My hospitalized patient with sepsis has persistently elevated lactic acid despite volume resuscitation, source control, and adequate oxygenation. What could I be missing?

Although the causes of lactic acidosis are legion (eg, sepsis, tissue hypoperfusion, ischemic bowel, malignancy, medications, liver dysfunction), thiamine deficiency (TD) is an often-overlooked cause of persistently elevated serum lactic acid (LA) in critically ill hospitalized patients,1 reported in 20-70% of septic patients.2  Septic shock patients may be particularly at risk of TD because of increased mitochondrial oxidative stress, decreased nutritional intake and presence of comorbid conditions (eg,  alcoholism, persistent vomiting).3

Early recognition of TD in hospitalized patients may be particularly difficult because of the frequent absence of the “classic” signs and symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy (eg, ataxia, cranial nerve palsies and confusion) and lack of readily available confirmatory laboratory tests.4

TD-related lactic acidosis should be suspected when an elevated LA persists despite adequate treatment of its putative cause(s) (4,5). Administration of IV thiamine in this setting may result in rapid clearance of LA.3-5

TD causes lactic acidosis type B which is due to the generation of excess LA, not impairment in tissue oxygenation, as is the case for lactic acidosis type A. Thiamine is an essential co-factor in aerobic metabolism, facilitating the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA which enters the citric acid (Krebs) cycle within the mitochondria. In TD, pyruvate does not undergo aerobic metabolism and is converted to LA instead, leading to lactic acidosis.

Bonus pearl: Did you know that because of its limited tissue storage, thiamine stores may be depleted within only 3 weeks of reduced oral intake!

References

  1. O’Donnell K. Lactic acidosis: a lesser known side effect of thiamine deficiency. Practical Gastroenterol March 2017:24.   https://www.practicalgastro.com/article/176921/Lactic-Acidosis-Lesser-Known-Side-Effect-of-Thiamine-Deficiency
  2. Marik PE. Thiamine: an essential component of the metabolic resuscitation protocol. Crit Care Med 2018;46:1869-70. https://journals.lww.com/ccmjournal/Fulltext/2018/11000/Thiamine___An_Essential_Component_of_the_Metabolic.23.aspx
  3. Woolum JA, Abner EL, Kelly A, et al. Effect of thiamine administration on lactate clearance and mortality in patients with septic shock. Crit Care Med 2018;46:1747-52. https://journals.lww.com/ccmjournal/Fulltext/2018/11000/Effect_of_Thiamine_Administration_on_Lactate.5.aspx
  4. Kourouni I, Pirrotta S, Mathew J, et al. Thiamine: an underutilized agent in refractory lactic acidosis. Chest 2016; 150:247A. https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(16)56459-9/pdf
  5. Shah S, Wald E. Type B lactic acidosis secondary to thiamine deficiency in a child with malignancy. Pediatrics 2015; 135:e221-e224. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/1/e221

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My hospitalized patient with sepsis has persistently elevated lactic acid despite volume resuscitation, source control, and adequate oxygenation. What could I be missing?

Should I continue nadolol in my patient with cirrhosis and refractory ascites?

Under certain circumstances, you may need to! Although nonselective beta blockers (NSBBs), such as nadolol and propranolol, have been the cornerstone of medical treatment of portal hypertension in preventing variceal bleeding in patients with cirrhosis for decades, recent reports of their association with worsening survival, increased risk of hepatorenal syndrome and acute kidney injury in patients with refractory ascites or spontaneous bacterial peritonitis [SBP]) 1,2 have added controversy to their routine use in end-stage cirrhosis.

