Medical Review of the Movie Flatliners 2/2

I’m continuing my review of the movie Flatliners that released last year which is a reimagined redux of the original 1990 movie.

In the movie, a group of medical students intentionally put one another into cardiac arrest so they can have a near death experience (NDE). Let’s examine medically whether or not their method would work.

The plan is to anesthetize the inductee with Propofol (which is a short term anesthetic), cool their core body temperature, and then defribillate them with electricity causing them to flatline. Keep in mind, asystole means there is no electrical activity happening in the heart. You can read a post I did here on how electricity or defibrillation really works.  Amazingly, in this medical center’s basement in another fully functional hospital with a very expensive MRI to be used during a disaster.

Issue #1: A medical center has a fully functional part of the hospital with an expensive MRI that is doesn’t use. Any empty, unused space in the hospital is a drain on the budget. Especially an expensive piece of radiology equipment. No sane hospital anywhere would be leaving that piece of equipment unused in a basement.

Issue #2: What they show is not an MRI. MRI scans take a long time and can never be done in 60 seconds.

Issue #3: Trusting a fellow medical student to resusciate you. Need I say more?

Issue #4: Knowing that they are going to put someone in cardiac arrest, no one really bothers to hook up a resuscitation bag.

Issue #5: During one code that begins to run several minutes, one of the students orders another to put the cooling blanket back on because “she’s too warm”. This flies in the face of every resusciation protocol there is. There is a somewhat well used phrase that you must be “warm and dead”. Suboptimal body temperature makes resuscitation more difficult. They are only making their job harder.

Issue #6: Endotracheal tubes have a balloon on the end that must be inflated to stay in place and deflated to take out. No one seems very concerned about this.

Issue #7: You cannot deliver electricity over clothing. Bare skin only. Also, paddles are really not used any more for a variety of reasons. Most hospitals have transitioned to patches. The paddles are used as a back-up.

Issue #8: Propofol is a distinctive milky white substance. Seems easy enough to draw up some milk in your syringe for the movie to simulate this.

Issue #9: You cannot shock a heart that is in asystole into a normal rhythm. You can see my post above for that. Can you shock someone into asystole? There is a rare possibility that you can shock someone and stop their heart. However, the common rhythms a person would go into because of this is V-tach and V-fib and not asystole. The movie depending on this rare event for every flatline is unrealistic.

Issue #10: You can tell when a shock is delivered to a patient because generally they have quite a few muscles contract. Patients never come up off the bed as dramatically as on film or television. In fact, I’ve never seen a patient come up off the bed at all.

Have you seen Flatliners? What did you think of the medical aspects?

 

Medical Review of the Movie Flatliners 1/2

Flatliners 2.0 released in October, 2017. If you haven’t seen the movie (or the original from 1990) then you may not want to read this post as there will be spoilers involved.

Flatliners centers around a group of medical students who become curious with the phenomenon of near death experiences (NDEs) to the point that they “flatline” one another so that they can purposefully have one.

This first post will deal with a medical scenario that happens in the first ten minutes of the film. We’ll look at two screenshots from the movie.

Here is the conversation among the medical students when their new patient arrives.

Paramedic: “Transfer from Holy Cross. Thirty-eight year old construction worker fell off a beam. Persistent coma. GCS 6.”

Marlo: “Standard procedure for a GCS 6 admit calls for 2 large bore IVs and diazepam on standby.”

Ray: “Seizure meds won’t do any good. Whatever is wrong is in his spinal column and not in his brain.”

Marlo: “And what medical protocol are you citing?”

Ray: “The protocol of actually living in the real world. Where guys with crappy HMO’s go undiagnosed with spinal injuries.”

Marlo: “Actually he’s on seizure meds which is a medical protocol of reading his chart.”

 

At this point an alarm sounds and the students begin to panic. This is the screen shot at the moment of panic. It shows the monitor. The patient’s heart rate is a nice steady 73. His oxygen level is 100%– can’t get any better than that. His respiratory rate is 19– the patient is on a ventilator. I don’t know– things looks pretty good to me for this patient.

An attending doctor arrives.

Attending: “What is it?”

Student: “Respiratory failure.” (Based on the screen shot, there is no basis for this. Also, nothing is quite hooked up correctly at the head of the bed for an ER.)

Attending: “He might be hemorrhaging. Page neurosurgery, call a code, and get CT on standby. Students, clear the room!”

