A 28 year-old female with a history of systemic lupus erythematosus and end-stage renal disease without access toscheduled hemodialysis presents to the emergency department with 1 week of worsening dyspnea, fatigue and leg swelling. Her symptoms are reminiscent of prior episodes resolving with hemodialysis. On evaluation, vital signs are normal and laboratory tests demonstrate microcytic anemia (Hb 5.9g/dL) but no hyperkalemia. A plain chest radiograph is normal and the patient ambulates without hypoxia.
The patient was deemed to not meet any requirements for emergent hemodialysis. One unit of packed red blood cells was ordered for transfusion for symptomatic anemia. During transfusion, the patient developed worsening dyspnea and was found to be hypertensive and hypoxic. A chest radiograph was obtained and is shown below.
Pulmonary vascular congestion and bilateral pleural effusions.
The transfusion was discontinued, the patient was placed on non-invasive positive pressure ventilation, and emergent hemodialysis was initiated with subsequent resolution of presumed transfusion associated circulatory overload.
Algorithm for the Evaluation and Management of Transfusion Reactions
This algorithm was developed by Dr. Eric Madden, chief resident in emergency medicine at McGovern Med EM.
Carson JL, Triulzi DJ, Ness PM. Indications for and Adverse Effects of Red-Cell Transfusion. N Engl J Med. 2017;377(13):1261-1272. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1612789.
Delaney M, Wendel S, Bercovitz RS, et al. Transfusion reactions: prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Lancet. 2016;388(10061):2825-2836. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01313-6.
Goel R, Tobian AAR, Shaz BH. Noninfectious transfusion-associated adverse events and their mitigation strategies. Blood. 2019;133(17):1831-1839. doi:10.1182/blood-2018-10-833988.
Osterman JL, Arora S. Blood product transfusions and reactions. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2014;32(3):727-738. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2014.04.012.
Silvergleid AJ. Approach to the patient with a suspected acute transfusion reaction. Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc. https://www.uptodate.com (Accessed on September 01, 2019.)
Suddock JT, Crookston KP. Transfusion Reactions. January 2019.
A 43 year-old female with no reported medical history presents with shortness of breath. She notes 2 months of gradually worsening symptoms associated with unproductive cough and intermittent subjective fevers. Symptoms are worsened with activity and when laying flat. She has no history of similar symptoms in the past.
Vital signs are notable for tachycardia, tachypnea and hypoxia. Examination demonstrates absent breath sounds in the entire right lung field. A plain chest radiograph is obtained and shown below. The patient was placed on non-invasive positive pressure with minimal improvement and an emergent therapeutic thoracentesis was performed. Pleural fluid was exudative and a large volume was submitted for cytology.
An Algorithm for the Analysis of Pleural Fluid
Light RW, Girard WM, Jenkinson SG, George RB. Parapneumonic effusions. Am J Med. 1980;69(4):507-512.
Heffner JE, Brown LK, Barbieri CA. Diagnostic value of tests that discriminate between exudative and transudative pleural effusions. Primary Study Investigators. Chest. 1997;111(4):970-980. doi:10.1378/chest.111.4.970.
Romero S, Martinez A, Hernandez L, et al. Light’s criteria revisited: consistency and comparison with new proposed alternative criteria for separating pleural transudates from exudates. Respiration. 2000;67(1):18-23. doi:10.1159/000029457.
Sahn SA, Huggins JT, San Jose E, Alvarez-Dobano JM, Valdes L. The Art of Pleural Fluid Analysis. Clinical Pulmonary Medicine. 2013;20(2):77-96. doi:10.1097/CPM.0b013e318285ba37.
Light RW. The Light criteria: the beginning and why they are useful 40 years later. Clinics in Chest Medicine. 2013;34(1):21-26. doi:10.1016/j.ccm.2012.11.006.
Aggarwal AN, Agarwal R, Sehgal IS, Dhooria S, Behera D. Meta-analysis of Indian studies evaluating adenosine deaminase for diagnosing tuberculous pleural effusion. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2016;20(10):1386-1391. doi:10.5588/ijtld.16.0298.
An approximately 80-year-old male with unknown medical history is brought to the emergency department from a skilled nursing facility after unwitnessed arrest – EMS providers established return of spontaneous circulation after chest compressions and epinephrine. On arrival, the patient was hypotensive (MAP 40mmHg) and hypoxic (SpO2 85%) with mask ventilation. The patient was intubated, resuscitated with intravenous fluids and started on vasopressors. Imaging demonstrated lung consolidation consistent with multifocal pneumonia versus aspiration. Laboratory studies were obtained:
CBC: WBC: 49.2 (N: 64%, Bands: 20%)
ABG: pH: 7.07, pCO2: 73mmHg
CT Pulmonary Angiography
Peribronchial opacities and patchy consolidation in the lungs which may represent multifocal pneumonia and/or aspiration in the appropriate clinical setting.
