Quick Case: Pleuritic Chest Pain

Image from: Maeng, C. H., Chin, S. O., Yang, B. H., Kim, S.-Y., Youn, H.-J., Cho, K. S., Baek, S. K., et al. (2007). A case of organizing pneumonia associated with rituximab. Cancer research and treatment : official journal of Korean Cancer Association, 39(2), 88–91. doi:10.4143/crt.2007.39.2.88

30yo male presenting with forearm cellulitis, also complaining of right-sided sharp chest pain worse with deep inspiration and some movements of the ipsilateral shoulder. Found to have multiple pulmonary nodules (suggestive of metastasis) with the largest being a subpleural nodule in the superior/anterior portion of the RUL (roughly the location of the patient’s pain).

 

Differential Diagnosis of Pleuritic Chest Pain

Causes of Pleuritic CP

Location of Referred Pain

Referred Pain

 

Sore Throat

Oropharynx AnatomyID:

17 year-old female presenting to the pediatric ED with sore throat for 2 days.

HPI:

The patient reports steadily worsening sore throat over the past 2 days, associated with a sensation of swelling. The pain is described as sharp, 4/10 in severity, located on the left side of her throat, and worsened with swallowing. She denies inability to swallow or difficulty breathing, she also denies fever, cough, new skin rashes or genital lesions.

She has no PMH/PSH, takes no medications, denies t/e/d use and is not currently sexually active.

PE:

  • VS: 111/65mmHg, 80bpm, 97.8°, 16/min, 100% RA
  • Gen: Well-appearing, NAD
  • HEENT: PERRL, no conjunctival injection, TM clear b/l, minimal pharyngeal erythema on left with 6mm white circular lesion on left tonsil, no tonsillar enlargement, no uvular deviation, no cervical LAD, neck supple no masses, normal neck ROM
  • CV: RRR, no M/R/G, Lungs: CTAB
  • Abdomen: +BS, soft, NT/ND
  • Ext: Warm, well-perfused, normal peripheral pulses

Assessment & Plan:

17yo female with no significant PMH with acute pharyngitis for 2 days. The most likely cause of the patient’s symptoms is viral pharyngitis, potentially herpangina (given the appearance of the tonsillar lesion). A more serious viral/bacterial pharyngitis is less likely given the absence of fever or significant erythema/exudate. There was no uvular deviation to suggest peritonsillar abscess and no evidence of airway obstruction to suggest other acute processes (epiglottitis, retropharyngeal abscess). The plan is to recommend supportive care and ibuprofen for symptomatic relief. The patient will be discharged home in good condition with precautions to return if symptoms worsen or she begins to have difficulty swallowing/breathing.

Differential Diagnosis of Acute Pharyngitis:

Acute Pharyngitis

 

Evaluation (history):

  • Respiratory distress: epiglottitis, retropharyngeal abscess, peritonsillar abscess, EBV (obstruction in or near pharynx)
  • Fatigue: infectious mononucleuosis
  • Abrupt onset: epiglottitis

Evaluation (physical examination):

  • Vesicles anterior: herpetic stomatitis, SJS, Behcet
  • Vesicles posterior: herpangina (± involvement of extremities)
  • Asymmetry: peritonsillar abscess
  • Stridor, drooling, respiratory distress: airway obstruction
  • Generalized inflammation: Kawasaki

Pediatric Fever

CXR with infiltrates

ID:

5yo girl brought to the pediatric emergency department by her mother due to 3 days of fever.

HPI:

The patient’s fever was first noted 3 days ago, measured at home to 103°F. It is associated with a moist cough, vomiting, and decreased PO intake. Her mother reports that she appears lethargic and has been urinating less frequently. The patient denies headache, changes in vision, burning with urination, or ear pain. No known sick contacts, attends day care.

PMH (Birth History):

No significant medical/surgical history. Ex-term born NSVD with no complications.

