate of L4 and the superior endplate of L5. These findings are concerning for discitis-osteomyelitis. It is favored to have both acute
and chronic components.

Finding this pathology is somewhat like finding a needle in a haystack.  However, pay attention to signs such as fever, repeat ED visits without a firm diagnosis, focal weakness, and predisposing factors such as IV drug abuse, history of endocarditis, or immunosuppression.  Sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein are often elevated in this disorder (among others).

CT is a readily available, quick way to diagnose this pathology but it isn’t as sensitive as MRI.  Plain films are not reliable but may show changes similar to the CT above.  Nuclear medicine bone scans as well as PET scans can be used but are not commonplace in the ED.

Author:  Russell Jones, MD

Image Contributor:  Zachary Skaggs

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How to identify a cardiac rhythm device with CXR…

September 25, 2014

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How many times have you had trouble with figuring out what type of cardiac device (e.g. pacemaker/defibrillator) a patient has implanted?  A patient presented to our ED with chest pain, palpitations.  He did not have his device card with them, no prior visits to our ED, and did not know the manufacturer of the device.  How do you decide which company to call for interrogation?

Here is an article I found with radiologic characteristics of devices that can help identify which company produced the device.  It has a great identification algorithm they coined the CaRDIA-X algorithm:

http://www.ianchristoph.com/physician-resources-2/device_id.pdf

There are 5 major manufacturers currently:  Medtronic, Boston Scientific, St. Jude, Biotronik, and Sorin Group.  Each device manufactured by these companies have certain differentiating characteristics of can shape, battery shape, alphanumeric codes, capacitor shadows, coil types, etc.  Turns out you can identify the manufacturer using the device characteristics on chest X-ray relatively easily.

In the case I was describing above the patient had an easily identifiable Medtronic device and we were able to get it interrogated.  Our ED now has the algorithm posted at our doctor’s station so we can utilize it for device identification.

Author:  Russell Jones, MD

References

Jacob S et al.  Cardiac Rhythm Device Identification Algorithm Using X-Rays: CaRDIA-X.  Heart Rhythm 2011; 8(6): 915-922.

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Student Corner: How to Read a Chest X-Ray Follow Up

September 1, 2014

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Here is the same CXR from last time.

 

CXR UL pna

Here’s some further information about the case:

Pt is a 52 y/o man with a history of smoking, atrial fibrillation, and HTN that presents to the ED today with a 2-3 day history of fatigue, weakness, fever, generalized body pains, drenching night sweats, increased urinary frequency, L ear discomfort, throat discomfort and blurry vision in the morning. The symptoms came on suddenly and have been constant since the beginning of the episode. The fatigue and weakness cause the patient to want to “drop into a hole” and sleep. His nightly sleep patterns have been disrupted by his night sweats and his increased urinary frequency. The night sweats are drenching and he often wakes up in the middle of the night with his shirt completely soaked. Around 8-9 AM in the morning he reports being cold and getting chills. He also has some lower sternal chest pain that occurs mostly with deep breathing. The pain does not radiate. The pt has a 30-35 year history of smoking cigarettes and drinking 15-20 alcoholic drinks/week. The pt stopped smoking yesterday with the intent to quit.

The pt has no change in appetite or weight, no new masses or lumps anywhere on his body and no syncope or LOC. The pt denies any history of similar symptoms. The pt denies any family history of these symptoms. The pt denies any sick contacts. The pt’s wife does not have similar symptoms. The patient has no N/V or history of recent travel. The pt was routinely tested for tuberculosis 2 years ago as part of an employment physical and the test was negative.