This is because patients with end-stage cirrhosis may be highly dependent on their cardiac output (particularly the heart rate) in maintaining an adequate arterial blood pressure 3-5 and the negative inotropic and chronotropic effects of NSBBs blunt this compensatory mechanism. The result is a drop in the cardiac output that may be particularly significant in the presence of conditions already associated with hypotension, such as sepsis, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP), or hemorrhage, further increasing the risk of renal hypoperfusion and hepatorenal syndrome.3

Although 2 meta-analysis studies failed to find an association between NSBBs and increased mortality among patients with cirrhosis and ascites, 6,7 serious concerns over the adverse effects of these drugs in at least a subset of patients has not waned.  Some have recommended reducing NSBB dose or discontinuing treatment in patients with refractory ascites or SBP and any of the following parameters: 4

  • Systolic blood pressure <90 mmHg
  • Serum creatinine >1.5 mg/dL
  • Hyponatremia <130 mmol/L

Similar recommendations were made by a 2015 consensus conference on individualizing the care of patients with portal hypertension.

In the absence of randomized-controlled studies, it seems prudent to proceed with more caution when using NSBBs in patients with end-stage cirrhosis and watch closely for any signs of hypotension or renal function deterioration.

References

  1. Serste T, Njimi H, Degre D, et al. The use of beta-lackers is associated with the occurrence of acute kidney injury in severe hepatitis. Liver In 2015;35:1974-82. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25611961
  2. Mandorfer M, Bota S, Schwabl P, et al. Nonselective beta blockers increase risk of hepatorenal syndrome and death in patients with cirrhosis and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. Gastroenterol 2014;146:1680-90. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016508514003060?via%3Dihub
  3. Garcia-Tsao G. The use of nonselective beta blockers for treatment of portal hypertension. Gastroenterol Hepatol 2017;13: 617-19. http://www.gastroenterologyandhepatology.net/archives/october-2017/the-use-of-nonselective-beta-blockers-for-treatment-of-portal-hypertension/
  4. Reiberger T, Mandorfer M. Beta adrenergic blockade and decompensated cirrhosis. J Hepatol 2017;66: 849-59. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27864004
  5. Giannelli V, Lattanzi, Thalheimer U, et al. Beta-blockers in liver cirrhosis. Ann Gastroenterol 2014;27:20-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24714633
  6. Facciorusso A, Roy S, Livadas S, et al. Nonselective beta-blockers do not affect survival in cirrhotic patients with ascites. Digest Dis Sci 2018;63:1737-46. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10620-018-5092-6
  7. Njei B, McCarty TR, Garcia-Tsao G. Beta-blockers in patients with cirrhosis and ascites: type of betablocker matters. Gut 206;65:1393-4. https://gut.bmj.com/content/gutjnl/65/8/1393.full.pdf
  8. De Franchis R. Expanding consensus in portal hypertension. Report of the Baveno VI Consensus Workshop: stratifying risk and individualizing care for portal hypertension.  J Hepatol 2015;63:743-52.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26047908  

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Should I continue nadolol in my patient with cirrhosis and refractory ascites?

When should I consider Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a cause of respiratory tract infection in my hospitalized patient with COPD exacerbation?

The most consistent risk factor for isolation of P. aeruginosa from sputum of adults with COPD is the presence of more advanced pulmonary disease (eg, FEV-1 <35-50%) or functional impairment (1-5).

 

Chronic corticosteroid use is also frequently cited as an important predictor of respiratory tract colonization/infection due to P. aeruginosa in patients with COPD, while the data on antibiotic use during the previous months have been conflicting (2,4). Other risk factors may include prior isolation of P. aeruginosa and hospital admission during the previous year (1).

 
A prospective study of patients hospitalized for COPD exacerbation found P. aeruginosa to be the most frequently isolated organism, growing from 26% of validated sputum samples at initial admission, followed by Streptococcus pneumoniae and Hemophilus influenzae. In the same study, bronchiectasis (present in up to 50% of patients with COPD) was not shown to be independently associated with the isolation of P. aeruginosa (1).

 
Of interest, compared to the patients without P. aeruginosa, patients hospitalized for acute exacerbation of COPD and isolation of P. aeruginosa from sputum have significantly higher mortality: 33% at 1 year, 48% at 2 years and 59% at 3 years (5).