PE:

  • VS: 95/65mmHg, 100bpm, 102.6°, 22/min
  • General: Well-appearing, mildly irritated but consolable
  • HEENT: NC/AT, PERRL, oropharynx without erythema, no cervical LAD
  • CV: RRR, no M/G/R
  • Lungs: No evidence of respiratory distress (retractions, flaring), faint crackles over right inferior lung fields
  • Abd: +BS, soft, non-distended, TTP RLQ > LLQ, no rebound/guarding
  • Back: No CVAT

Labs/Imaging:

  • CXR PA/Lateral: RML/RLL infiltrate

Assessment:

5yo with 3 days persistent high fever and cough. These symptoms along with examination findings of crackles warranted further imaging (CXR) which revealed infiltrate in the right inferior lung field. The patient appeared clinically stable and was tolerating PO intake in the ED and was discharged home with azithromycin 5mg/kg/dose (with loading dose), clinic follow-up and strict return precautions.

Evaluation and Management of Pediatric Fever

Algorithm for the Evaluation of Pediatric Fever

A System for Pediatric Fever:

Pathophysiology:

Pathophysiology

Diagnosis:

  • <3mo: 38.0°C, 100.4°F
  • 3-36mo: 39.0°C, 102.2°F
  • Rectal > oral > axillary

Differential Diagnosis of Pediatric Fever:

Causes Of Fever

Serious Bacterial Illness (SBI):

1) UTI and pyelonephritis

  • Most common cause of SBI
  • Accounts for 3-8% of uncharacterized fevers
  • Female > male, uncircumcised > circumcised
  • Consider BCx, CSF evaluation as 5-10% bacteremic at presentation
  • Urinalysis: LE 75% specificity, Nitrites 97% specificity

2) Pneumonia and sinusitis

  • Sinusitis uncommon <3yo (sinuses unformed)
  • PNA diagnosed with CXR, obtain if findings of respiratory distress (grunting, tachypnea, hypoxemia) or rales on exam

3) Meningitis

  • Diagnose with LP
  • Meningitis suggested if:
    • ANC > 1,000
    • Protein > 80
    • Seizure (particularly complex febrile seizure)

Diagnosis by Age Group:

<3mo

  • Physical exam findings:
    • Tachypnea, hypoxemia → LRT infection
    • Irritability, inconsolability, bulging anterior fontanelle → meningitis
    • Vomiting/diarrhea → non-specific, GE, AOM, UTI, meningitis
  • History
    • Recent immunization: increased risk of SBI (usually UTI) 24-72h after immunization
    • Confirmed bronchiolitis (viral): enterovirus/parainfluenza associated with SBI

3-36mo

  • Physical exam findings:
    • Viral (URTI, GE) → vomiting, diarrhea, rhinorrhea, cough, rash; still playful and responsive
    • UTI → fever, foul-smelling urine, crying when urinating
    • Meningitis → irritability with handling, vomiting, bulging anterior fontanelle, complex febrile seizures

>36mo

  • Physical exam findings: presentation more adult-like
  • Watch for:
    • Group A Streptococcal pharyngitis
    • Infectious mononulceosis
    • Kawasaki: high fever (>5d), strawberry tongue, conjunctivitis, desquamating rash on palms/soles

External Links

Acute Pelvic Pain

Pelvic US - free fluidID:

19yo G0, hCG negative, presenting with lower abdominal pain for 3 weeks.

HPI:

The patient states that she has had progressively worsening lower abdominal pain for the past three weeks. She describes the pain as constant, cramping, currently 8/10 in severity with radiation to the right flank. The pain is improved somewhat with ibuprofen and worsened with movement. She reports subjective F/C, some vaginal bleeding, but no other discharge and no dysuria. She is sexually active with one partner, using condoms occasionally. She has no significant PMH, no history of STI and a PSH of appendectomy. She denies any current or prior T/E/D use.

PE:

  • VS: 110/60mmHg, 60bpm, 99.5°, 16/min
  • HEENT: NC/AT, PERRL, EOMI, MMM w/o lesions
  • CV: RRR, no M/G/R
  • Lungs: CTAB
  • Abd: +BS, soft, non-distended, TTP RLQ > LLQ, no rebound/guarding
  • Back: no CVAT
  • Pelvic: external genitalia normal, scant blood in vault, os closed, no discharge, + CMT, + uterine tenderness, + adnexal tenderness

Labs/Imaging:

  • TVUS: normal appearing uterus/adnexa, possible free fluid (hemorrhagic vs. inflammatory) in pelvis
  • Wet mount: negative
  • Urine dip: -LE/nitrites, -protein, +blood

Assessment:

19yo G0, hCG negative, with pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding. Findings of lower abdominal tenderness, cervical motion/uterine/adnexal tenderness on examination, and low-grade fever are suggestive of PID. Other considerations include UTI, however, absence of dysuria, CVAT, and negative urine dip do not support this diagnosis. Will evaluate further with GC/CT, and treat empirically with ceftriaxone 250mg IM x1 and doxycycline 100mg PO BID x14d with follow-up in 48h.