They then show another monitor in the room which appears to show ventricular fibrillation (V-fib) which is a lethal, but shockable rhythm. Yet, no one starts CPR.

End Scene.

Issue #1: I’m not sure how a medical student within the first ten seconds of getting this patient can know if the problem is in the brain or the spinal cord. For me, the problem seems likely to BE in the brain considering his persistent vegetative state.

Issue #2: Because of the patient’s insurance, he didn’t receive an accurate diagnosis. Mmmm . . . I know this myth get’s perpetuated. You don’t necessarily need expensive tests ALL the time to get an accurate diagnosis. CT scans and MRI scans aren’t really seen as extreme measures anymore. Though they are expensive the cost has come down.

Issue #3: Nothing these medical people say makes any sense medically. What evidence is there that the patient is in respiratory failure? The photo of the first monitor doesn’t suggest that. What evidence is there that the patient is hemorrhaging into his brain? Fixed and dilated pupils? Unequal pupils? A worsening coma score? None of that is presented in the scene.

Issue #4: The one medical problem they seemingly show is the V-fib in the second screen shot. Good to call a code, but research has shown that early and effective CPR is the one thing that is best at bringing people back. The next is early defibrillation which no one seems to anxious to accomplish.

Is it that hard to find good medical consultants for movies?

Fox’s The Resident: Everything Stereotypically Bad About Hospitals (Part 2/2)

Today, I’m continuing my review of Fox’s new medical drama The Resident and all that is bad about it. You can find Part I here.

Let’s continue our list.

THE RESIDENT: L-R: Manish Dayal, Emily VanCamp, Shaunette RenŽe Wilson, Matt Czuchry, Valerie Cruz and Bruce Greenwood in THE RESIDENT premiering midseason on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Justin Stephens/FOX

Bargaining with IV drug users for drugs. In one scene, the younger protege is seen bargaining with an IV drug user so that she’ll give into his demands and it becomes a bartering of sorts like buying food in an open market. Hands down, the physician should decide what his bottom line is and not waiver from it.

Effective CPR is “until the ribs crack”.  Effective CPR is just the amount of compression depth it takes to generate a pulse that can be felt. It is a risk factor that the patient’s ribs can break, but it is not the clinical guideline we shoot for.

An environment of “no questions asked” is dictated. The senior resident gives his junior resident this mantra: “Do what I want you to do. No questions asked.” Again, this type of environment is intolerable in the hospital setting and should never be dictated . . . like ever. A questioning environment has been shown to increase patient safety and smart hospitals are encouraging this very thing. Most hospitals also have a mechanism in place to go above the bedside medical team if family concerns are not being addressed.

A surgical resident get first dibs on the new, bright, shiny, robotic surgical wonder. Need I say more?

The attending surgeon pretends to do a surgery. Remember the new shiny surgery robot? Remember the attending from Part I that has obvious hand tremors and should not be doing surgery? Did I mention this attending surgeon is an ego maniac (he even leaves positive medical reviews for himself)? Well, since no one has ratted out this well . . . rat . . . it must be him that first uses the machine. However, physically, he can’t do it. So he sets up a ruse where it appears he’s doing the surgery where in reality his uber smart, highly capable resident is. I cannot tell you how ethically bad this is on so many levels.

There are several issues that surround a lengthy medical code in the ER. The IV drug user that bargains for drugs in the beginning codes related to a heart infection. She is coded for nearly 30 minutes— the junior resident keeps it going for that long because of his emotional connection to the patient. Of course, just as he decides to call it, the patient gets her pulse back.

The senior resident is mad at him because he’s just revived a “vegetable”. Honestly, it is the senior resident’s job to watch their underlings. There would have eventually been an attending doctor overseeing this code. So, the person least responsible for the length of this code is the junior resident. Everyone higher up on the totem pull has the ability to stop the code.

Hospitals keep vegetative people alive for money. This is so patently false it’s laughable, but is probably more believable for the general public because many think hospitals will do anything to meet their bottom line.

I’ve been in nursing twenty-five years this May. I first started in adult ICU nursing and in that unit in Kansas there was avid discussion of clinical pathways to put people on to withdraw unnecessary (futile) care. In fact, I would say I’ve seen the opposite— at times a push to take people off of life support sooner then may be warranted from both the family and/or medical providers.

