Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Study Investigates The Role Of Fluid Resuscitation In Treatment Of Life-Threatening Infections

Dehydration is a common phenomenon in those suffering from infectious diseases, particularly if the diseases cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. We are all familiar with having the “stomach flu,” “traveler’s diarrhea,” or food poisoning. However, severe infections of all sorts can cause profound illness, debilitation, and fluid losses. In many developing countries, very large numbers of small children are afflicted with non-gastrointestinal infectious diseases that rapidly cause relatively large fluid losses, and therefore profound, life-threatening dehydration, which is manifested in part by dangerously low blood pressure and subsequent failure to deliver precious liquid, nutrients and oxygen to the tissues of the body. This is called “shock.”

The following discussion is cutting edge information, but not simplistic or necessarily easy to understand or apply. However, I have learned that my readers are often volunteers in settings where intensive care medicine must be applied, and want to read more than simple approaches to therapy. So, I am going to do my best to interpret for you what has recently been published in the New England Journal of Medicine in an article entitled “Mortality after Fluid Bolus in African Children with Severe Infection” (N Engl J Med 2011; 364:2483-95) written by Kathryn Maitland and her colleagues.

The focus of their investigation was the role of fluid resuscitation in the treatment of children with fever, shock, and life-threatening infections in resource-limited settings. Of note is the fact that the study excluded children with malnutrition and gastroenteritis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which would include infectious diarrhea). What would be a disease state that could be included in this study? Malaria is a good example. In this study, children with severe infectious diseases associated with “impaired perfusion” (i.e., shock or impending shock) were randomized to receive either rapid fluid boluses (large volumes of fluid calculated by body weight to rapidly restore volume status) or to receive no fluid boluses. All children received appropriate antibiotics, intravenous “maintenance” fluids (to approximate daily needs), and supportive care.

The results were enlightening. The children treated with fluid boluses had a significantly increased mortality at 48 hours after the initiation of treatment over the group that did not receive fluid boluses. Particularly interesting was the fact that beyond the numbers indicating increased mortality, there was not apparent physiological explanation for what was observed. In other words, the children who received fluid boluses did not appear to have an increased incidence of excess fluid in the lungs or brain.

So, what might have caused this effect? Based on what we know about the pathophysiology of shock, the authors speculated. Perhaps in a shock state, certain blood vessels constrict to shift blood flow to vital organs, and this situation might be negated by rapidly infusing fluid. Another possibility is that there were subtle effects on organs such as the lungs, brain, or heart that could not be detected. It is also possible that improving blood pressure and blood flow too quickly could cause its own set of problems, which is an area of active investigation in medicine under the category of “reperfusion injury.”

For the field practitioner of medicine, what conclusions can be drawn? For medical professionals, this study calls into question the practice of rapid intravenous administration of fluid to attain a certain blood pressure number, which might not equate with physiological treatment success. For laypersons, who do not use intravenous fluid, it is life as usual, because oral rehydration is all that is available to treat a situation like this. For everyone, since gastroenteritis and malnutrition were excluded, no conclusions can be drawn in these situations. If there is ongoing fluid loss associated with a gastrointestinal infection (e.g., cholera), until further notice, one needs to keep up with fluids to avoid getting so far behind in a resuscitation that one cannot catch up. Malnutrition may be a separate entity altogether, so it is difficult to predict what might be the outcome of fluid bolus therapy in this situation.

This post, Study Investigates The Role Of Fluid Resuscitation In Treatment Of Life-Threatening Infections, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

How To Make Inpatient Medical Practice Fun Again: Try Locum Tenens Work

It s no secret that most physicians are unhappy with the way things are going in healthcare. Surveys report high levels of job dissatisfaction burn out and even suicide. In fact some believe that up to a third of the US physician work force is planning to leave the profession…

Read more »

Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

***

Click here for a musical take on over-testing.

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

Read more »

See all book reviews »