Differential Diagnosis of Acute Pelvic Pain:

Common causes:

  • Gynecologic
    • PID, TOA
    • Neoplasm (torsion, rupture)
    • Leiomyoma (torsion, degeneration)
    • Endometriosis
    • Endometritis
    • Ectopic pregnancy
    • SAB
  • Obstetric
    • Labor
    • Uterine rupture
    • Abruptio placentae
    • Diastasis symphesis pubis
  • Non-gynecologic
    • Appendicitis
    • Cystitis (UTI)
    • Diverticulitis
    • Urinary tract calculi
    • Abdominal wall trauma

 Location of pain:

LocationOfPain

ROS:

  • discharge + dyspareunia: PID
  • missed menses + cramping/bleeding: SAB, ectopic
  • anorexia, N/V: appendicitis, torsion

A System for the Evaluation and Management of PID:

  • Pathogens: GC, CT, gardnerella, haemophilus
  • Evaluation:
    • Pelvic exam: CMT, uterine tenderness, adnexal tenderness, abnormal discharge, wet mount WBC’s
    • Labs: + GC/CT, ↑ ESR/CRP
    • VS: T > 101°
    • Imaging: thickened tubes, free pelvic fluid, TOA
  • Indications for admission:
    • Acute abdomen, toxic appearance, unstable VS
    • Pregnancy
    • Failed outpatient, can’t tolerate PO
    • TOA
  • Outpatient management:
    • Ceftriaxone 250mg IM x1
    • Doxycycline 100mg PO BID x14d
    • ± Metronidazole 500mg PO BID x14d

References:

  1. Hacker and Moore’s essentials of obstetrics and gynecology. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier, 2010.
  2. CDC – Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – 2010 STD Treatment Guidelines: http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/pid.htm

3rd Trimester Bleeding

ID:

A 34yo G4P2011 at 32w3d by LMP = 2nd trimester ultrasound with a history of GDMA1 is BIB ambulance for vaginal bleeding.

HPI:

She states that she awoke at 0230 that morning noting significant vaginal bleeding. She denied any associated abdominal pain, uterine contractions, leakage of fluid or other vaginal discharge and has continued to note fetal movement. Her current pregnancy has been uncomplicated though she reports mention of a “low placenta”.

PE:

  • VS: 115/80mmHg, 90bpm, 98.1°, 18/min, 99%
  • Gen: Appears distressed
  • HEENT: PERRL, EOMI, MMM, no conjunctival pallor
  • CV: RRR, no M/R/G, Lungs: CTAB
  • Abdomen: gravid (FH 30cm), +BS, NT, no rebound/guarding
  • SSE: os closed, no motion tenderness, several large clots removed from vault

Imaging/Studies:

  • NST: baseline 140bpm, moderate variability, accelerations, no decelerations
  • U/S: AFI 10.6, placenta entirely covering internal os

Assessment & Plan:

34yo G4P2011 at 32w3d by L=2 with complete placenta previa confirmed by TVUS presenting with first episode of vaginal bleeding.

Differential Diagnosis of 3rd Trimester Bleeding:

References:

  1. Sakornbut, E., Leeman, L., & Fontaine, P. (2007). Late pregnancy bleeding. American family physician, 75(8), 1199–1206.

Syncope

ID:

A 50 year-old male with a reported two-year history of infrequent spells, presenting with two spells in the past two days.

HPI:

The patient’s spells began two years ago, he recounts that he was watching television when he lost consciousness and a friend noted he started shaking; he does not recall the event, and awoke in the hospital. The next spell occurred one year later, though the patient is unable to recall much about this episode. The patient remained spell-free until yesterday when he was on a bus, lost consciousness and awoke in a hospital. He notes that he had bit his tongue and lost control of his bladder. He was discharged hours later with a prescription for an AED which he was unable to fill. This morning, the patient had another spell while in the bathroom. His roommate heard him fall, found him on the ground, and noted that his mouth was moving but did not see any other movements.

