911 S2/E2: Determining Death

In Episode 2 of this season’s Fox series 9-1-1, a devastating earthquake has hit LA county.

The team is searching for victims when they come upon a patient where only her lower legs are visible. The paramedic reaches down and assesses her pulse at her foot and determines that she’s dead. Time to move on.

Can you feel someone’s pulse in their foot? Yes, you can. He’s palpating what’s called the dorsalis pedis pulse.

Should it be used to determine if the patient is dead? To this, I would say no. The problem is, when the body goes into shock, it shunts blood toward the central aspects of your body to ensure blood flow to your vital organs so even though the person is alive, you may not be able to feel the pulses in the feet. This is why when checking for life, the use of central pulses is encouraged— for instance the femoral or carotid pulses. Also, this victim could just have two broken legs with compromised blood flow to her feet causing the lack of pulse.

However, I’m not going to give them too much grief for this. In a mass casualty situation, sometimes you do just need to move on and save who you can.

Reverie: Not so Medically Dreamy

NBC has launched a new summer show titled Reverie.  In it, Mara (ex traumatized cop, maybe psychologist) is recruited by a company specializing in making-your-dreams-come-true via a hyper advanced virtual reality program. The participants receive an implant that allows them to interact virtually with a program partly of their design.

Problem becomes, some of the clients don’t want to leave. Hence, our heroine, Mara, is recruited to go in after them and pull them back to reality.

In the first episode, it’s noted that the client has been in his dream world for two weeks and it’s commented by the staff that he’s essentially comatose. The man is lying on a bed connected to an ECG monitor and some oxygen via nasal cannula as pictured below. They give the man two days left to live providing a time pressure for the heroine.

However, medically, this man would have already been dead because they are not providing for either hydration or nutrition. This could be solved simply medically by inserting a feeding tube via his nose and providing free water interspersed with bolus liquid feeds. After all, thousands of people live in comatose states for years if their basic medical needs are met such as oxygen (if needed) and nutrition.

The heroine, Mara, is psychologically damaged. She’s had a significant personal trauma she hasn’t quite worked through. There is also a concern expressed by the designers of the program that something might not be quite right with it. When Mara enters the virtual reality program for the first time to retrieve a voluntarily trapped client they run an EEG on her which measures brain waves.

After she successfully retrieves the client, there is a conversation between the designer and lead dream architect that something is wrong with Mara’s EEG— something that indicates she could have a mental illness.

An EEG cannot diagnose a mental health disorder. Its use might be to determine if a patient has a medical cause that may be masked by some psychiatric like complaints such as a seizure disorder or sleep disturbance.

In episode 2, the producers must have gotten some feedback that they needed some actual medical equipment if they were concerned about these clients suffering medical complications. This time, a woman’s heart is going into erratic rhythms, specifically V-tach, because of the stress she’s under in her dream scape. But the medical equipment must make sense. What’s pictured in the photo to the right is what we call a rapid fluid infuser. It delivers IV fluids very quickly. Typically, it would be used in a trauma patient or one who is suffering from overwhelming sepsis where rapid delivery of IV fluids can be lifesaving. It is not appropriate for this patient who is suffering from a heart arrhythmia— much better to park a defibrillator at her bedside.

Have you watched Reverie? What do you think of the show’s premise?

The Good Doctor S1/E5: Lying to Kids is a Good Thing?

When The Good Doctor starts messing with pediatric scenarios . . . well, I just cannot keep my mouth closed. You can see other posts I’ve done on The Good Doctor here, here, here, and here.

In this episode (spoiler alert!) Shaun is convinced that a pediatric patient, a boy around the age of fourteen, has been misdiagnosed with cancer. This patient first comes to the hospital for a bone fracture and Shaun goes in to consult. Shaun is over identifying with this patient because he looks just like his brother that died during his younger years.

Issue #1: A first year surgical resident consulting on an ortho case. There’s really no reason for Shaun to even be consulting on this case. An orthopedic resident, yes. If no orthopedic resident, then an ortho attending. But this is outside the realm for a general, first year surgery resident.

Issue #2: There is a tendency in these shows to separate parents from children during treatment. This is not really done or encouraged at all anymore unless the presence of the parents put the child at risk in some manner.

Issue #3: This child has had a cancer diagnosis for SEVEN months and his parents haven’t told him he has cancer. This is unconscionable. We don’t need to lie and hide the truth from children. They are so much stronger than we give them credit for! Also, this is highly unethical and would not be supported by any decent pediatric medical team. Great effort would be made to help the parents give their child this news.  It doesn’t benefit him or protect him to be told this lie. Plus, is he not receiving treatment? The episode proves this point when the patient tells Shaun he already knew he had cancer.

