Episode 38 – The Nose


The Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM)

The FOAM realm has teamed with interest in a randomized trial in the ICU by Semler et al, the FELLOW trial. This trial randomized ICU patients undergoing intubation to receive 15L NC during intubation or usual care. The study found no difference in the primary outcome of the study, the difference between the mean lowest oxygen saturations between the two groups – 92% (IQR 84-99%) in the usual care vs 90% (IQR 80-96%) in the apneic arm (p=0.16). Critiques of this study can be found below:

Concerns echoed by these sources include the clinical importance of the primary outcome (not patient oriented) and that the study may have been underpowered to detect a true difference.

Statistical power – the chance that an experiment will result in a statistically significant. Three main things influence statistical power:

  • The size of the difference you’re looking to find, the smaller the difference, the more numbers one will need.
  • The p value you’re looking to find to label it a “real” effect (although p values themselves may be overrated). A p value of <0.05 will need fewer numbers than a p value of <0.001
  • The frequency of the outcome into consideration. The more infrequent the outcome, the harder it will be able pick up in a small sample.

Also, oxygen saturation, a continuous variable, was appropriately analyzed by non-parametric (non normal distribution) means. Non-parametric means often have less power to detect a difference (aren’t as powerful).  The FELLOW study was powered using parametric means, which is common practice (fewer programs can perform this) but may have also contributed to the studying having insufficient power to achieve the primary outcome.

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Core Content – Epistaxis and Sinusitis

Tintinalli (7e) Chapter 239, “Epistaxis, Nasal Fractures, and Rhinosinusitis.” Rosen’s  (8e) Chapter 75, “Upper Respiratory Infection.”, “Otolaryngology”



  • Traumatic: trauma, digital (nose picking), foreign body, sinus infection, nasogastric tube
  • Environment: dry, cold air, oxygen
  • Inhalants: inhaled steroids/medications, cocaine
  • Coagulopathy: iatrogenic (warfarin, aspirin, platelet inhibitors, etc), familial (hemophilia, von Willebrand’s disease)
  • Vascular abnormalities: aneurysm, AVM, neoplasm

Location: Anterior bleeds most common (Kiesselbach’s plexus). Posterior bleeds (sphenopalantine or carotid artery branches) more dangerous.

Treatment: (note: TXA is not in Rosen’s or Tintinalli, see Zahed and colleagues)

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Symptoms:  mucopurulent nasal discharge,congestion, facial pain or pressure.  Generally last 7-10 days and often viral.   Diagnosis is predominantly clinical and does not routinely require CT scan [3]

Treatment: typically supportive care as most cases are self-limiting [2].  American Academy of Allergy Asthma Immunology Choosing Wisely : “Antibiotics usually do not help sinus problems, Antibiotics cost money. Antibiotics have risks” [4]. Despite these recommendations, provider still routinely prescribe antibiotics inappropriately [5].

Antibiotics (amoxicillin-clavulanate) recommended if:

  • Symptoms persist 10+ days
  • Severe symptoms >3-4 days or get worse after initial symptoms
    • Severe: Temperature 102F or more + purulent nasal discharge or facial pain [2]

Generously Donated Rosh Review Questions 

1.An 18-month-old girl presents to urgent care with profuse mucoid nasal discharge and cough. She has had nasal discharge for the past 2 weeks with no improvement from using a humidifier. She has also had fever for the past four days, with a Tmax of 103°F. She has not been able to attend daycare for the past week due to the fever and persistent symptoms. 

2. A 42-year-old man presents with facial pain. He reports pain over his cheeks and forehead with associated fever for the last 24 hours. On inspection of his nasal passages you not inflamed turbinates with green discharge. He is tender over palpation of the frontal and maxillary sinuses.