Mildly dilated main pulmonary artery suggestive of pulmonary arterial hypertension.
The patient was admitted to the medical intensive care unit for cardiopulmonary arrest presumed secondary to hypoxia and septic shock from healthcare-associated pneumonia or aspiration. The markedly elevated white blood cell count was attributed to a combination of infection and tissue ischemia from transient global hypoperfusion.
Markedly elevated leukocyte (particularly neutrophil) count without hematologic malignancy
Cutoff is variable, 25-50k
Review of Available Literature
Retrospective review of 135 patients with WBC >25k 2
12% glucocorticoid or granulocyte colony stimulating therapy
Retrospective review of 173 patients with WBC >30k 3
48% infection (7% C. difficile)
28% tissue ischemia
7% obstetric process (vaginal or cesarean delivery)
Observational study of 54 patients with WBC >25k 4
Consecutive patients presenting to the emergency department
Compared to age-matched controls with moderate leukocytosis (12-24k)
Patients with leukemoid reaction were more likely to have an infection, be hospitalized and die.
Differential Diagnosis of Leukemoid Reaction 1,5-8
Sakka V, Tsiodras S, Giamarellos-Bourboulis EJ, Giamarellou H. An update on the etiology and diagnostic evaluation of a leukemoid reaction. Eur J Intern Med. 2006;17(6):394-398. doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2006.04.004.
Reding MT, Hibbs JR, Morrison VA, Swaim WR, Filice GA. Diagnosis and outcome of 100 consecutive patients with extreme granulocytic leukocytosis. Am J Med. 1998;104(1):12-16.
Potasman I, Grupper M. Leukemoid reaction: spectrum and prognosis of 173 adult patients. Clin Infect Dis. 2013;57(11):e177-e181. doi:10.1093/cid/cit562.
Lawrence YR, Raveh D, Rudensky B, Munter G. Extreme leukocytosis in the emergency department. QJM. 2007;100(4):217-223. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcm006.
Marinella MA, Burdette SD, Bedimo R, Markert RJ. Leukemoid reactions complicating colitis due to Clostridium difficile. South Med J. 2004;97(10):959-963. doi:10.1097/01.SMJ.0000054537.20978.D4.
Okun DB, Tanaka KR. Profound leukemoid reaction in cytomegalovirus mononucleosis. JAMA. 1978;240(17):1888-1889.
Granger JM, Kontoyiannis DP. Etiology and outcome of extreme leukocytosis in 758 nonhematologic cancer patients: a retrospective, single-institution study. Cancer. 2009;115(17):3919-3923. doi:10.1002/cncr.24480.
A middle-aged female with no known medical history is brought to the emergency department with altered mental status. Her family notes worsening confusion over the past 2-3 days associated with vomiting and yellow discoloration of skin and eyes.
Initial vital signs were normal, though with borderline hypotension (99/64mmHg). Examination demonstrated an alert, but lethargic patient with jaundice and scleral icterus, no skin lesions were appreciated. Laboratory studies were obtained:
WBC: 21.3 (N: 83%, Bands: 11%)
D-dimer: >9,000 (normal 250)
TB: 4.3, DB: 0.8
CT Head: No acute intracranial process.
CT Abdomen/Pelvis with Contrast
Moderate free intra-abdominal fluid, heterogeneous liver with periportal edema, dense right middle lobe consolidation.
The patient developed worsening respiratory failure with hypoxia and tachypnea requiring endotracheal intubation. Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura was suspected and while awaiting emergent plasma exchange transfusion, the patient arrested and resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.
The patient’s ADAMTS13 activity level was <3%. Autopsy demonstrated consolidation of the right middle lobe with possible lymphoproliferative mass, and lung petechial hemorrhages from microvascular thrombi.
Differential Diagnosis of Thrombocytopenia 1-7
Algorithm for the Evaluation of Thrombocytopenia 8
Leslie SD, Toy PT. Laboratory hemostatic abnormalities in massively transfused patients given red blood cells and crystalloid. Am J Clin Pathol. 1991;96(6):770-773.
Neunert C, Lim W, Crowther M, et al. The American Society of Hematology 2011 evidence-based practice guideline for immune thrombocytopenia. Blood. 2011;117(16):4190-4207. doi:10.1182/blood-2010-08-302984.
Kappler S, Ronan-Bentle S, Graham A. Thrombotic microangiopathies (TTP, HUS, HELLP). Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2014;32(3):649-671. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2014.04.008.
Greinacher A. Heparin-Induced Thrombocytopenia. Solomon CG, ed. N Engl J Med. 2015;373(3):252-261. doi:10.1056/NEJMcp1411910.