A resident taking it into their own hands to discontinue life support. Because the patient has no hope for life and he sees that the family is in no hurry to stop life support, the resident decides to turn off the machines. Fortunately, he is caught by a fellow resident and quickly turns back on the life support and the patient suffers no ill effects. Again, highly unethical. How about . . . having some hard conversations with the family about the viability of their daughter and helping them come to this decision? I know this is painted in the episode as a merciful thing for this doctor to do, but it would have been murder if he succeeded. He does not have permission to discontinue life support and cannot do so on his own accord. Period.

Also, there is no reason to be dumping a bucket of ice cold water onto a patient’s face . . . like ever.

I guess I should be thankful to The Resident for giving me all this blog material. It’s the only thing good about the show.

Tell me what you think of The Resident? If you’ve seen an episode, will you keep watching?

 

The Good Doctor: Season 1 Episode 4

I wasn’t sure if I would continue to do these posts on the new ABC drama, The Good Doctor. One of the first posts I did got one of the largest responses ever on my FB page. The responses were 50/50 for and against the show. Many people want to champion the series because it highlights someone with autism working in the medical field.

The other half agree that if you’re going to highlight a medical drama— it would be nice to have it be the teeniest bit accurate. I’m not asking for a lot . . . just don’t give patients false hope or have them get such a skewed view of medicine that they trust medical professionals less. We’re already fighting that battle.

My disgruntlement with the show is not the fact that they highlight a character with autism— it is with the medical aspects of the show and how they handle their patients.

That is where my fight is . . . so let’s carry on.

In episode four, the main story highlights a woman who is pregnant with a child who has a large spinal tumor. The woman has already miscarried two children as the result of a clotting disorder she suffers from.

Issue #1: All surgeons cannot do all things. This continues to be a big complaint of mine for the show. One of the general surgery attendings is also a specialist in fetal surgery. I cannot tell you how specialized a field fetal surgery is. There are only a handful of these specialized doctors in the country. A general surgeon is not even, in their right mind, going to attempt something so risky for a notch on their proverbial belt. It would be negligent for them to do so.

Issue #2: OR’s are well lit. In this particular episode, I noticed all the OR scenes are shot in relative darkness. I’m sure this is so it looks uber cool for the viewer and there are times when OR light is dimmed, but we do generally want surgeons to be really able to see what they’re doing. Which is why they get really big lights.

Issue #3: Medical equipment called for— never placed on the patient. During the first surgery to remove the tumor from the child, the mother suffers a heart attack and they place her on a balloon pump that mysteriously never gets put in place. These are obvious pieces of equipment and it is never shown or mentioned again.

Issue #4: Surgery without patient consent. Despite the pretty serious complication of the first surgery, the mother is gung ho to go at it again, despite having had a heart attack. That’s actually believable. Mothers will do anything to save their child. What’s a little surprising is how gung ho the surgeons are. What follows are some pretty mind boggling discussions of who lives and who dies under what circumstances.

The attending surgeon offers a plan to not tell the mother that her surgery will end up being an abortion to save her life. That they’ll essentially lie to her telling her they’re going to take her to the OR for another attempt at saving the infant while really going in to end his life. On a one to ten scale of how unethical a plan that is to even be mentioned is like one hundred. The better person to float out an idea like that? A medical student. A resident. The attending? Those are the people teaching our young doctors— please have them be a representation of some sort of ethical boundary.

To be clear, the surgical game plan can change during an operation, but to go in knowingly deceiving a patient is malpractice.

Issue #5: The baby is just as monitored as the mother during the surgery.  In the scene of the second fetal surgery, the baby is just lying there on the mother’s stomach with no monitoring equipment. The baby is monitored as thoroughly as the mother.

What are your thoughts on The Good Doctor?

The Good Doctor is Bad Medicine Part 3/3

This is the third part of a series examining the medical aspects of ABC’s new medical drama called The Good Doctor which highlights the struggles of autistic surgical resident Shaun Murphy. You can read Part I and Part II by following the links.

Episode 2 has so many issues it’s taking me two posts just to cover it.

The other issue in Episode 2 is the care of a young girl with abdominal pain. Everyone but Dr. Murphy thinks this belly pain is caused by the girl’s parents’ divorce.