1.C. Acute sinusitis is a common illness of childhood, characterized by fever, cough, purulent nasal discharge, and nasal congestion. The most common cause of sinusitis is viral, which is best treated with supportive care. Acute bacterial sinusitis often follows a case of viral sinusitis. In young children, sinusitis may be present in the ethmoidal sinuses. The maxillary sinuses are present at birth, but are not pneumatized until 4 years of age. The sphenoid sinuses are present by age 5, and the frontal sinuses begin development at age 7-8. Due to this child’s persistent symptoms for more than 10-14 days, fever of greater than 102°F, and purulent nasal discharge for more than 3 consecutive days, the most likely diagnosis is acute bacterial sinusitis. The most common bacterial pathogens are Streptococcus pneumoniae (30%), nontypable Haemophilus influenzae (20%), and Moraxella catarrhalis (20%). Less common causes include other strains of streptococci, Staphylococcus aureus, and anaerobic bacteria. Initial treatment consists of low dose amoxicillin, which covers the most common bacterial pathogens. However, some children are at risk for resistant strains of bacterial pathogens, such as children in daycare, those less than 2 years of age, and those who have received antibiotics in the preceding 1-3 months. These children should be given amoxicillin-clavulanate with high dose amoxicillin. Children who fail initial therapy should also be escalated to high dose amoxicillin-clavulanate.Azithromycin (A) is an alternative antibiotic that can be used to treat sinusitis in older children. It would not be the first line therapy in this young child. Ceftriaxone (B) should be used in frontal sinusitis, complicated sinusitis (such as periorbital or orbital cellulitis) or in the setting of intracranial complications (such as epidural abscess, meningitis, or cavernous sinus thrombosis). Low dose amoxicillin (D) is the first line therapy in uncomplicated sinusitis, when the child does not have risk factors for resistant bacterial pathogens.

2. C. This patient has rhinosinusitis. Viral upper respiratory infections and allergic rhinitis are the most common causes of acute rhinosinusitis. Additional risk factors are ciliary immobility or dysfunction, structural abnormalities, immunocompromise, Patients with viral sinusitis are at risk of developing bacterial sinusitis as a consequence of the viral infection. Clinically patients with acute rhonisinusitis develop mucopurulent nasal discharge, facial or sinus pain, and nasal congestion. Symptoms of acute sinusitis typically progress over the first several days and spontaneously resolve after 7 to 10 days. It is difficult to distinguish clinically between viral and bacterial infection in the first several days of illness and antibiotic therapy is not recommended at this time. Management focuses on symptomatic treatment with pain management and decongestant therapy. Antihistamines may provide some benefit for patients with allergic rhinosinusitis. Decongestant therapy is available topically with agents like oxymetazoline. Systemic therapy includes pseudoephedrine. Saline nasal irrigation is beneficial for all forms of acute rhinosinusitis. Topical and systemic steroids are no longer recommended for acute sinusitis.A CT scan of the sinuses (A) is not necessary in this patient. Imaging is indicated when there are concerns for complications of cellulitis (e.g. cavernous sinus thrombosis, abscesses, orbital involvement) or invasive fungal infections. ENT consultation (B) is not necessary for uncomplicated cellulitis. A prescription for amoxicillin/clavulanic acid (D) is not indicated in the first several days of illness because of the likelihood this is viral. Without improvement after symptomatic therapy or progression to chronic sinusitis antibiotics are indicated.


1.Semler MW, Janz DR, Lentz RJ, et al. Randomized Trial of Apneic Oxygenation during Endotracheal Intubation of the Critically Ill. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015:rccm.201507–1294OC.

2. Chow AW, Benninger MS, Brook I et al. Executive Summary: IDSA Clinical Practice Guideline for Acute Bacterial Rhinosinusitis in Children and Adults. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 54(8):1041-1045. 2012

3. “Ten Things Physicians and Patients Should Question.” American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Released April 4, 2012

4. “Treating Sinusitis.” Choosing Wisely. April 2012.

5. Sharp AL, Klau MH, Keschner JD et al. “Low-Value Care for Acute Sinusitis Encounters: Who’s Choosing Wisely?” Am J Manag Care. 2015;21(7):479-485

Episode 37 – Lacerations


The Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM)

We cover a trick of the trade from Dr. Brian Lin, posted on the Academic Life in Emergency Medicine (ALiEM site) on hemostasis in finger tip avulsions. Dr. Lin also has his own excellent FOAM site on all things laceration – LacerationRepair.com.