Vitals: BP 142/106 | Pulse 105 | Temp(Src) 100.6 °F (38.1 °C) (Oral) | Wt 228 lb (103.42 kg) | BMI 31.36 kg/m2 | SpO2 99%

Physical Exam: 

General appearance – alert, well appearing, and in no distress; slightly pale

Eyes – PERRLA, EOMI

Ears – bilateral TM’s and external ear canals normal

Mouth – mucous membranes moist, pharynx normal without lesions

Neck – supple, no significant adenopathy

Lymphatics – no palpable lymphadenopathy, no hepatosplenomegaly

Chest – clear to auscultation, no wheezes, rales or rhonchi, symmetric air entry

Heart – normal rate, regular rhythm, normal S1, S2, no murmurs, rubs, clicks or gallops, no pericardial rub on auscultation with patient leaning forward

Abdomen – mild suprapubic ttp without rebound/guarding

Neurological – alert, oriented, normal speech, no focal findings or movement disorder noted, CN 2-12 grossly intact

Skin – normal coloration and turgor, no rashes, no suspicious skin lesions noted

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the x-ray again. The last post went through the ABCDE methodology to review the image and the A through D aspect was pretty well outlined there. The airway is patent, there is no obstruction and it lines up with the cervical spinous processes. The bones have no step-offs or other evidence of fractures and there are 10 ribs visible. The cardiac silhouette is not enlarged (in other words, not more than twice the width of the chest cavity) and the AP window sits between the aortic arch and pulmonary artery. The diaphragm has normal contour and the costo-vertebral angle is sharp.

The E is where things get interesting. One of the ways I like to do it is to try and look for asymmetry in the lung fields. And I think I see something!

CXREXoriginal-finalread

The blue circle seems like a focal area of consolidation (either liquid or solid). That same “opacity” is not present on the corresponding place on the L lung field.  I think its important to note that this finding has a large differential diagnosis attached to it, even if you put the finding on the x-ray in context with the case presentation. Most of the diagnoses on the list would be infectious, like TB or pneumonia, but other possibilities include lung cancer, edema, hemorrhage and systemic inflammatory conditions like sarcoidosis.

The radiologist read that image as most likely a case of lobar pneumonia. There was some hedging by the radiologist on the read because the lateral film was taken from L to R, therefore the opacity in the R lung field was very hard to see (that’s why I didn’t include a lateral view as well, but we can save that particular x-ray type for another post). In general, you want to get two views on any pathology on x-ray because it’s important to try and construct a 3D image in your head about where the pathology is located.

In any case, his patient presented with fever, cough, loss of energy, chills and body aches, with all of those symptoms having an acute onset. This makes an infectious process more likely (I say “more likely” because as everyone in medicine learns at some point or another, it is very dangerous to talk and think in absolutes). He was treated empirically with antibiotics for pneumonia.

Hopefully this example helps you to have a system in place when you look at any chest x-ray. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.  Also, if you have any requests for certain types of images you would like to see for the next post, also let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Author: Jaymin Patel

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WWWTP #20 Answer…

August 7, 2014

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This patient presented to the ED with a headache.

delta-sign

 

This patient has an “Empty delta sign” in the superior sagittal  sinus (blue arrow).  This is indicative of dural venous sinus thrombosis.  There is a clot (dark) among normal blood in the sinus (light).  Remember to look at your sinuses for this rare occurrence.

Image Contributor:  Adriel Watts, MD

Author:  Russell Jones, MD

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WWWTP #20 (What’s Wrong With This Picture?)…

August 4, 2014

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This patient presented to the ED with a headache.  What’s Wrong With This Picture?

WWWTP #20

Image Contributor:  Adriel Watts, MD

Author:  Russell Jones, MD

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What are these devices? Answer…

July 31, 2014

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Question earlier this week:  “There are two devices entering the mediastinal structures from below…what are they?”

