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Reducing The Use Of CT Scans In Children

Well, this is satisfying. Over the years, in our ER we have mirrored the nationwide trend and have significantly increased the utilization of CT scans across the board. The reasons are manifold. Some cite malpractice risks, and indeed in our large group we have had one lawsuit for a pediatric head injury and another for a missed appendicitis which probably did contribute. But, in my opinion, there have been many other drivers of the increased use. For one, CTs have gotten way, way better over the last 15 years, which quite simply has made them a better diagnostic tool. They’ve also gotten way faster. As the facilities have invested in CT scanners, they have increased their capacity and increased their staffing, so the barriers to their use have rapidly diminished. I am so old that I remember when ordering a CT involved calling a radiologist and getting their approval! No more of that, I can tell you.

But a couple of years ago, we really started paying attention (perhaps belatedly) to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

Managing Labor Pain Without The Use Of Drugs

No one likes pain, least of all pregnant women. Although obstetricians do a great job providing prenatal care and childbirth deliveries, there is always room for improvement regarding patient education.

The management of labor pain is usually delegated to the Anesthesia Department within a hospital or an ambulatory center. The goal of anesthesia is to eliminate physical pain and any suffering that might be a result of pain. However pain and suffering may not always be about cause and effect. To quote the literature, “Although pain and suffering often occur together, one may suffer without pain or have pain without suffering.” Some women want to eliminate pain and others view it as a normal process. However, to the well initiated, it is well known that women who are in pain and “suffering” do not progress as quickly in labor as those who are pain free. For those pregnant moms who would prefer not to have “drugs” here are some options however, please keep in mind that information regarding the safety and effectiveness of these methods is “scientifically” limited, meaning the subjects involved in medical studies to prove whether these methods work or not are small. Having said that, listed below are some of the most popular ways to reduce pain without drugs, however, please consult your physician or healthcare provider prior to using them. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Swimming May Not Be As Safe For Your Children As You Think

Lifeguard standing duty poolside.As summer continues in North America, and for anyone who goes near the water during any time of year, prevention of drowning is very important. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) takes its responsibilities on this issue seriously, and in 2010 issued a policy statement on prevention of drowning. This is a remarkable and well-thought out document that addresses all of the important issues associated with risk for and prevention of drowning. The online version of the policy statement, along with updated information and services, is available on the web.

The document points out that, historically, drowning has been the second leading cause of unintentional death in individuals aged one to 19 years, causing more than 1,100 deaths per year in the United States alone.

The AAP defines drowning as “the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid.” It does not imply any particular outcome. Persons may “drown” and survive. The categories of outcomes include:

  • death
  • no morbidity
  • morbidity (moderately disabled, severely disabled, vegetative state/coma, and brain death)

There is a discussion of entanglement in drains, particularly in females who are underwater with long hair near a suction outlet. Inflatable pools pose a particular hazard if they are not fenced.

The AAP has previously taken the stance that children are not developmentally ready for swimming lessons until after their fourth birthday. They based this opinion on factors including: Read more »

This post, Swimming May Not Be As Safe For Your Children As You Think, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

Kids Gone Wild: Intimidation Of Parents In The ER

Ah, the benefits of sand therapy!

Time for little Bettina’s daily afternoon face plant!

Not only does it appear my colleague is about to lose her grip on her patient, I’m concerned about her choice of body mechanics.

I predict a lumbar strain in 3…2…1……

(This photo is from the Library of Congress collection.)

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I love my pediatric patients. While it is hard to see children feeling sick, they can be bright spots in occasionally hellacious shifts.

I’ve blogged before on my observation that the kids seem to be the adults in the some families.

  • They don’t want to undress for an exam, so they fight the parents who are helpless in the face of taking a shirt off a three-year-old.
  • They have to be restrained so they don’t run rampant in the ER, and they slap their parent across the face. The parent doesn’t respond.
  • They are told they need to cooperate with a procedure and they answer their parent with a loud, clear, “F*** YOU!” At the age of five. The parent retreats. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Emergiblog*

Confessions Of A Former Child With Diabetes And Unusual Eating Habits

Growing up, we had these large, potted plants in our dining room, within throwing distance from the dining room table.  (Stick with me – this is an important detail.)  The plants were big and had wide, draped leaves and they made the corner of the dining room look like a veritable jungle.

Also, these suckers were really convenient for hiding food.

When I was little, the “diabetic diet” school of thought was based on the exchange program.  This meant that my meals were structured around my calorie needs and the needs of my (then) peaking insulin doses.  An average dinner would include one meat exchange, two starch exchanges, a dairy exchange, a fat exchange, and a fruit exchange.  (Exchange, exchange, exchange.)  When I was on insulins like Regular, NPH, and Lente, I needed to consume these portions in proportion, or I would end up with a very high, or very low, blood sugar.

So my mother (bless her anecdotal-medical-degree’d heart) would carefully measure out these exchanges and that would be my dinner.  EXACTLY one meat exchange, and those two starches, etc.  She worked very hard to make sure my meals were calculated and well-balanced.

And in response, I would hide my vegetables – aka “gross things” – in the dining room plants. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

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…

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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…

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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.

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Click here for a musical take on over-testing.

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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…

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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…

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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…

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