Topics in this EM Quick Hits podcast

Anand Swaminathan on oxygenation strategies for COVID-19 learned from the New York experience (1:10)

Andrew Petrosoniak on trauma care considerations in the COVID-19 era (9:26)

Michelle Klaiman on addiction medicine considerations in the COVID-19 era (15:38)

Brit Long & Michael Gottlieb on cardiac complications of COVID-19 (21:19)

Leeor Sommer on physician compassion and preserving patients’ humanity in the COVID-19 era (28:52)

Podcast production, editing and sound design by Anton Helman

Podcast content, written summary & blog post by Andrew Petrosoniak, Brit Long and Anton Helman

Cite this podcast as: Helman, A. Swaminathan, A. Klaiman, M. Sommer, L. Long, B. Gottlieb, M. Petrosoniak, A. EM Quick Hits 16 – COVID-19 – Oxygenation Strategies, Trauma Care, Addictions Considerations, Cardiovascular Complications & Compassionate Care. Emergency Medicine Cases. April, 2020. https://emergencymedicinecases.com/em-quick-hits-covid-19-oxygenation-trauma-addictions-cardiovascular-complications/Accessed [date].

This blog post and podcast are based on Level C evidence – consensus and expert opinion. Examples of protocols, checklists and algorithms are for educational purposes and require modification for your particular needs as well as approval by your hospital before use in clinical practice.

This podcast was recorded in early April, 2020 and the information within is accurate up to this date only, as the COVID pandemic evolves and new data emerges. The blog post will be updated regularly and we are working on a weekly update via the EM Cases Newsletter which will be replicated on the EM Cases website under ‘COVID-19’ in the navigation bar.

Oxygenation strategies for COVID-19: New York City experience

There appears to be three phenotypes of COVID-19 patients:

  1. The well COVID-19 patient – URI/flu-like illness +/- abnormal CXR, but normal/near normal vital signs
  2. “Happy hypoxic” – relatively asymptomatic and appearing comfortable but oxygen saturation <90% despite 5-6L NP and 15L NRB, consider HFNC with covering surgical mask or CPAP in negative pressure room, both of which may prevent the need for intubation
  3. Respiratory failure – severe hypoxia and tachypnea who appear to be tiring; consider early intubation and preoxygenation with CPAP or gentle controlled BVM 2 person (6-10 breaths/min)

Awake proning in the ED for “Happy Hypoxic” COVID-19 patients

For patients requiring NP and/or NRB oxygenation simply instruct patient to roll over into the prone position taking care not to disturb their IV or NP/NRB, wait a few minutes and assess their oxygenation and subjective symptoms; if either improve, remain prone – if not, return to supine position.

Proning may be beneficial to those COVID-19 patients on HFNC, CPAP or intubated, however this requires trained providers and is better suited for the ICU where they have experience proning patients.

Awake pronation on EMcrit

Could the best mode of noninvasive ventilation for COVID-19 by CPAP?


Tips on trauma care in the COVID era

  1. Streamline your trauma teams with an active and stand-by team
  2. Integrate an infectious screen that is prompted during your team pre-brief
  3. Use FAST exams only when it will change your management
  4. Procedures like chest tubes might be aerosol generating while EDT should really be restricted to penetrating chest trauma with signs of life
  5. Liberal use of CT scans might help you discharge those patients that you otherwise would admit for observation

Cardiovascular complications of COVID-19: Myocarditis vs ACS, CHF and dysrhythmias

Myocarditis: Up to one third of patients have troponin elevation in severe COVID-19. While this might be due to demand ischemia, there is evidence suggesting that certain patients also develop acute myocarditis due to direct infiltration by the virus. Studies have suggested a 5 to 10-fold higher mortality rate among COVID patients who have troponin elevations. Myocarditis can overlap with ACS.

ACS: Systemic inflammation increases risk of atherosclerotic plaque disruption, increases demand on the heart, and reduces oxygen supply. There’s a 6 fold increase in rates of acute MI within 7 days after diagnosis of influenza in hospitalized patients, which may occur in other infections too. Differentiating myocarditis and ACS is tough; obtain an echo and speak with cardiology. For those with STEMI, as per the ACC, fibrinolysis “may be considered” in those who are “relatively stable”, but they acknowledge that PCI is more commonly performed in most centers.

Heart Failure: Acute heart failure may be part of the initial presentation in one-quarter of patients and is associated with increased mortality.

Dysrhythmias: Palpitations may be a presenting symptom in over 7%. There is a wide range of dysrhythmias in patients with COVID-19 infection. Sinus tachycardia is the most common, but ventricular dysrhythmias can occur. Keep in mind that hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, and azithromycin prolong the QT.

Offer patients to video-chat with their loved ones before intubation if time permits, as it might be the last chance they get.

Organizations supporting people in need during the COVID-19 crisis for consideration of donation

Food Banks Canada

Breakfast Club of Canada

The Stop

Street Health

None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to declare