IABP 2

iabp-2

There are a bunch of devices on this radiograph.  Here they are by color:

1.  Orange arrow:  A Swan-Ganz catheter coming up from the femoral vein

2.  Red arrow:  Intra-aortic balloon pump coming up from the femoral artery

3.  Green arrow:  External monitor cables extending to the various monitor points on the patient externally

4.  Blue arrow: Dialysis catheter coming from the right internal jugular vein

Admittedly, this is not your usual ED-based radiograph.  This patient was presented with a STEMI and in cardiogenic shock.  This was a radiograph obtained later in the cardiac ICU after coronary intervention.  The Swan-Ganz catheter is unclear if it is in proper position (pulmonary artery).  Usually Swan-Ganz catheters (AKA pulmonary artery catheters) are placed from the superior circulation and loop into the pulmonary artery.  This was placed under fluoroscopy while performing a coronary artery intervention in the cath lab; I’m not sure where the tip is located based on this radiograph.

Author:  Russell Jones, MD

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What are these devices?

July 28, 2014

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There are two devices entering the mediastinal structures from below…what are they?

IABP 2

 

Answer to follow!

Author:  Russell Jones, MD

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Liver mass…differential diagnosis

July 14, 2014

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This patient presented with right upper quadrant pain.  I asked last week what your differential diagnosis would be:

Liver Mass 1

Liver mass 2

The CT above shows a multiloculated, rim-enhancing mass in the liver parenchyma.  This is consistent with an abscess.  The differential diagnosis starts by breaking down the categories into bacterial, fungal, and amebic causes. 

Bacterial:  Abscesses can form from ascending cholangitis, especially in setting of biliary malignancies.   Klebsiella pneumoniae has been reported to cause hepatic abscesses, especially in E. Asia (1).  Patients with recent instrumentation (hepatocellular carcinoma embolization, etc) are at risk for MRSA, streptococcus species.  Tuberculosis has been known to cause hepatic abscesses as well.

Fungal:  Disseminated candidiasis in the immunocompromised host can lead to liver and splenic abscesses

Amebic:   Liver abscess is the most common manifestation of extraintestinal entamoeba histolytica (2).  In endemic areas or travelers to endemic areas are at risk for this occurrance. 

Author:  Russell Jones, MD

References

1.  Davis J, McDonald M.  Pyogenic Liver Abscesses.  www.uptodate.com

2.  Leder K, Weller P.  Extraintestinal Entamoeba Histolytica Amebiasis.  www.uptodate.com

 

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Liver mass…

July 7, 2014

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This patient presented with right upper quadrant pain…

Liver Mass 1

Liver mass 2

The CT above shows a multiloculated, rim-enhancing mass in the liver parenchyma.  What is your differential diagnosis?

Author:  Russell Jones, MD

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Aortic dissection…

June 16, 2014

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This patient presented with chest pain radiating to the back:

AD CXR 1

 

The patient’s initial chest X-ray shows a widened mediastinum and an indistinct aortopulmonary window.  CT showed:

AD CT 1 AD CT 2 AD CT 3

This patient has an aortic dissection.  There are two different classification systems for aortic dissection:  Stanford and DeBakey (1).

Stanford Criteria:

  • Type A:  The dissection flap involves the ascending aorta
  • Type B:  The dissection commences distal to the left sub-clavian artery

DeBakey Criteria

  • Type I: The dissection flap involves the ascending aorta and descending aorta
  • Type II:  The dissection flap involves the ascending aorta only
  • Type III:  The dissection flap involves the descending aorta only

This is a Stanford Type A and a Debakey Type I because it involves the ascending aortic arch all the way to the iliac bifurcation.

What is important to remember (besides the number for a cardiothoracic surgeon)?  If the flap involves the ascending aorta these are usually managed operatively. Descending dissections are many times managed medically (1).

Besides rupture, the main problem with aortic dissection is perfusion to various organs.  Virtually every solid organ can be affected depending on the spacial characteristics of the dissection flap.  In this case the last image clearly shows that the right kidney is not perfused, indicating that the dissection flap has occluded the right renal artery.  The kidneys and bowel are the most common organs to develop ischemia.

Author:  Russell Jones, MD

Image Contributor:  Jay Williams, MD

References

  1. Broder JS.  Diagnostic Imaging for the Emergency Physician.  Elsevier, 2011.
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