We also cover FOAM on dogma of wound care from Dr. Ken Milne’s The Skeptic’s Guide to Emergency Medicine, Episode #63

Core Content – Wounds and Laceration Care

Tintinalli (7e) Chapter 44, “Wound Preparation.” Rosen’s  (8e) Chapter 59, “Wound Management Principles.”

Laceration Care:

  • Use gloves, they don’t have to be sterile [1].
  • Anesthetize (lidocaine with epinephrine is just fine).
  • Irrigate copiously. It’s estimated that one needs ~60 mL/centimeter of wound or at least 200 mL.
    • You can irrigate with water or saline. Potable tap water is fine [2,3]
  • For a cornucopia of laceration techniques visit LacerationRepair.com
  • No clear “golden period” for laceration repair [4-6]. Rosen’s and Tintinalli recommend using clinical judgment as a guide.

Risks for Infection:

  • Diabetes
  • Length of laceration (>5 cm)
  • Location of the wound
  • Degree of contamination [6]

Age of wound when approximated (i.e. “golden period”) has not been found to be an independent risk factor). Rosen’s sites use of epinephrine as a risk but only cites a paper by Barker et al from 1982 in which tetracaine/epinephrine/cocaine was applied to wounds inflicted by researchers that were inoculated by s. aureus.

Prophylactic antibiotics:

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Generously Donated Rosh Review Questions 

Question 1.  An 18-year-old woman presents with a laceration to her face from a dog bite that occurred 24 hours ago. The patient owns the dog. Examination reveals a 4 cm laceration to the left cheek with no signs of infection. 

Question 2A 30-year-old man presents with a 2 cm linear laceration through his right eyebrow that he sustained after hitting his head on the kitchen cabinet. You determine that the wound will require repair with sutures. 


  1. Mammal bites to any part of the body should be copiously irrigated and explored followed by an assessment for primary closure. In this patient, primary closure is recommended as the laceration is on the face. Canine bites often involve laceration as well as crush injury to tissue depending on the size of dog. The presence of a crush injury may make primary wound repair difficult. Additionally, devascularization of the tissue may make primary closure contraindicated as the risk of infection increases. Classically, it was taught that lacerations sustained from dog bites should be irrigated, given antibiotics and not primarily repaired because of these risks. However, more recent literature has shown that the risk of infection was no different for primary closure versus healing by secondary intention. Additionally, if the laceration is to a cosmetic area like the face, primary repair should be attempted. As with any laceration, tetanus status should be updated. Copious irrigation and wound exploration is central to good wound care. Exploration should pay particular attention to the presence of foreign bodies especially teeth, which may break off during the bite. Antibiotics (A & C) are not routinely needed for dog bites despite classic teaching. Antibiotics should be reserved for patients with signs of infection, multiple comorbidities or large wounds with gross contamination. If antibiotics are given, they should primarily cover Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species, as these are the predominant organisms in the canine oral cavity. Eikenella and Pasturella are less commonly responsible for infections. Irrigation and antibiotics alone (A) would be indicated for dog bites that are grossly infected or have large defects that cannot be primarily closed. Wound closure and antibiotics without irrigation (D) is also contraindicated as copious irrigation is central to proper wound management.
  2. A pair of clean, non-sterile gloves can be worn by the physician (and any assistants) during laceration repair. The use of sterile gloves has not been proven to be associated with lower infection rates and is not required. Wounds must be prepped prior to closure. This generally involves cleaning and draping the wound, providing local or regional anesthesia, copious irrigation and exploring the wound to evaluate the integrity underlying structures and identify any foreign bodies. The skin surrounding a wound should be cleansed with either 10% povidone-iodine (C) or chlorhexidine gluconate solution. In general, these commercially available antiseptics should not be used for wound irrigation, as they can be toxic to the tissues. Irrigation should then follow with copious amounts of tap water or saline (at least 250 mL). This is best achieved with a large volume syringe attached to an 18-gauge needle or another commercially available irrigation device that achieves adequate pressure for irrigation. Alternatively, patients can irrigate at the sink if the laceration is in area that allows for this. Shaving of hair been shown to increase the risk of infection and should generally be avoided. It is best to apply a small amount of petroleum- or water-based lubricant to the hair to keep it out of the wound. Alternatively, hair can be clipped with scissors when necessary. Eyebrows (B) in particular should not be shaved as they provide anatomic landmarks that aid in wound approximation and removal results in poor short- and long-term cosmetic effect. In general, non-complex facial wounds are closed with nonabsorbable suture material, such as nylon or polypropylene. Most commonly this will be done with 6-0 suture, as it provides the best cosmetic effect. The use of 3-0 (D) and 4-0 suture is reserved for repair of fascia or wounds that are under high stress, such as those that overly major joints or involve the scalp.