Issue #1: Ordering proper medical tests. One of the easiest things I feel like a medical show can get right is ordering the proper tests. Any medical consultant worth their salt should be able to assist the writing staff in this. For this patient, a child suffering abdominal pain, he orders a D-dimer, lactate, and amylase. Together, these tests make little sense. A D-dimer is used to look at blood coagulation. A lactate at how acidic the blood is. A lactate isn’t crazy, but a more applicable test for this girl would be what’s called a BMP or CMP— both of which are metabolic panels that look at the function of several organs in the abdomen. An amylase is okay as well— but drawn with other tests that make more sense. How about just a plain x-ray of her abdomen while we’re at it?

Issue #2: Going to a patient’s house. Despite the inappropriately ordered, fairly normal lab tests, the results bother Dr. Murphy so much that he goes to the patient’s house and insists on examining her. I cannot emphasize how much this would be frowned upon and I have personally never seen this happen. How would this be handled? First, simply a phone call to the family and request they come back to the hospital for further studies. If the situation is deemed serious enough, and the family cannot be reached by phone, involving law enforcement to help would likely be the next step.

Issue #3: Not calling an ambulance. When the girl is checked on, she is unresponsive and has vomited in her bed. Instead of calling an ambulance, Dr. Murphy insists that they take her by car. In an urban setting (in absence of a mass casualty situation), this is highly irresponsible. EMS response is generally very good and medical care can be started more quickly than driving a patient to the hospital. The episode proves my point when the girl becomes clinically more sick on the drive to the hospital and Dr. Murphy starts CPR. If EMS had been called to the house, this could have been prevented.

Issue #4: When to start CPR? In pediatrics, generally CPR is not started until the heart rate is under 60 beats per minutes. In this case, Dr. Murphy starts CPR for a weak, thready pulse. Looking up American Heart Association guidelines for pediatric CPR would be an easy way to figure out when CPR would be indicated.

Issue #5: Inaccurate medical portrayal of shock. When the 10 y/o girl arrives to the hospital, Dr. Murphy states, “Patient is a ten-year-old female with hypovolemic shock and bradycardia.” Hypovolemic shock is shock related to fluid losses, but seemingly this patient has vomited one time. Really not enough to set in shock in the older child. Also, the body’s response to hypovolemia is to increase the heart rate. The patient should be tachycardic. A pediatric patient can become bradycardic, or have very slow heart rate, in relation to shock, but it is a very late sign and I don’t think the medical history given on this girl is enough to warrant a code.

Issue #6: A surgical resident taking a patient to the OR. Keep in mind, Dr. Murphy is like on day #2 of the first year of his surgical rotation, yet he orders an OR, takes the patient to surgery, and is only interrupted by his attending when he’s about to make his first incision. Just no, no, no.

I think overall The Good Doctor has good intentions in looking at how people with special needs can operate in certain professions. However, don’t look at the first two episodes as any representation of good and accurate medical care.

There is always a way to maintain tension and conflict while still being medically accurate.

The Good Doctor is Bad Medicine Part 2/3

I’m continuing my evaluation of ABC’s new medical drama The Good Doctor. You can find Part I here. The series follows first year autistic surgical resident, Shaun Murphy, as he navigates his surgical residency.

The second episode sees Shaun begin his duties and he’s been accepted into the program, albeit with some outward disdain from some of the attending surgeons.

In the opening scene of this episode, a middle-age woman has had a CT of her abdomen that shows a large mass.

Issue #1: Morphine dosing. The patient’s initial dose of morphine is 10mg. This is a little on the high side. Generally, we’ll start with lower doses and work our way up. However, they distress the patient with news of her medical diagnosis and so the attending surgeon says to the resident, “Give her as much Morphine as she wants.” So the way we deal with patient distress is by overdosing them on narcotics? I don’t think so.

Issue #2: Reviewing medical tests in front of the patient. Two surgical residents and the attending surgeon pull up the CT results in front of the patient without having reviewed them first and the test shows a very concerning exam. Dr. Murphy diagnosis her with cancer, in front of the patient, based on this scan. This is reason #1 why you know what the patient is dealing with before you go talk with them. Nothing should be hidden from a patient, but also should the information be presented in a compassionate, informative way.

Issue #3: The definitive diagnosis of cancer can only be made by biopsy. Are some radiology studies highly suggestive of malignancy? Yes, absolutely. But always, the cells must be looked at for definitive diagnosis, which means a biopsy.