 
References
1. Garcia-Vidal C, Almagro P, Romani V, et al. Pseudomonas aeruginosa in patients hospitalized for COPD exacerbation: a prospective study. Eur Respir J 2009;34:1072-78. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19386694
2. Murphy TF. Pseudomonas aeruginosa in adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Curr Opin Pulm Med 2009;15:138-42. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19532029
3. Miravitlles M, Espinosa C, Fernandez-Laso E, et al. Relationship between bacterial flora in sputum and functional impairment in patients with acute exacerbations of COPD. Chest 1999;116:40-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10424501
4. Murphy TF, Brauer AL, Eschberger K, et al. Pseudomonas aeruginosa in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2008;177:853-60. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18202344
5. Almagro P, Silvado M, Garcia-Vidal C, et al. Pseudomonas aeruginosa and mortality after hospital admission for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Respiration 2012;84:36-43. https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/331224

 

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When should I consider Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a cause of respiratory tract infection in my hospitalized patient with COPD exacerbation?

Is my hospitalized patient with possible pneumonia at risk of Clostridium difficile-associated disease after only 1-3 days of empiric antibiotic therapy?

Yes! Even relatively brief duration of antibiotic therapy may increase the risk of Clostridium difficile-associated disease (CDAD) in a susceptible host.
In a study of hospitalized patients with new-onset diarrhea, prior exposure to levofloxacin and cefazolin was significantly associated with CDAD with the median duration of therapy for levofloxacin of 3 days (range 1-18 days), and for cefazolin 2 days (range 1-3 days) (1). Similarly, a study in hospitalized patients during a CDAD epidemic found a significantly increased risk of CDAD among patients who received fluoroquinolones for only 1-3 days (hazard ratio 2.4) with a 95% confidence interval (1.6-3.6) that overlapped 4-6 days and ≥ 7 days treatment groups (2). Yet another study found no significant difference in the risk of CDAD between those on antibiotic for < 4 days vs 4-7 days of antibiotics (3). CDAD following a single dose of cefazolin has also been reported (4).
Of interest, laboratory studies in mice have shown a profound alteration of intestinal microbiota following a single dose of clindamycin, resulting in increased susceptibility to C. difficile colitis (5).
So although duration of antibiotic therapy is an important factor in CDAD (3, 6) and we should minimize the duration of antibiotic therapy whenever possible, not starting antibiotics in the absence of clear indication is even better!

References
1. Manian FA, Aradhyula S, Greisnauer S, et al. Is it Clostridium difficile infection or something else? A case-control study of 352 hospitalized patients with new-onset diarrhea. S Med J 2007;100:782-786. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17713303
2. Pepin J, Saheb N, Coulombe MA, et al. Emergence of fluoroquinolones as the predominant risk factor for Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea: a cohort study during an epidemic in Quebec. Clin Infect Dis 2005;41:1254-60. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16206099
3. Stevens V, Dumyati G, Fine LS, et al. Cumulative antibiotic exposures over time and the risk of Clostridium difficile infection. Clin Infect Dis 2011;53:42-48. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21653301
4. Mcneeley SG, Anderson GD, Sibai BM. Clostridium difficile colitis associated with single dose cefazolin prophylaxis. Ob Gynecol 1985;66:737-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4058831
5. Buffie CG, Jarchum I, Equinda M, et al. Profound alterations of intestinal microbiota following a single dose of clindamycin results in sustained susceptibility to Clostridium difficile-induced colitis. Infect Immun 2011;80: 62-73. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22006564
6. Chalmers JD, Akram AR, Sinanayagam A, et al. Risk factors for Clostridium difficile infection in hospitalized patients with community-acquired pneumonia. J Infect 2016;73:45-53. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27105657

Disclosure: The contributor of this post was a coinvestigator of a cited study (ref. 1).

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Is my hospitalized patient with possible pneumonia at risk of Clostridium difficile-associated disease after only 1-3 days of empiric antibiotic therapy?