  1. Perelman VS, Francis GJ, Rutledge T, et al. Sterile versus nonsterile gloves for repair of uncomplicated lacerations in the emergency department: a randomized controlled trial. Annals of emergency medicine. 43(3):362-70. 2004
  2. Fernandez R, Griffiths R. Water for wound cleansing. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2:CD003861. 2012.
  3. Weiss EA, Oldham G, Lin M, Foster T, Quinn JV. Water is a safe and effective alternative to sterile normal saline for wound irrigation prior to suturing: a prospective, double-blind, randomised, controlled clinical trial. BMJ open. 3(1):. 2013.
  4. American College of Emergency Physicians: Clinical policy for the initial approach to patients presenting with penetrating extremity trauma. Annals of emergency medicine. 33(5):612-36. 1999. [pubmed] **A past policy, no current clinical policy
  5. Zehtabchi S, Tan A, Yadav K, Badawy A, Lucchesi M. The impact of wound age on the infection rate of simple lacerations repaired in the emergency department. Injury. 43(11):1793-8. 2012.
  6. Quinn JV, Polevoi SK, Kohn MA. Traumatic lacerations: what are the risks for infection and has the ‘golden period’ of laceration care disappeared? Emergency medicine journal : EMJ. 31(2):96-100. 2014.

FOAMcastini – ACEP15 Day 3


FOAMcast brings you pearls from conferences we attend and presently it’s the American College of Emergency Physicians annual meeting, ACEP15 in Boston.

On this episode we cover the following topics:

Foodborne Illnesses – Dr. David Pigott

Wound Management – Dr. Benjamin Lawner

  • Irrigation – Need 50-100 cc per centimeter of wound. To get adequate PSI, take an 18g angiocath on a 30 cc syringe = 4-15 PSI
  • Some predictors of poor healing and infection
    • Location – head and neck more vascular so less likely to get infected
    • Length – >5 cm more likely to have problems
    • Diabetics – microvascular damange makes healing more problematic

Tips for Presentations – Dr. Haney Mallemat (@CriticalCareNow)

  • Avoid bullet points
  • Be brief
  • Use a sans serif font (and only one font throughout)
  • Limit animations (they can be distracting)


FOAMcastini – ACEP15 Day 2


FOAMcast brings you pearls from conferences we attend and presently it’s the American College of Emergency Physicians annual meeting, ACEP15 in Boston. On this episode we cover the following topics:

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) – Dr. Haney Mallemat (@CriticalCareNow)

ECMO is promising in certain devestating disease processes – essentially heart or lung failure. For example, in the CHEER trial, the investigators had a 54% rate of neuro-intact survival after cardiac arrest with ECMO []. Yet, ECMO can be confusing. Dr. Mallemat simplified this for the emergency physician (see this site for more complete explanations)

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Stop the Madness: Diagnostic Imaging in Nephrolithiasis – Workshop with Drs. Eddy Lang, Rebecca Smith-Bindman, Grant Innes, and Lauren Westafer

Debunking Trauma Myths – Billy Mallon

FOAMcastini – ACEP15 Day 1


FOAMcast brings you pearls from conferences we attend and presently it’s the American College of Emergency Physicians annual meeting, ACEP15 in Boston.

Jeremy Hoffman and Rick Bukata summarize recent, relevant literature each year (recently known as #hofkata).  This year, our top three favorite

A top 5 list for emergency medicine: a pilot project to improve the value of emergency care.  Schuur et al. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2014.

