A previously healthy young man with chest pain is admitted to my service with the diagnosis of spontaneous pneumomediastinum. He doesn’t look ill at all. What causes should I consider?

Spontaneous pneumomediastinum (SP) is defined as the presence of mediastinal free air in the absence of an obvious precipitating cause and should not be confused with pneumomediastinum occurring in the setting of gross trauma or positive-pressure mechanical ventilation in intubated patients, or catastrophic events such as blunt or penetrating trauma, infection due to gas producing organisms, retropharyngeal perforation or esophageal rupture1,2.

SP frequently occurs in young men (Figure) and is associated with a variety of factors, most commonly illicit inhalational drug use (eg, marijuana, cocaine) and performance of a Valsalva-type maneuver causing alveolar rupture2.  Ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine –MDMA) ingestion is also associated with SP, possibly related to its attendant physical  hyperactivity (eg dancing, sexual activity) or a contaminant that may predispose to alveolar rupture3,4.  Other causes not related to illicit drug use include childbirth, forceful straining during exercise, straining at stool, coughing, sneezing, retching/vomiting, pulmonary function testing, and inflation of party balloons1!

SP should always be distinguished from complicated pneumomediastinum (eg, in the setting of perforated viscus, trauma, gas-forming organisms), as it usually follows a very benign course with patients recovering without specific intervention1,2,5.

Figure: Spontaneous pneumomediastinum due to vigorous exercise in a young male

pneumomedi2

References

  1. Newcomb AE, Clarke CP. Spontaneous pneumomediastinum: A benign curiosity or a significant problem? CHEST 2005;128:3298-3302. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16304275
  2. Panacek EA, Singer AJ, Sherman BW, et al. Spontaneous pneumomediastinum: clinical and natural history. Ann Emerg Med 1992;21:1222-27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1416301
  3. Gungadeen A, Moor J. Extensive subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum after ecstasy ingestion. Case Rep Otolaryngol 2013; http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/79587
  4. Stull BW. Spontaneous pneumomediastinum following ecstasy ingestion and sexual intercourse. Emerg Med J 2008;25:113-14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18212154
  5. Kelly S, Hughes S, Nixon S, et al. Spontaneous pneumomediastinum (Hamman’s syndrome). Surgeon 2010;8:63-66. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/articles/20303884
A previously healthy young man with chest pain is admitted to my service with the diagnosis of spontaneous pneumomediastinum. He doesn’t look ill at all. What causes should I consider?

My patient with pulmonary embolism also reports new-onset hiccups. Are the two conditions related?

Hiccups (AKA singultus) are due to the involuntary contraction of the inspiratory muscles, especially the diaphragm. The hiccup reflex involves an afferent limb ( eg, the phrenic and vagus nerves, sympathetic fibers from T6-T12,  brainstem) and an efferent limb, primarily the phrenic nerve1,2.  Thus, the irritation of any part of the arc in the head, neck, chest, or abdomen may potentially lead to hiccups.

Conditions involving the chest cavity that may be associated with hiccups include lung cancer, GERD, herpetic esophagitis, myocardial ischemia, bronchitis, empyema, lung masses, pneumonia, pleuritis, and pacemaker lead injury 1-3.

Reports of patients with PE and persistent hiccups (lasting longer than 48 h) have also appeared in the literature1,3. Of interest, in a report involving 3 patients, 2 had submassive or “large” PE, with one displaying the classic EKG changes of S1Q3T3; the size of PE in another was not reported1.  In another case report, PE was “not small” and involved the anterior and lateral lower lobe segments of pulmonary artery2.  Although the exact mechanism of PE causing hiccups is not clear, irritation of the afferent or efferent limb of the reflex arc in the chest has been postulated.  

References

  1. Hassen GW, Singh MM, Kalantari H, et al. Persistent hiccups as a rare presenting symptom of pulmonary embolism. West J Emerg Med 202;13:479-483.
  2. Durning SJ, Shaw DJ, Oliva AJ et al. Persistent hiccups as the presenting symptom of a pulmonary embolism. Chest Disease Reports 2012;2:e2.
  3. Buyukhatipoglu H, Sezen Y, Yildiz A, et al. Hiccups as a sign of chronic myocardial ischemia. S Med J 2010;103: 1184-85.
My patient with pulmonary embolism also reports new-onset hiccups. Are the two conditions related?

What complications should I look for in my hospitalized patient suspected of having check-point inhibitor toxicity?

Targeting the host immune system via monoclonal antibodies known as checkpoint inhibitors (CPIs) is an exciting new strategy aimed at interfering with the ability of cancer cells to evade the patient’s existing antitumor immune response. CPIs have been shown to be effective in a wide variety of cancers and are likely to be the next major breakthrough for solid tumors1-3. Unfortunately, serious—at times fatal— immune-related Adverse Events (irAEs) have also been associated with their use4,5.

IrAEs occur in the majority of patients treated with nivolumab (a programmed death 1 [PD-1] CPI] or ipilimumab (a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 [CTLA-4] CPI)1. The severity of irAEs may range from mild (grade 1) to very severe (grade 4). Grading system categories discussed in more detail at link below:

https://www.eortc.be/services/doc/ctc/CTCAE_4.03_2010-06-14_QuickReference_5x7.pdf.