My patient with cirrhosis now has an upper gastrointestinal bleed (UGIB) with hepatic encephalopathy (HE). What’s the connection between UGIB and HE?

Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) may be precipitated by a variety of factors including infection, hypovolemia, electrolyte imbalance (eg, hyponatremia, hypokalemia), metabolic alkalosis, sedatives, and of course UGIB. 1-3

Ammonia is often considered to play a central role in the the pathogenesis of HE, particularly when associated with UGIB. The ammoniagenic potential of UGIB is primarily attributed to the presence of hemoglobin protein in the intestinal tract. One-half of the ammoniagenesis originates from amino acid metabolism (mainly glutamine) in the mucosa of the small bowel, while the other half is due to the splitting of urea by the resident bacteria in the colon (eg, Proteus spp., Enterobacteriaceae, and anerobes).1,2

A large protein load in the GI tract, as occurs in UGIB, may result in hyperammonemia in patients with cirrhosis due to the limited capacity of the liver to convert ammonia to urea through the urea cycle as well as by the shunting of blood around hepatic sinusoids. Recent studies, however, also implicate the kidneys as an important source of ammonia in this setting, further compounding HE.3

It’s important to stress that ammonia is not likely to be the only mediator of HE. Enhanced production of cytokines due to infection or other inflammatory states, neurosteroids, endogenous benzodiazepines, and other bacterial byproducts may also play an important role in precipitating HE.2,4-6  So stay tuned!

Bonus pearl: Did you know that proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha and inerleukin-6 increase ammonia permeability across central nervous system-derived endothelial cells? 7

 

References

  1. Olde Damink SWM, Jalan R, Deutz NEP, et al. The kidney plays a major role in the hyperammonemia seen after simulated or actual GI bleeding in patients with cirrhosis. Hepatology 2003;37:1277-85.
  2. Frederick RT. Current concepts in the pathophysiology and management of hepatic encephalopathy. Gastroenterol Hepatol 2011;7:222-233.
  3. Tapper EB, Jiang ZG, Patwardhan VR. Refining the ammonia hypothesis: a physiology-driven approach to the treatment of hepatic encephalopathy. Mayo Clin Proc 2015;90:646-58.
  4. Shawcross DL, Davies NA, Williams R, et al. Systemic inflammatory response exacerbates the neuropsychological effects of induced hyperammonemia in cirrhosis. J Hepatol 2004;40:247-254.
  5. Shawcross DL, Sharifi Y, Canavan JB, et al. Infection and systemic inflammation, not ammonia, are associated with grade ¾ hepatic encephalopathy, but not mortality in controls. J Hepatol 2011;54:640-49.
  6. Shawcross D, Jalan R. The pathophysiologic basis of hepatic encephalopathy: central role for ammonia and inflammation.Cell Mol Life Sci 2005;62:2295-2304.
  7. Duchini A, Govindarajan S, Santucci M, et al. Effects of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 on fluid-phase permeability and ammonia diffusion in CNS-derived endothelial cells. J Investig Med 1996;44:474-82.

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My patient with cirrhosis now has an upper gastrointestinal bleed (UGIB) with hepatic encephalopathy (HE). What’s the connection between UGIB and HE?

My previously healthy patient is admitted with a multi-drug resistant E. coli urinary tract infection. Could her urinary tract infection (UTI) be foodborne?

Yes! Although foodborne infections are often thought to cause infections limited to the GI tract, an increasing number of studies have linked foodborne E.coli to extraintestinal infections in humans, including UTIs.1

Supportive data include frequent genetic similarly between antimicrobial-resistant E. coli from humans and poultry-associated E. coli. 2 In fact, antimicrobial-resistant E. coli isolates from humans may be  genetically more similar to poultry isolates than susceptible commensal E. coli strains in the human GI tract.3

A U.S. study found that 14% of chicken meat products were contaminated with E. coli strains capable of causing extraintestinal disease, 1/3 of which were mutli-drug resistant.4  Another study found that 94% of retail chicken meat samples contained E. coli with ESBL-genes,  of which nearly 40% contained isolates present in humans.5