The patient’s episodes are all associated with loss of consciousness and are followed by 5-10 minutes of disorientation after which he recovers fully. The episodes are sometimes preceded by a feeling of “euphoria”, though this feeling sometimes occurs without subsequent LOC.

The patient denies any associated palpitations, dizziness/LH, chest pain or muscle pain.  He has not had any recent fevers/chills, dysuria, cough, headache, changes in vision, numbness/tingling, weakness, difficulty speaking or swallowing or weight loss. He also denies any history of head trauma.

Physical Examination:

  • VS: Stable and WNL
  • General: Well-appearing, pleasant, and in NAD.
  • HEENT: NC/AT. MMM. Small lesion on tongue.
  • Lungs: CTAB.
  • CV: RRR with occasional ectopic beats, no M/R/G.
  • Abdomen: S/NT/ND. Bowel sounds present.
  • Neurological exam: AAOx4, CN II-XII intact, motor/sensation/reflexes/coordination/gait WNL

Imaging/Studies:

  • EKG: Occasional PAC/PVC
  • CT Brain: Unremarkable except for mild age-related cerebral atrophy

Assessment & Plan:

50 year-old male with a history of HTN and a reported two-year history of infrequent spells presenting with two spells in the past two days. The description of the patient’s episodes could be consistent with seizures. Aspects supporting this notion include loss of consciousness and period of confusion following each episode. One of the recent episodes was also associated with tongue-biting and loss of bladder control. Additionally, some episodes are associated with a sensation of euphoria rising from the abdomen to the head which could be indicative of an aura. Characteristics that suggest other causes include the absence of noted convulsions and non-stereotyped nature of each episode which could be due to the patient’s poor recollection of these events and absence of reliable witnesses. In the case of true seizures, the possible etiologies in this patient include a mass, metabolic abnormalities, substance use, or concomitant infection exacerbating an existing propensity for seizure activity. Other, non-seizure causes warranting evaluation include cardiogenic syncope particularly given the evidence of ectopic beats on examination and electrocardiogram.

Differential Diagnosis of Syncope

First, is it syncope? History is very important for distinguishing syncope from other causes (seizure, dizziness, vertigo, presyncope). Ask about precipitating events, prodromal symptoms, post-ictal confusion. Common causes of syncope and their associated symptoms are detailed in the figure below.

References:

  1. Kapoor, W. N. (2000). Syncope. The New England journal of medicine, 343(25), 1856–1862. doi:10.1056/NEJM200012213432507

Delirium

ID:

A 70 year-old female with a PMH of HTN, DM, hyperlipidemia and stage I breast cancer s/p lumpectomy with sentinel LN biopsy several years ago presented for elective surgery complicated by post-operative bleeding. She is now 4 days post-op and was found to be confused, somnolent and occasionally agitated.

HPI:

The patient could not be interviewed.

PE:

  • VS: Stable and within normal limits
  • General: unremarkable except for crackles in bilateral lung bases
  • MSE: only arouses to sternal rub and becomes agitated, moving all four extremities spontaneously and symmetrically.
  • Reflexes: corneal and gag reflexes present, suppresses eye movements with head turn, deep tendon reflexes 3+ throughout UE/LE bilaterally.

Assessment:

70 year-old woman with a history of HTN, DM, hyperlipidemia and breast cancer presents with worsening confusion, somnolence and occasional agitation four days after surgery. The combination of significantly altered consciousness and absence of focal neurological findings, all in the setting of a complicated surgical course suggest delirium.

Differential Diagnosis of Altered Mental Status:

Levels of consciousness

There are different levels of consciousness, they are named in the diagram below but are better described by the characteristics observed.

Initial assessment

Differential Diagnosis for Altered Mental Status

References:

  1. Inouye, S. K. (2006). Delirium in Older Persons. The New England journal of medicine, 354(11), 1157–1165. doi:10.1056/NEJMra052321
  2. Blueprints neurology. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins, 2009.
  3. Tindall SC. Level of Consciousness. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 57. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK380/

Headache, vertigo and weakness

ID:

30 year-old male with no significant PMH presenting with right-sided “weakness”, vertigo and headache for three days.