  • Just say NO to:
    • CTs for trauma patients who are negative using the NEXUS and Canadian tools for cervical spine injuries.
    • CT for ruling out PE without some sort of risk stratification.
    • MRI for Low back pain w/o red flags.
    • Head CT in with mild TBI who do not meet criteria using the New Orleans OR Canadian Head CT tools.
    • Routine coagulation profile (unless they have a known coagulopathy or are hemorrhaging)

Emergency Physician Perceptions of Medically Unnecessary Advanced Diagnostic Imaging

The effect of malpractice reform on emergency department care.  Moskow et al.   N Engl J Med. 2015 Jan 8;372(2):192.

Dr. Jeff Kline (@klinelab) spoke on pulmonary embolism.

  • High Risk PE? Consider lysis (this is controversial, we are simply reporting Dr. Kline’s talk)
    • Size and location. Massive and proximal= bad
    • SBP <90 for more than 15 min OR 40mmHg drop from baseline
    • Signs of RV strain – echocardiography showing RV dilation OR hypokinesis?
    • Elevated troponin or BNP
    • ECG findings suggestive of cardiac strain: sinus tachycardia, incomplete right bundle branch block, complete right bundle branch block, T-wave inversion in leads V1 – V4.
  • Kline also participated in a knowledge translation workshop where he argued that sub-segmental PEs, without DVT on ultrasound, are NOT a real thing.  This is controversial but he also argued that treating these is associated with harm [Carrier et al]


Episode 36 – Rib and Sternal Fractures

(ITUNES OR Listen Here)

The Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM)

This week we cover a joint piece between the Ultrasound Podcast and SonoIn5 on diagnosis of rib and sternal fractures with ultrasound.

Technique:  Linear probe, in line with the long axis of the bone (vertical for sternum, horizontal-ish for ribs).

Diagnosis: Cortical disruption (step off). Excellent sensitivity for sternal fractures [1-3]

Sternal Fracture

Sternal Fracture

  • Caution with sternal fractures as the sternomanubrial joint can mimic fracture, but looks more “bumpy” (see below)

Core Content – Rib and Sternal Fractures

Tintinalli (7e) Chapters 258, 259; Rosen (8e) Chapter 45 

Rib Fractures


  • Chest x-ray initial test of choice – may miss 50% of fractures, unclear if this is clinically significant [6]
  • Ultrasound has found to have excellent sensitivity [7]
  • Rib films are NOT recommended [4-6].

Complications: Traumatic rib fractures may be associated with other traumatic injuries such as pneumothorax, hemothorax, or in the case of lower rib fractures, intra-abdominal injury. However, rib fractures themselves have been associated with mortality, most often as sequelae of pulmonary embarrassment including pneumonia, intubation, and death. Mortality in elderly patients with rib fractures is significantly higher than the younger counterparts at 22% and 10% respectively [8,9].

  • Mortality is between 3-13%
  • Risk stratification (see this post): Battle and colleagues developed a prognostic scoring system, not externally validated and unclear if it would change practice, that highlights common sense predictors of poorer outcomes:
    • Age (>65)
    • Higher number of rib fractures
    • Chronic lung disease
    • Hypoxia (<90%)
    • Pre-injury anticoagulant use [11]


  • Analgesia:
    • Often includes NSAIDS (ibuprofen), acetaminophen, and narcotics +/- gabapentin (ibuprofen and gabapentin depending on renal function)
    • Epidural analgesia – highly recommended in the EAST guidelines [14].
    • Paracostal analgesia (ex: ON-Q pump) – not sufficient evidence for EAST recommendation (2005) [14]
  • Pulmonary Hygiene (formerly pulmonary toilet):  involved incentive spirometry, coughing, mobilization (up, out of bed), and possibly chest physical therapy
  • ORIF, “rib fixation” or “rib plating,” is increasingly common in the US and studies have found improvements in ICU LOS and ventilator days [15]


  • Many rib fracture patients will need to be admitted to the hospital for pain control, observation, and pulmonary hygiene.
    • Some rib fracture patients may benefit from care at trauma centers.  Lee et al  wrote that 3+ rib fractures exists as an indication for transfer to a level 1 trauma center and many places ascribe to this, it depends on the hospital and physicians.
    • While patients in the ED may look good, patients may benefit from high intensity floors (ie stepdown units) and many patients get observed in ICUs, again, depending on local practice patterns. Some protocols risk stratify patients (i.e. to the ICU vs floor) by incentive spirometry.
  • Patients with adequate pain control who are low risk (younger, <3 rib fractures, good effort on incentive spirometry) may be discharged from the ED with analgesia and education on importance of pulmonary hygiene

Sternal Fractures – more common with ubiquity of airbags and seatbelts.