Among women, UTI caused by antimicrobial-resistant extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli has been linked to high levels of self-reported chicken consumption.6

The plausibility of foodborne transmission of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli to humans is further supported by the finding that drug resistant E coli from chicken carcasses widely contaminate the kitchen during meal preparation and can appear in the intestinal tract of those who prepare such food.2

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that women with multi-drug resistant E. coli UTI are 3.7 times more likely to report frequent consumption of chicken? 6

References

  1. Manges AR. Escherichia coli and urinary tract infections: the role of poultry-meat. Clin Microbiol Infect 2016;22:122-29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26679924
  2. Manges AR, Johnson JR. Reservoirs of extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli. Microbiol Spectrum 2012;3(5):UTI-0006-2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26542041
  3. Johnson JR, Menard M, Johsnton B, et al. Epidemic clonal groups of Escherichia coli as a cause of antimicrobial-resistant urinary tract infections in Canada, 2002 to 2004. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 53;2733-2739. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704706/
  4. Johnson JR, Porter SB, Johnston B, et al. Extraintestinal pathogenic and antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli, including sequence type 131 (ST131) from retail chicken breasts in the United States in 2013. Apppl Environ Microbiol 83:e02956-16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28062464
  5. Leverstein-van Hall MA, Dierikx CM, Stuart JC, et al. Dutch patients, retail chicken meat and poultry share the same ESBL genes, plasmids and strains. Clin Microbiol Infect 2011;17:873-880. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21463397
  6. Manges AR, Smith SP, Lau BJ, et al. Retail meat consumption and the acquisition of antimicrobial resistant Escherichia coli causing urinary tract infections: a case-control study. Foodborne Path Dis 4:419-431. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18041952

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My previously healthy patient is admitted with a multi-drug resistant E. coli urinary tract infection. Could her urinary tract infection (UTI) be foodborne?

Should my hospitalized patient with ulcerative colitis flare-up receive pneumococcal vaccination?

There are at least 2 reasons for considering pneumococcal vaccination in hospitalized patients with ulcerative colitis flare.

First, these patients are often on immunosuppressants (eg, glucocorticoids) or biological agents (eg, infliximab) that qualifies them for both 13-valent conjugate (PCV13) and 23-valent polysaccharide (PPSV23) pneumococcal vaccines under the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Guidelines’ “Immunocompromised persons” risk group.1-4

Another reason is the possibility of  UC patients having coexisting hyposplenism, a major risk factor for pneumococcal disease. Although this association has been described several times in the literature since 1970s, it is relatively less well known.  In a study of patients with UC, hyposplenism (either by the presence of Howell-Jolly bodies in the peripheral blood smear or prolongation of clearance from blood of injected radioactively labelled heat-damaged red blood cells) was found in over one-third with some developing life-threatening septicemia in the early postcolectomy period.5 Another study found the majority of patients with UC having slow clearance of heat damaged RBCs despite absence of Howell-Jolly bodies in the peripheral smear.6 Fulminant and fatal pneumococcal sepsis has also been reported in patients with UC.7

Although the immunological response to pneumococcal vaccination may be lower among immunosuppressed patients in general, including those with UC, it should still be administered to this population given its potential benefit in reducing the risk of serious pneumococcal disease. 2,3  