Issue #4: Because his parents haven’t told him, Shaun decides to without their permission. Again, we would work very hard to have the parents tell the child this news. It’s unethical for any healthcare provider to do this without the parents permission no matter what. So much would be done to help these parents talk to their son. I’ve never seen this happen in pediatrics . . . like ever.

Issue #5: In order to prove his alternative diagnosis, Shaun decides to perform a medical procedure on the patient without the parent’s consent. This is legally dicey and Shaun should suffer disciplinary repercussions for doing so.

Issue #6: A patient after having open heart surgery is in recovery with only an IV and simple monitoring. Any patient who has had open heart surgery will have a variety of tubes— like chest tubes. It’s not a simple recovery.

Are you watching The Good Doctor? What do you think of this surgical resident getting away with all these bad things without repercussions?

 

A Real Doctor’s Thoughts on The Resident

As you know, last week I did a couple of posts on Fox’s new television show The Resident. You can find Part I and Part II by clicking the links. Shortly after this post, I came across a You Tube video by Dr. Zubin Damania who runs a series of entertaining and informative videos on healthcare under the name ZDoggMD.

I’ve found Zubin’s videos fun. Some are satirical in nature, but others tackle very serious healthcare issues. Zubin does for the general public what I try to do for writers. As a note, some of his videos do have some salty language.

So, it was with interest that I viewed his thoughts (serious ones) on The Resident to see if we agreed on the same things. I was somewhat shocked in some of the things he thought were spot on as far as medicine goes and I must say I’m relieved we’ve worked at different hospitals. To be fair, I’ve never worked on a surgical floor or in the OR so my expertise is not in that area. You can view his thoughts in the posted video.

One thing he found more truthful than I did was the cover-up of the doctor who shouldn’t be performing surgery anymore. That something like that wasn’t as blatant as it appeared on television, but was much more subtle— but does happen.

It was interesting to see the differing opinions between a physician and a nurse. The lead female character— I think is a resident because she wears a long, white lab coat. Nurses typically don’t wear this unless they are nurse practitioners. He thinks this same character is a nurse who seemingly works in every unit of the hospital. What’s clear is it’s not clear what her job is. This is also one of my major complaints about medical shows in general— they don’t realistically show the true nature of the job.

I appreciate ZDoggMD— particularly his support of nursing. It has not gone unnoticed by me. Keep up the good fight, my friend!

9-1-1 S1/E3: Evaluation and Treatment of Overdoses

In Episode 3 of 9-1-1, the story opens with officer Athena Grant, played by Angela Bassett, finding her daughter unconscious from taking hydrocodone pills as seen in the trailer below. The daughter, who appears to be between twelve and fourteen, is whisked off to the hospital and admitted to the ICU in short order. One, did they treat this ingestion (or overdose) correctly? Two, would this type of ingestion warrant ICU admission?

It’s stated in the episode that the daughter took “six to seven” hydrocodone pills. Hydrocodone is a combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and a synthetic type of codeine. It comes in many different preparations with different amounts of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Where do we start to evaluate whether or not the ingestion is worrisome?

1.  How is the patient? What signs and symptoms do they have?  The EMS crew in this situation is lucky. The mother knows exactly what the daughter took. She presents unresponsive with slow breathing. Number one treatment in this situation after assisting with her breathing? Give Narcan which this crew absolutely does not do. Narcan is a reversal agent for opioids. It can be given via a mist up the nose so you can generally reverse the sedative effects of the drug without even starting an IV. It is a life saving measure because it is the not breathing part that will kill you first. This is the medication they should have given first.

In absence of knowing exactly what the patient took, we can look at clusters of signs and symptoms called toxidromes which might point us in the right direction.

2. What did the patient take? When did they take it? How much did they take? Many drugs have multiple components and we have to evaluate EACH component and whether or not this could prove harmful to the patient. The opioid  (once reversed with Narcan) is probably the least concerning. The amount of acetaminophen ingested is our next priority and we would calculate how many milligrams per kilogram she took. We know for acetaminophen that when you start to get between 100-150mg/kg that there could be a potential for liver damage. There is a reversal drug for acetaminophen’s damaging effects on the liver called Mucomyst, but there is a window in which this can be given to be effective. Usually, a poison control center will help us manage these types of patients.