Diagnosis:  Classically the “gold standard” has been lateral x-ray. However, CT technology has improved since those studies. Ample literature suggests that ultrasound has excellent sensitivity [1-3].

Complications: Historically, sternal fractures were associated with injuries of the great vessels, high mortality, and blunt cardiac injury (BCI) [16-18].  The most recent iteration of the EAST guidelines states, “the presence of a sternal fracture alone does not predict the presence of BCI and thus should not prompt monitoring in the setting of normal ECG result and troponin I level” (Level 2) [18].

Treatment: Analgesia. Most patients with isolated sternal fractures (no pneumothorax, hemothorax, BCI, or hemodynamic instability) that have adequate pain control can be discharged from the ED [1-2].

Blunt Cardiac Injury

A broad category including a range of injuries from clinically silent dysrhythmias to cardiac wall rupture or vasospasm. BCI often results from high impact injury and should be considered in patients with significant thoracic trauma including rib fractures, sternal fracture, pneumothorax, hemothorax, and pulmonary contusion.

Diagnosis: There is no gold standard test.  One can rule out BCI with a normal ECG and a single normal troponin I [18].

Management: If an ECG or troponin is abnormal, admit to telemetry for monitoring and echo.

Generously Donated Rosh Review Questions 

Question 1.  A 23-year-old man presents with chest pain after a motor vehicle collision. The patient’s chest struck the steering wheel. He has no other complaints or injuries. Chest X-ray is unremarkable. ECG shows sinus tachycardia with anterior ST depressions. A troponin is sent and is positive at 3.50 mg/dl. 

Question 2A 20-year-old man presents with left rib pain after falling while playing soccer and striking his chest. Vital signs are normal. On physical examination, the patient has tenderness to palpation over the 4th rib in the midaxillary line. 

Question 3.  A 32-year-old woman was the restrained driver involved in a head-on motor vehicle collision (MVC) 2 days prior to presentation. She is complaining of chest pain and bruising to her chest. Her blood pressure is 118/78 mm Hg, pulse is 88 beats/minute, respirations are 18 breaths/minute and oxygen saturation is 96% on room air. You note bony tenderness and ecchymosis to her sternum. You order a chest X-ray and diagnose a non-displaced sternal fracture. 