Reardon JE Jr., Marques MB. Evaluation of Thrombocytopenia. Lab Med. 2006;37(4):248-250. doi:10.1309/R7P79KERAJHPRHLT.
Stasi R. How to approach thrombocytopenia. Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program. 2012;2012:191-197. doi:10.1182/asheducation-2012.1.191.
Gauer RL, Braun MM. Thrombocytopenia. Am Fam Physician. 2012;85(6):612-622.
Wilson CS, Vergara-Lluri ME, Brynes RK. Chapter 11 – Evaluation of Anemia, Leukopenia, and Thrombocytopenia. Second Edition. Elsevier Inc.; 2017:195-234.e195. doi:10.1016/B978-0-323-29613-7.00011-9.
Hui P, Cook DJ, Lim W, Fraser GA, Arnold DM. The frequency and clinical significance of thrombocytopenia complicating critical illness: a systematic review. Chest. 2011;139(2):271-278. doi:10.1378/chest.10-2243.
Jokiranta TS. HUS and atypical HUS. Blood. 2017;129(21):2847-2856. doi:10.1182/blood-2016-11-709865.
Neunert CE. Management of newly diagnosed immune thrombocytopenia: can we change outcomes? Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program. 2017;2017(1):400-405. doi:10.1182/asheducation-2017.1.400.
Boral BM, Williams DJ, Boral LI. Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation. Am J Clin Pathol. 2016;146(6):670-680. doi:10.1093/ajcp/aqw195.
Scully M, Hunt BJ, Benjamin S, et al. Guidelines on the diagnosis and management of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura and other thrombotic microangiopathies. Br J Haematol. 2012;158(3):323-335. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2141.2012.09167.x.
Levine RL, Hursting MJ, Drexler A, Lewis BE, Francis JL. Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia in the emergency department. Ann Emerg Med. 2004;44(5):511-515. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2004.06.004.
A 27 year-old male with sickle cell disease (HbSC) on hydroxurea and with a history of 2-3 hospitalizations per year for vaso-occlusive pain crises manifested by arthralgias and back pain presents to the emergency department with 3 days of worsening joint pain affecting his entire body but predominantly his knees and lower back. He is familiar with this pain and attempted therapy at home with ibuprofen, then hydrocodone-acetaminophen, and finally hydromorphone without improvement and presented to the emergency department.
On review of systems, he denied chest pain, cough, or shortness of breath. He has some periumbilical abdominal pain but tolerated normal oral intake on the day of presentation without vomiting nor changes in bowel habits. He otherwise denied fevers, peripheral numbness/weakness, urinary or fecal incontinence or retention. He similarly denies trauma, weight loss, night sweats, or intravenous drug use.
Objectively, the patient’s vital signs were normal and he was well-appearing. Mucous membranes were moist and skin turgor was normal. There were no appreciable joint effusions, warmth, nor limitation to active/passive range of motion of any joints. His back had no midline tenderness to palpation or percussion, normal range of motion in all axes and extremity sensation and strength testing were normal. Abdominal and genitourinary examinations were normal. The patient had preserved perineal sensation to light touch and normal rectal tone – a core temperature was obtained which was also normal.
Peripheral access was established and a parenteral dose of hydromorphone equivalent to his home oral dose was administered (0.015mg/kg). Repeat dosing was required at 15 minutes due to persistent pain scale of 10. Diphenhydramine and acetaminophen were also administered, for potential opioid-sparing effects, recognizing the limited evidence to support these relatively benign adjuncts.
Laboratory studies were notable for anemia (though stable compared to baseline measures), appropriate reticulocyte count, no evidence of hemolysis and with normal electrolytes and renal function.
A thorough history and examination did not identify a critical precipitant for the patient’s symptoms which were presumed to be secondary to a vaso-occlusive pain crisis. On reassessment, the patient’s pain was improved and an oral dose of hydromorphone was administered with continued observation and serial reassessments for two hours thereafter. The patient’s hematologist was available for follow-up the subsequent morning and the patient was discharged home.
Pharmacokinetics of Commonly-Used Opiate Analgesics1-3
Spectrum of Sickle Cell Trait and Disease4
Algorithm for the Evaluation and Management of Sickle Cell Crises4-10
Lexicomp Online®, Adult Drug Information, Hudson, Ohio: Lexi-Comp, Inc.; November 4, 2017.
Trescot AM, Datta S, Lee M, Hansen H. Opioid pharmacology. Pain Physician. 2008;11(2 Suppl):S133-S153.
Vieweg WVR, Lipps WFC, Fernandez A. Opioids and methadone equivalents for clinicians. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2005;7(3):86-88.
Glassberg J. Evidence-based management of sickle cell disease in the emergency department. Emergency Medicine Practice. 2011;13(8):1–20–quiz20.