References

  1. CDC. Intervals between PCV13 and PSV23 vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 2015;64:944-47. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6434a4.htm
  2. Carrera E, Manzano r, Garrido. Efficacy of the vaccination in inflammatory bowel disease. World J Gastroenterol 2013;19:1349-53. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3602493/
  3. Reich J, Wasan S, Farraye FA. Vaccinating patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016;12:540-46. http://www.gastroenterologyandhepatology.net/archives/september-2016/vaccinating-patients-with-inflammatory-bowel-disease/
  4. Chaudrey K, Salvaggio M, Ahmed A, et al. Updates in vaccination: recommendations for adult inflammatory bowel disease patients. World J Gastroenterol 2015;21:3184-96. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25805924
  5. Ryan FP, Smart RC, Holdworth CD, et al. Hyposplenism in inflammatory bowel disease. Gut 1978;19:50-55. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1411782/
  6. Jewell DP, Berney JJ, Pettit JE. Splenic phagocytic function in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Pathology 1981;13:717-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7335378
  7. Van der Hoeven JG, de Koning J, Masclee AM et al. Fatal pneumococcal septic shock in a patient with ulcerative colitis. Clin Infec Dis 1996;22:860-1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8722951

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Should my hospitalized patient with ulcerative colitis flare-up receive pneumococcal vaccination?

When should surgery be considered in my hospitalized patient with divertculitis?

Severe diffuse abdominal pain, fever, tachycardia, leukocytosis or other signs of sepsis and diffuse peritonitis indicative of free perforation requires emergent surgery. Urgent surgery should be considered when your patient fails to improve (eg, abdominal pain or the inability to tolerate enteral nutrition, bowel obstruction, or infection-related ileus) despite medical therapy or percutaneous drainage. 1,2

Lower threshold for surgical intervention is also needed in transplant patients, patients on chronic corticosteroid therapy, other immunosuppressed patients and those with chronic renal failure or collagen-vascular disease because these patients have a significantly greater risk of recurrent, complicated diverticulitis requiring emergency surgery. Overall, up to 20% of patients with acute diverticulitis undergo surgery during the same hospitalization.2

For patients with recurrent uncomplicated diverticulitis, decision regarding future elective surgery should be individualized. Although older guidelines recommended surgery after 2 attacks of uncomplicated diverticulitis, more recent guidelines place less emphasis on the number of episodes and stress the importance of considering the severity of the attacks, chronic or lingering symptoms, inability to exclude carcinoma, overall medical condition of the patient, risks of surgery, and the impact of diverticulitis on the patient’s lifestyle.1,2

Of interest, a decision analysis model suggests that elective resection after a fourth episode may be as safe as earlier resection.3

 

References

  1. Young-Fadok TM. Diverticulitis. N Eng J Med 2018;397:1635-42 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMcp1800468
  2. Feingold D, Steele SM, Lee S, et al. Practice parameters for the treatment of sigmoid diverticulitis. Dis Colon Rectum 2014;57:284-94. https://www.fascrs.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/practice_parameters_for_the_treatment_of_sigmoid.2.pdf
  3. Salem L, Veenstra DL, Sullivan SD, et al. The timing of elective colectomy in diverticulitis: A decision analysis. J Am Coll Surg 2004;199:904-12. https://www.journalacs.org/article/S1072-7515(04)01000-2/fulltext

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When should surgery be considered in my hospitalized patient with divertculitis?

My patient with angina symptoms also complains of neck pain with left arm numbness. Could they be related?

Short answer, yes! Anterior chest pain associated with cervical intervertebral disk disease, ossified posterior longitudinal ligament or other spinal disorders is sometimes referred to as “cervical angina” (CA) or “pseudoangina” and is an often overlooked source of non-cardiac chest pain. 1-5

Although its exact prevalence is unknown, 1.4% to 16% of patients undergoing cervical disk surgery may have symptoms of CA. 1 Conversely, 1 study reported 5% of patients with angina pectoris having cervical nerve root pathology.5 Many patients describe their chest pain as “pressure” or crushing in quality mimicking typical cardiac ischemia chest pain, often resulting in extensive cardiac workup.  To add to the confusion, some patients even respond to nitroglycerin! One-half of patients also experience autonomic symptoms such as dyspnea, vertigo, nausea, diaphoresis, pallor, fatigue, and diploplia.1

Certain clues in the patient’s presentation should help us seriously consider the possibility of CA: 1-3