Issue #4: Supposedly, Shaun Murphy is crazy uber-smart despite his communication difficulties related to his autism, but he seemingly made it out of medical school without an understanding of what “scut work” is. Sure.

Issue #5: Nursing as boss. In one scene, a nurse is placed as Shaun Murphy’s “boss” to keep him from ordering unnecessary medical tests. Put simply, this is not nursing’s responsibly.  It is a nurse’s responsibility to protect patient’s assigned to her from unnecessary medical testing (or at least question the physician about tests that seem out of bounds), but never would a nurse be assigned to follow a resident around all day to keep tabs on him. This is the responsibility of the surgical hierarchy and they need to keep tabs on this resident. Also, this nurse seemingly works every area of the hospital from the ER to the PACU. This is also unrealistic.

Issue #6: Nurses are called by their first name— not “Nurse” and their last name. Again, can we get rid of this stereotype?

Issue #7: Lab delay in pathology results. Lab works very closely when surgeons are waiting for results with a patient on the table. These would be considered “stat” reads and would not be placed in the normal milieu of other lab tests.

Issue #8: Threats of violence are taken very seriously. Shaun’s response to the lab personnel not immediately reading the pathology slides is to verbally threaten to throw a rock through their window. This is completely unacceptable behavior, regardless of the autism diagnosis of the surgical resident, from any member on a hospital staff and would not be treated with a kind response (as in she smiles and concedes to his demands.) A statement made like this would receive disciplinary action.

Issue #9: These amazing medical centers cannot do amazing surgery. In this episode, the surgical team decides they must cut out the kidney in order to get a better look at the tumor. Fine, great. But why not reimplant it once the surgery is over?

There are so many issues with this one episode of The Good Doctor it deserves a Part III.

The Good Doctor is Bad Medicine Part 1/3

The Good Doctor is a medical drama that’s first season just started airing on ABC. Of course, anytime a new medical drama hits the airwaves I get messages from people curious about my opinion.

The drama focuses on first year surgical resident Shaun Murphy who has autism. I’ve watched the first two episodes and though the premise of the drama is mildly intriguing— I don’t find the medical aspects or interactions between the medical staff worthy enough to keep watching. Unless, I keep analyzing episodes for this blog. We’ll see.

Episode 1 features the fight of a hospital administrator to get him accepted into the program. On Murphy’s way to the hospital for seemingly his first day, of course, he saves a life at an airport.

A teen is showered with glass and suffers life-threatening injuries to the neck and chest. An older male, who identifies himself as a doctor, begins to render aid by putting pressure on the wound. The doctor says, “His jugular vein has been cut.”

Issue #1: Placement of direct pressure. Murphy chastises the older doctor for holding direct pressure improperly (for a pediatric patient) and for occluding the patient’s airway because of it. The doctor adjusts and the patient begins to breathe again. Truthfully, there are differences between the adult and pediatric airway, but I’ve never heard of adjusting pressure d/t anatomy. You have to put pressure on what’s bleeding. If that causes problems with the airway, then the patient requires intubation to protect the airway.

Issue #2: Doctors having sex in the call room. Can we please just get rid of this stereotype? Please, just please. There is never as much rampant sex as portrayed on TV in hospitals. In my almost 25 years of nursing, I’ve heard ONE rumor.

Issue #3: Airport Security. I cannot believe in this day and age that, regardless of what someone says, hospital security would allow anyone to grab a knife and run wildly through the airport without being arrested— even if a patient’s life is in danger.

Issue #4: EMS response. Considering this is an airport, the EMS response time is laughingly long.

Issue #5: Chest tube. Of course, Dr. Murphy places a chest tube in the patient as well as makes, MacGyver style, a chest tube drainage system. Once this is done, he triumphantly raises it above the patient and the patient dramatically improves. Just, no. Drainage systems should always be level or below the patient to drain. Never above. Like never. You can check out this nifty nursing video that explains just that.

Issue #6: Direct OR admission from the ambulance. The now stable patient is met by a surgical resident and goes straight from the ambulance to the OR. No, just no. First of all, why does a stable patient need to go to the OR? Secondly, everything first to the ER. The ER attending will make a decision to consult surgery and a plan will be made to take the patient to the OR.

Honestly, there’s more in this episode. Can we talk about the language the doctor uses to get consent? I’ll spare you until next post where I examine episode 2.