Although fatigue, diarrhea, pruritis, rash and nausea are not uncommon, more severe grade (3 or 4) irAEs may also occur (Figure). The most frequent grade 3 or 4 irAEs are diarrhea and colitis; elevated ALT or AST are also reported, particularly when CPIs are used in combination. Hypophysitis, thyroiditis, adrenal insufficiency, pneumonitis, enteritis sparing the colon with small bowel obstruction, and hematologic and neurologic toxicities may also occur.

Generally, skin and GI toxicities appear first, within a few weeks of therapy, followed by hepatitis and endocrinopathies which usually present between weeks 12 and 245. High suspicion and early diagnosis is key to successful management of irAEs.

Figure. Selected irAEs associated with nivolumab and ipilimumab (adapted from reference 1).

chceky2

References

  1. Larkin J, Chiarion-Sileni V, Gonzalez R, et al. Combined nivolumab and ipilimumab or monotherapy in untreated melanoma. N Engl J Med. 2015;373:23-34.
  2. Borghaei H, Paz-Ares L, Horn L, et al. Nivolumab versus docetaxel in advanced nonsquamous non-small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med. 2015;373:1627-1639.
  3. Brahmer J, Reckamp KL, Baas P, et al. Nivolumab versus docetaxel in advanced squamous-cell non-small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 2015; 373:123-135.
  4. Weber JS, Yang JC, Atkins MB, Disis ML. Toxicities of immunotherapy for the practitioner. J Clin Oncol 2015;33:2092-2099.
  5. Weber JS. Practical management of immune-related adverse events from immune checkpoint protein antibodies for the oncologist. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2012:174-177.

Contributed by Kerry Reynolds, MD, Mass General Hospital, Boston.

 

 

 

 

What complications should I look for in my hospitalized patient suspected of having check-point inhibitor toxicity?

Is treatment of pneumococcal pneumonia with bacteremia any different than pneumococcal pneumonia without bacteremia?

In the absence of disseminated infection such as meningitis or endocarditis, there is no convincing evidence that bacteremic pneumococcal pneumonia (BPP) requires either longer course of IV or oral antibiotics. In fact, although previously thought to have a worse prognosis, recent data have failed to demonstrate any difference in time to clinical stability, duration of hospital stay or community-associated pneumonia (CAP)-related mortality with BPP when other factors such as patient comorbidities and severity of disease are also considered1,2

Although many patients with CAP receive 7-10 days of antibiotic therapy, shorter durations as little as 5 days may also be effective3,4.  Generally, once patients with BPP have stabilized on parenteral therapy, a switch to an appropriate oral antibiotic (eg, a β-lactam or a respiratory quinolone such as levofloxacin) can be made safely5.  Although large randomized-controlled studies of treatment of BPP are not available, a cumulative clinical trial experience with levofloxacin for patients with BPP reported a successful clinical response in >90% of patients (median duration of therapy 14 d)6. Resistance to levofloxacin and failure of treatment in pneumococcal pneumonia (with or without bacteremia), however, has been rarely reported7.

 

References

  1. Bordon J, Peyrani P, Brock GN. The presence of pneumococcal bacteremia does not influence clinical outcomes in patients with community-acquired pneumonia. Chest 2008;133;618-624.
  2. Cilloniz C, Torres A. Understanding mortality in bacteremic pneumococcal pneumonia. J Bras Pneumol 2012;38:419-421.
  3. Mandell LA, Wunderink RG, Anzueto A, et al. Infectious Diseases Society of America/American Thoracic Society consensus guidelines on the management of community-acquired pneumonia in adults. Clin Infect Dis 2007;44:S27-72.
  4. Shorr F, Khashab MM, Xiang JX, et al. Levofloxacin 750-mg for 5 days for the treatment of hospitalized Fine Risk Class III/IV community-acquired pneumonia patients. Resp Med 2006;100:2129-36.
  5. Ramirez JA, Bordon J. Early switch from intravenous to oral antibiotics in hospitalized patients with bacteremic community-acquired Streptococcus pneumonia pneumonia. Arch Intern Med 2001;161:848-50.
  6. Kahn JB, Bahal N, Wiesinger BA, et al. Cumulative clinical trial experience with levofloxacin for patients with community-acquired pneumonia-associated pneumococcal bacteremia. Clin Infect Dis 2004;38(supp 1):S34-42.
  7. Davidson R, Cavalcanti R, Brunton JL, et al. Resistance to levofloxacin and failure of treatment of pneumococcal pneumonia. N Engl J Med 2002;346:747-50.
Is treatment of pneumococcal pneumonia with bacteremia any different than pneumococcal pneumonia without bacteremia?

What causes the “tree-in-bud” (TIB) opacities on the chest CT images of my patient with cough?

TIB opacities represent a normally invisible branches of the bronchiole tree (≤1 mm in diameter) that are severely impacted with mucous, pus, or fluid, with resultant dilatation and “budding” of the terminal bronchioles ( ≥2 mm in diameter)1 (photo).