HPI:

The patient was in his normal state of good health until three days prior to admission when he was out shopping and felt a headache and right-sided weakness. The headache came on suddenly, felt “sharp”, 7/10 in severity and radiated from the posterior occiput to his forehead on the right side. The headache was associated with vertigo and nausea/vomiting. At the same time, the patient noticed that he was no longer able to walk, describing “weakness” on the right side. He also began feeling dizzy, describing the sensation as “room spinning”. He denied changes in vision, hearing, difficulty speaking or swallowing (though he has had persistent hiccups for the past few days). He also denied CP, palpitations, SOB. He did seek immediate medical attention at an OSH but is unable to recall what was done and he was discharged from the ER on the same day. He presents 3 days later with persistent symptoms.

PE:

  • Mental status: normal
  • CN II-XII: intact with the exception of decreased sensation to sharp touch on right face and decreased gag reflex
  • Motor: normal bulk/tone, strength 5/5 in UE/LE bilaterally
  • Sensory: decreased sensation to pain and temperature on left body
  • Gait: wide-based, unable to tandem, heel, toe walk. Walking in place, he turns to the right.

Assessment:

30 year-old male with no PMH presenting with 3 days of HA, vertigo, hiccups, right-sided ataxia, and alternating decreased pain and temperature sensation on ipsilateral face and contralateral hemibody. These symptoms are suggestive of a brainstem lesion, localizing to the medulla. Hiccups suggest involvement of nucleus ambiguus (CN IX, X, XII). Alternating decreased pain/temperature sensation suggests involvement of the spinal tract of CN V, and interruption of fibers of the descending spinothalamic tract. These findings point further to a lesion in the right lateral medulla, likely vascular given the rapid onset of symptoms. Associated findings of right-sided ataxia suggests involvement of the superior cerebellar peduncle (restiform body) in the posterior lateral medulla. An MRI brain showed the lesion shown in Fig-1, and a CTA head/neck the following day showed dissection of the right vertebral artery.

A System for Cerebrovascular Disease:

Types of strokes

Clinical characteristics of strokes

Strokes are characterized by the sudden onset of focal neurological deficits. These are typically unilateral and consciousness is generally maintained.

  • dysphasia
  • dysarthria
  • weakness
  • ataxia
  • sensory loss
  • neglect
  • hemianopsia

If some of these typical features are not present (ex. gradual onset, significantly impaired consciousness, seizures early), consider alternative diagnoses (ex. hypoglycemia, subdural hematoma, mass, postictal paresis, migraine).

Common causes of stroke

The most common causes are atherosclerosis (leading to thromboembolism or local occlusion) and cardioembolism. If the patient does not have risk factors, consider alternatives:

  • contralateral ptosis/miosis: carotid artery dissection affecting sympathetic fibers
  • fever + murmur: infective endocarditis
  • HA + ↑ESR: giant-cell arteritis

References:

  1. Agabegi, S. (2013). Step-up to medicine. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  2. van der Worp, H. B., & van Gijn, J. (2007). Acute Ischemic Stroke. The New England journal of medicine, 357(6), 572–579. doi:10.1056/NEJMcp072057

Intro to “DDx of”

I’m a medical student currently rotating through clinical clerkships resident in emergency medicine. The purpose of this website is to force me to learn. Recently, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to study from review books, and even more difficult to recall and apply that information practically. What has been working is reading heavily about specific cases I’ve seen. Having a real person in mind, hearing their complaints, doing their examination and then supplementing the experience with targeted reading sticks far better.

As for the format, something that has been hammered into me over the past year is to be systematic in everything I do. The benefits being that I’m less likely to miss stuff if I approach everything the same way. The other benefit for me is that I find these systems to be a better way to learn. Less mnemonics, more flowcharts.

So, I’ll select appropriate cases I encounter (altering identifying information of course), read into it a bit, and create a systematic approach for the evaluation, diagnosis and management of that chief complaint.

The site’s going to be a bit rough, the goal is to make it easy to quickly archive these experiences for future reference and learning.