In this case, let’s say she took six pills of Lortab 7.5/500. From this we know that each pill has 500mg of acetaminophen. Assuming the average 12-14 y/o is about 100 lbs (converted to 45 kg) then she took about 66mg/kg of acetaminophen. A four hour Tylenol level (measured four hours after the ingestion) would be checked to ensure she wasn’t toxic, but in this case likely not.

3. Will this patient be admitted to the ICU? It might come as a surprise, but ingestions of medications are most often not admitted to the ICU. Most are managed and observed in the ER. In this case, the girl should have been given Narcan by EMS. We would continue to watch for the somnolent effects of the opioid and evaluate the risk of the acetaminophen.

Also, it’s generally protocol that an aspirin level is measured as well even if the patient denies taking any. We can’t always depend on the patient being truthful about what they took and aspirin can have very devastating effects as well. Other labs depend on the medication ingested and what parts of the body if affects. This patient would likely not be admitted to the ICU.

Also, if we get a toxic ingestion within an hour we can give activated charcoal (that literally looks like black sludge) that will bind the medication. This is not always done for several reasons. One is the risk of the charcoal ending up in a patient’s lungs during administration. Usually this is done under the recommendation of Poison Control.

4. Do we notify Child Protective Services? In this episode, Child Protective Services conducts a mental health exam on the teen. In the real world, this evaluation takes place through mental health providers not associated with the state. State involvement is generally reserved for what we would consider a risky home environment. A teen getting into their parents medicine cabinet for some pills would not fall into that category. What would? A two-year-old ingesting crack cocaine that was lying around the home. Each case is handled very individually, but this case presented in 9-1-1 would not rise to that level in my opinion.

As a side note, parents are not separated from their children during medical treatment. Can we please stop perpetuating this myth?

What do you think of 9-1-1?

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?

 

Fox’s The Resident: Everything Stereotypically Bad About Hospitals (Part 1/2)

Seems like this television season there have been quite a few new medical dramas hitting the airwaves. I’ve done a four part series on The Good Doctor (Part 1, Part 2Part 3, and Part 4) and 9-1-1. Newest onto the small screen is Fox’s The Resident.

It will make you hate hospitals and everything about them.

There are a few that say to me, “Why try and correct all this misinformation? Most people know it’s not factual.” It might actually surprise you how many people view what they see on television as real and true. The recent demise of crock pots everywhere after an episode This Is Us led the company to release a statement about their safety.

The Resident highlights every horrible hospital stereotype . . . literally on the planet. This is pretty amazing for a show to do in one hour.  The show centers around two residents: the senior resident Dr. Conrad Hawkins and a new bright and shiny resident, Dr. Devon Pravesh. One big problem . . . it’s not even clear what type of residents they are.

Hawkins is the gunslinger. The medical doctor who knows everything under the sun and bucks corruption (and common sense) at every possible turn. He is brash, arrogant, and needs a few classes in mentoring and bedside manner. Well, not just him, but really the entire cast of doctors from the senior attending with tremors who shouldn’t be doing surgery anymore to the wicked smart surgical resident who, in a room full of people (and on the fly by no less) states to a family that the result of their loved ones surgery was “Prescott’s dead.”

Sweet.

I don’t even like this show a little bit. As it stands now, I personally find nothing redeeming about it. Not only medically, but socially as well.

Here is just a short list to get us started on what’s wrong with The Resident.

An open appendectomy. Appendectomies are mostly done laparoscopically. In this patient, it’s even commented that it hasn’t ruptured so it should be the easiest of all appendectomies. However, this patient has a heinously large incision and the attending physician (the one with the horrible hand tremors) nicks an artery and the patient dies.

A short surgical code. It is true that surgeons don’t like deaths to occur in the actual OR. Considering that, the surgical code (compared to a medical code later) is laughingly short. Like big shrugs around the room after a few minutes— golly gee, our patient is dead.  Not sure how we treat hemorrhage.

The cover-up. I can’t say with one-hundred percent certainty that no bad medical outcome is hidden, but I will say that the climate is definitely supporting the truth coming out in the hospital setting. In this television episode, it’s plainly clear that this attending surgeon has a reputation for bad outcomes and the staff has been covering this up for a while. After the patient dies, they develop “the story” to cover up the surgeon’s negligence. Hands down, this puts too many careers at risk and most people aren’t willing to take that chance. This is beyond “playing along”. Most hospitals have corporate compliance hotlines where concerns can be left anonymously. Honestly, it would increase the tension of this television show to have someone trying to expose him.

Next post, we’ll continue our discussion on the medical inaccuracies of The Resident.