Although initially described in 1993 as a thin-section chest CT finding in active tuberculosis, TIB opacities are by no means restricted to a specific lung entity, and may be of infectious as well as non-infectious causes.

TIB is most commonly seen with infectious bronchiolitis caused by bacteria (particularly Staphylococcus aureus, Hemophilus influenzae), mycobacteria (including atypical mycobacteria), viruses (eg, respiratory syncytial virus, cytomegalovirus), and fungi (eg, Pneumocystis jirovecii, Aspergillus sp.)1,2.

Non-infectious causes include inhalation of toxic gases, connective tissue disorders (eg, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren syndrome), cystic fibrosis, Kartagener syndrome, and non-infectious bronchiolitis (eg, obliterative bronchiolitis). Malignancy-related causes include chronic lymphocytic leukemia and pulmonary tumor embolism in breast, liver, kidney, stomach, prostate and ovarian cancers3.

References

  1. Collins J, Blankenbaker D, Stern EJ. Ct patterns of bronchiolar disease: What is “tree-in’bud”? AJR 1998;171:365-70.
  2. Rossi SE, Franquet T, Volpacchio M, et al. Tree-in-bud pattern a t thin-section CT of the lungs: radiologic-pathologic overview. RadioGraphics 2005;25:789-801.
  3. Terhalle E, Gunther G. “Tree-in-bud”: thinking beyond infectious causes. Respiration 2015;89:162-165.

 

 

Photo: TIB opacities in a 50 year old man with productive cough and shortness of breath caused by infectious bronchiolitis.

treeinbud

 

What causes the “tree-in-bud” (TIB) opacities on the chest CT images of my patient with cough?

Should I routinely consider the possibility of pulmonary embolism (PE) in my patients hospitalized for syncope?

Syncope is a well-known initial manifestation of pulmonary embolism (PE)1.  However, given the varied causes of syncope, determining the prevalence of PE among patients hospitalized for syncope is important.   

A recent NEJM study furthers our understanding of PE and syncope2.  This multicenter prospective study enrolled 560 patients not already on anticoagulation who were hospitalized for a first episode syncope.  Of 230 patients who had either a high pretest probability for PE, positive D-dimer assay or both, PE was diagnosed in 97 (17%, or nearly 1 of 6 of enrolled patients) based on CT or ventilation/perfusion scan. PE was found more frequently among patients with syncope of undetermined cause than those with an alternative explanation (25.4% vs 12.7%). 

The results of this study should make us consider, perhaps more frequently, the possibility of PE in patients hospitalized for first episode syncope not on anticoagulants, particularly those without an alternative explanation.

 

References 

  1. Thames MD, Alpert JS, Dalen JE. Syncope in patients with pulmonary embolism. J Am Med Assoc 1977;238:2509-2511. 
  2. Prandoni P, Lensing AWA, Prins MH, et al. Prevalence of pulmonary embolism among patients hospitalized for syncope. N Engl J Med 2016;375:1524-31.

 

Contributed by Rebecca Berger  MD, Department of Medicine, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA.

Should I routinely consider the possibility of pulmonary embolism (PE) in my patients hospitalized for syncope?

What are the benefits and risks of inhaled dual anticholinergic therapy (IDAT) in patients admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD)?

Patients admitted with AECOPD are commonly on maintenance tiotropium and are frequently treated with additional inhaled anticholinergic agents (eg, ipratropium) during hospitalization. However, the scientific evidence justifying IDAT in patients with AECOPD is lacking, and is quite limited even in patients with stable COPD1-3.   Two small, randomized double-blind studies compared the impact of tiotropium combined with either ipratropium or placebo in outpatients with stable COPD.  Both studies selected FEV1 alone as their primary end-point and found only a marginal benefit with IDAT2,3

A population-based study of acute urinary retention in persons with COPD aged ≥66 years found a significantly higher odds of acute urinary retention among those on IDAT vs monotherapy or no anticholinergics (odds ratios 1.4 and 2.7, respectively)4.

In short, routine use of IDAT in patients with AECOPD lacks firm evidence in its clinical efficacy and may be associated with acute urinary retention.

 

References                                                                                                                                                               

 

  1. Cole JM, Sheehan AH, Jordan JK. Concomitant use of ipratropium and tiotropium in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Ann Pharmacother 2012;46:1717-21.
  2. Kerstjens HA, Bantje TA, Luursema PB, Sinninghe Damste HE, de Jong JW. Effects of short-acting bronchodilators added to maintenance tiotropium therapy. Chest 2007;132:1493-9.
  3. Cazzola M, Santus P, D’Adda A, et al. Acute effects of higher than standard doses of salbutamol and ipratropium on tiotropium-induced bronchodilation in patients with stable COPD. Pulm Pharmacol Ther 2009; 22:177-82.
  4. Singh S, Furbergt CD. Inhaled anticholinergic drug therapy and the risk of acute urinary retention in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Arch Intern Med 2011;171:920-2.

 

Contributed by Josh Ziperstein, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

What are the benefits and risks of inhaled dual anticholinergic therapy (IDAT) in patients admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD)?