  1. This patient presents with a myocardial contusion and should have an echocardiogram performed to look for any cardiac damage. Myocardial contusion describes a nebulous condition. It can occur through several mechanisms including a direct blow to the chest and compressive force over a prolonged period of time. Histologically, the disorder has similar findings to those seen after acute myocardial infarction. The majority of contusions heal spontaneously but small pericardial effusions may develop. Delayed rupture after resorption of hematoma is feared but rare complication. Patients with myocardial contusion will present after trauma with external signs of trauma and typically have other concomitant thoracic lesions (pulmonary contusion, pneumothorax, hemothorax). Patients will typically have tachycardia (up to 70%). ECG may show dysrrhythmia or ST changes but may also be normal. Although it is not effective to admit all patients for workup for myocardial contusion and the disease has a very low rate of cardiac complications, in the presence of ECG changes and elevated biomarkers, observation and echocardiography are a reasonable approach. Echocardiogram can be used to diagnose pericardial effusion, thrombi formation and valvular disruption.Cardiac catheterization (A) is not necessary after a myocardial contusion as coronary artery obstruction is not part of the pathophsyiology. The patient should not be discharged home (B)without an echocardiogram. Pericardiocentesis (D) is only necessary in the presence of a large pericardial effusion or one causing cardiac tamponade.
  2. This patient presents with signs and symptoms consistent with a rib facture. A chest X-ray should be performed to rule out any other pathology including pneumothorax and pulmonary contusion. Rib fractures are a common injury after thoracic trauma and the incidence increases with increasing age. They may be associated with a number of potential complications including pulmonary contusions, hemothorax, penumothorax and post-traumatic pneumonia. Fractures are most common at the posterior angle, which represents the weakest area. The ribs most commonly fractured are the 4th – 9th ribs. The 9th – 11th ribs are mobile, which reduces the risk of fracture. However, fractures of these ribs are more likely to be associated with intraabdominal injuries. Rib fractures should be suspected based on history and clinical evaluation. Patients will present with chest pain and tenderness over the area. Imaging should be obtained to rule out the more serious associated complications of pneumothorax, hemothorax and pulmonary contusion. Chest X-ray is the appropriate modality for this but often will not demonstrate the presence of a single rib fracture when it is in fact present. This is particularly true of non-displaced fractures. Rib belts (B) are discouraged as they may decrease the depth of respiration and lead to atelectasis and pneumonia. CT scan of the chest (D) is not routinely required for management of a simple rib fracture. Analgesia and discharge home (A) is likley to occur once more serious pathology is ruled out with a chest X-ray. Patients with rib fractures should also receive an incentive spirometer to help reduce the complication of pneumonia.
  3. Isolated, non-displaced sternal fractures are associated with low overall mortality rates. Fractures and dislocations of the sternum are caused primarily by anterior blunt chest wall trauma during a head-on MVC. Isolated fractures of the sternum most commonly occur when the chest wall is thrust against a diagonal seatbelt strap during rapid deceleration in a frontal impact MVC. They are more common in older individuals and women. Most fractures are transverse and non-displaced and can be diagnosed on a lateral chest radiograph. Although a fracture of the sternum can be seen following major thoracic trauma, its presence alone does not indicate severe underlying thoracic injury. However, if other significant underlying thoracic injuries are suspected, a CT-scan of the thorax should be performed


  1. You JS, Chung YE, Kim D, Park S, Chung SP. Role of sonography in the emergency room to diagnose sternal fractures. Journal of clinical ultrasound : JCU. 38(3):135-7. 2010. [pubmed]
  2. Engin G, Yekeler E, Güloğlu R, Acunaş B, Acunaş G. US versus conventional radiography in the diagnosis of sternal fractures. Acta radiologica (Stockholm, Sweden : 1987). 41(3):296-9. 2000. [pubmed]
  3. Jin W, Yang DM, Kim HC, Ryu KN. Diagnostic values of sonography for assessment of sternal fractures compared with conventional radiography and bone scans. J Ultrasound Med. 2006 Oct. 25(10):1263-8; quiz 1269-70.
  4. ”Pulmonary Trauma” Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide.  7th ed. Ch 258.
  5.  “Thoracic Trauma” Rosen’s Emergency Medicine. 8th ed. Chapter 45.
  6. Henry TS, Kirsch J. ACR Appropriateness Criteria® rib fractures. Journal of thoracic imaging. 29(6):364-6. 2014. [pubmed]
  7. Chan SS. Emergency bedside ultrasound for the diagnosis of rib fractures. The American journal of emergency medicine. 27(5):617-20. 2009. [pubmed]
  8.  Ziegler DW, Agarwal NN. The morbidity and mortality of rib fractures. J. Trauma. 1994;37(6):975–9.
  9. Bulger EM, Arneson M a, Mock CN, Jurkovich GJ. Rib fractures in the elderly. J. Trauma. 2000;48(6):1040–6
  10. Flagel BT, Luchette F a, Reed RL, et al. Half-a-dozen ribs: the breakpoint for mortality. Surgery. 2005;138(4):717–23; discussion 723–5.
  11. Battle CE, Hutchings H, Evans P. Risk factors that predict mortality in patients with blunt chest wall trauma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Injury. 2012;43(1):8–17.
  12. Livingston DH, Shogan B, John P, Lavery RF. CT diagnosis of Rib fractures and the prediction of acute respiratory failure. The Journal of trauma. 64(4):905-11. 2008. [pubmed]
  13. Battle CE, Hutchings H, Lovett S.  Predicting outcomes after blunt chest wall trauma: development and external validation of a new prognostic model Critical Care 2014, 18:R98
  14. Pain Management in Blunt Thoracic Trauma (BTT)J Trauma. 59(5):1256-1267, November 2005.
  15. Doben AR, Eriksson EA, Denlinger CE. Surgical rib fixation for flail chest deformity improves liberation from mechanical ventilation. Journal of critical care. 29(1):139-43. 2014. [pubmed]
  16. Screening for Blunt Cardiac Injury. J Trauma. 73(5):S301-S306, November 2012
  17. Karangelis D, Koufakis T, Spiliopoulos K, Tsilimingas N, Bouliaris K, Desimonas N. Management of isolated sternal fractures using a practical algorithm. J Emerg Trauma Shock. 7(3):170-. 2014. [article]
  18. Dua A, McMaster J, Desai PJ et al. The Association between Blunt Cardiac Injury and Isolated Sternal Fracture. Cardiology Research and Practice. 2014:1-3. 2014. [article]