  • History of cervical radiculopathy eg, subjective upper extremity weakness or sensory changes, occipital headache or neck pain
  • Pain induced by cervical range of motion or movement of upper extremity
  • History of cervical injury or recent manual labor (eg, lifting, pulling or pushing)
  • Pain lasting greater than 30 min or less than 5 seconds and not relieved by rest
  • Positive Spurling maneuver ie, reproduction of symptoms by rotating the cervical spine toward the symptomatic side while providing a downward compression through the patient’s head

CA is often attributed to cervical nerve root compression, likely mediated by compression of C4-C8 nerve roots which also supply the sensory and motor innervation of the anterior chest wall.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that experimental stimulation of spinothalamic tract cells in the upper thoracic and lower cervical segments have been shown to reproduce angina pain? 6

References

  1. Susman WI, Makovitch SA, Merchant SHI, et al. Cervical angina: an overlooked source of noncardiac chest pain. The Neurohospitalist 2015;5:22-27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25553225
  2. Jacobs B. Cervical angina. NY State J Med 1990;90:8-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2296405
  3. Sheps DS, Creed F, Clouse RE. Chest pain in patients with cardiac and noncardiac disease. Psychosomatic Medicine 66:861-67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15564350
  4. Wells P. Cervical angina. Am Fam Physician 1997;55:2262-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9149653
  5. Nakajima H, Uchida K, Kobayashi S, et al. Cervical angina: a seemingly still neglected symptom of cervical spine disorder. Spinal Cord 2006;44:509-513. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16331305
  6.  Cheshire WP. Spinal cord infarction mimicking angina pectoris. Mayo Clin Proc 2000;75:1197-99. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11075751

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My patient with angina symptoms also complains of neck pain with left arm numbness. Could they be related?

How can I distinguish cardiac asthma from typical bronchial asthma?

Certain clinical features of cardiac asthma, defined as congestive heart failure (CHF) associated with wheezing, may be useful in distinguishing it from bronchial asthma, particularly in older patients with COPD (1-3).
• Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea associated with wheezing
• Presence of rales or crackles, ascites or other signs of CHF
• Poor response to bronchodilators and corticosteroids
• Formal pulmonary function test with bronchoprovocation demonstrating minimal methacholine response.

 
Cardiac asthma is not uncommon. In a prospective study of patients 65 yrs of age or older (mean age 82 yrs) presenting with dyspnea due to CHF, cardiac asthma was diagnosed in 35% of subjects. Even in non-elderly patients, cardiac asthma has been reported in 10-15% of patients with CHF (2).

 
The mechanism(s) underlying cardiac asthma is likely multifactorial. Pulmonary edema and pulmonary vascular congestion have traditionally been considered as key factors either through edema in the interstitial fluid of bronchi squeezing the bronchiolar lumen or by externally compressing the entire airway structure and the bronchiole wall. Reflex bronchoconstriction involving the vagus nerve, bronchial hyperreactivity, systemic inflammation, and airway remodeling may also play a role (1,3). 

 
Treatment of choice for cardiac asthma typically includes diuretics, nitrates and morphine, not bronchodilators or corticosteroids (1,3). 

 
Bonus Pearl: Did you know that the term “cardiac asthma” was first coined by the Scottish physician, James Hope, way back in 1832 to distinguish it from bronchial asthma!

 

References
1. Litzinger MHJ, Aluen JKN, Cereceres R, et al. Cardiac asthma: not your typical asthma. US Pharm. 2013;38:HS-12-HS-18. https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/cardiac-asthma-not-your-typical-asthma
2. Jorge S, Becquemin MH, Delerme S, et al. Cardiac asthma in elderly patients: incidence, clinical presentation and outcome. BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2007;7:16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17498318
3. Tanabe T, Rozycki HJ, Kanoh S, et al. Cardiac asthma: new insights into an old disease. Expert Rev Respir Med 2012;6(6), 00-00. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23234454

 

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How can I distinguish cardiac asthma from typical bronchial asthma?