FOAMcastini – Core Content Journal Club

(ITUNES OR Listen Here)

This is an exciting week of primary literature, particularly as many large critical care trials were published in major journals despite being “negative studies.”  We are excited by this as, too often, we see “negative studies” discarded.  Further, these studies examined things some practices we seem to believe in: balanced crystalloids, apneic oxygenation (see Dr. Scott Weingart’s podcast on the FELLOW study), treating fever. We love that the Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM) community and study authors are examining beloved practice and open to questioning the very things we believe in. Well done.

We cover two core content papers out by Dr. Paul Young (@dogICUma) in JAMA and NEJM this week. His trials are as clever as his Twitter handle.

SPLIT – The FOAM world has sung the praises of balanced fluids given they have more physiologic composition. The thought, as detailed in this post, is that 0.9% NaCl contains an ABnormally large amount of chloride which may cause a hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis. Prior literature suggests an increased incidence of kidney injury with saline compared with balanced solutions. Thus, Dr. Paul Young and colleagues sought to study this with the best trial, to date, on this topic.

  • Multicenter, blinded,  cluster-randomized, double-crossover trial of adult ICU patients receiving crystalloids randomizing patients to 0.9%NaCl or Plasma-lyte (balanced solution).
    • Sites used one fluid for seven weeks and then crossed over to the other fluid (labeled Fluids A and B).
  • Primary outcome: AKI according to the RIFLE criteria  within 90 days – no difference between groups.
    • 9.6% in Plasma-lyte group vs 9.2% in the saline group (absolute difference 0.4% [95% CI, −2.1%-2.9%]; RR, 1.04 [95% CI, 0.80-1.36]; P = .77)
  • Secondary outcomes: No difference in renal replacement therapy, ICU days, mechanical ventilation, or mortality
  • A few things to keep in mind:
    • 70% of patients were admitted to the ICU from the OR (mostly cardiac surgery) and only ~15% from the ED
    • Patients got a median of 2L (1L -3.5L) of the study fluid, that’s it. These were not large volume resuscitations.
    • 90% of patients received fluids prior to enrollment, 60% got balanced crystalloid and only 30% 0.9% NaCl.

HEAT – We can’t help treating fever. We like the numbers euboxic, elevated temp? It must be bad! Doctors, parents, nurses treat fever reflexively.  Yet, there’s a thought that fever may be evolutionary and could potentially be protective. Treating pain or discomfort? That’s one thing, but here the authors sought to determine if there was a clinically important benefit to treating the number in ICU patients.

  • Randomised controlled, double blinded study of n=690 ICU patients with T>38F + suspected infection randomized to receive either 1 g paracetamol (acetaminophen/APAP) or placebo every 6 hours.
  • Primary outcome: median ICU-free days to day 28 – no difference 23 (IQR 13-25) in paracetamol group vs 22 in placebo group (IQR 12-25); P=0.07
  • No difference in secondary outcomes of mortality at 28 and 90 days
  • Limitations: ~30% of patients in both arms received open label APAP after the course of the study drug

Bottom Line Pearls:

  • It appears we may be SPLITting hairs over fluid choices. Giving a couple of liters? Fluid choice may not matter. SPLIT does not provide literature for larger volume resuscitations.
  • Treating fever in ICU patients with suspected infection doesn’t have an effect on ICU free days. Treat discomfort and pain with APAP but don’t expect to save lives or ICU beds by doing so.
  • “Negative studies” are important. So is examining our practice.