Raam R, Mallemat H, Jhun P, Herbert M. Sickle Cell Crisis and You: A How-to Guide. Ann Emerg Med. 2016;67(6):787-790. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2016.04.016.
Lovett PB, Sule HP, Lopez BL. Sickle cell disease in the emergency department. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2014;32(3):629-647. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2014.04.011.
Yawn BP, John-Sowah J. Management of Sickle Cell Disease: Recommendations From the 2014 Expert Panel Report. Vol 92. 2015:1069-1076.
Zempsky WT. Evaluation and Treatment of Sickle Cell Pain in the Emergency Department: Paths to a Better Future. Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine. 2010;11(4):265-273. doi:10.1016/j.cpem.2010.09.002.
Aliyu ZY, Tumblin AR, Kato GJ. Current therapy of sickle cell disease. Haematologica. 2006;91(1):7-10.
70M with a history of dementia presenting with 3 days of fatigue. The patient was unable to provide detailed history, however family members reported worsening fatigue with the patient requiring assistance with ambulation for several days. The patient was referred from an outside clinic after point-of-care hemoglobin of 6.7. No reported history of anemia, and no history suggestive of obvious external bleeding.
Vital signs stable, tachycardia and tachypnea noted with minimal exertion but saturating well on ambient air and in no acute distress. Examination notable for conjunctival pallor without scleral icterus, systolic flow murmur, brown stool guaiac negative.
CBC with hemoglobin of 7.5 , MCV 80.3 , RDW 22.4 , no leukocytosis and normal platelets. Also noted was an alkaline phosphatase of 828 , normal total and direct bilirubin, and undetectable serum troponin. Chest x-ray showed a possible pleural-based mass.
The patient was transfused two units of PRBC’s and admitted for further evaluation. CT chest/abdomen/pelvis revealed sternal and rib-based pleural soft-tissue mass, prostate mass, pelvic and retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy as well as extensive bony metastatic disease consistent with primary prostate cancer with diffused metastasis. Serum PSA was 2,087 . Iron studies suggested anemia of chronic disease. Reticulocytes were not obtained but may have suggested inadequate production index given extensive bony metastases and possible associated myelosuppression. The patient was symptomatically improved after transfusion and discharged with outpatient follow-up for discussions regarding possible biopsy and treatment.
Areas of pleural thickening. Possible pleural based mass in left mid lung.
CT Chest: Lung Window
Rib-based pleural soft tissue masses.
Large 5.6 x 4.4cm anterior sternal soft-tissue mass.
CT Body: Bone Window
Extensive bony metastatic disease.
Prostate mass, large pelvic and retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy.
Consistent with primary prostate cancer with diffuse metastasis.
Algorithm for the Evaluation of Anemia 1,2
Zaiden R, Rana F. Evaluation of Anemia. BMJ Best Practice. Oct 2014. http://us.bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/monograph/93/overview.html. Last accessed 15 May 2015.
Janz, T. G., Johnson, R. L., & Rubenstein, S. D. (2013). Anemia in the emergency department: evaluation and treatment. Emergency medicine practice, 15(11), 1–15– quiz 15–6.
27 year-old female with no medical history presenting with neck swelling. She describes one month of progressive enlargement of a left-sided neck mass, and in the past two weeks has noted a new right-sided neck mass. This has been associated with worsening dysphagia to solids, describing a sensation of food lodging in the mid-chest and requiring liquids for passage – she attributes her recent 10lb weight loss to this. She also reports a non-productive cough for the past two weeks and generalized fatigue. She otherwise denies fevers, night sweats, chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, or changes in bowel/urinary habits. She has no known sick contacts or TB exposure risk factors. She has no medical history, no prior surgeries, does not take any medications and denies tobacco, alcohol or drug use.
Well-appearing young female, in no acute distress.
PERRL, EOMI, MMM without lesions. There is a 2x3cm firm, non-tender, mobile left supraclavicular lymph node, as well as two 1x1cm firm, non-tender lymph nodes in the left and right anterior cervical chains.
RRR, normal S1/S2, no murmurs. No JVD.
Clear to auscultation bilaterally. There is a transition to bronchial breath sounds along the trachea inferior to the sternal angle with normal tracheal sounds superiorly.
Soft, non-tender without organomegaly.
Warm and well-perfused with normal peripheral pulses. No axillary or inguinal lymphadenopathy.
Alert and oriented, responding appropriately to questions. PERRL, EOMI, facial sensation symmetric, facial muscles symmetric, hearing grossly normal, palate rises symmetrically, tongue movements normal without fasciculation, SCM/trapezius normal. Normal FTN, RAM. Gait intact. Peripheral sensation and motor grossly normal.
CT Chest - Axial
Anterior mediastinal mass with a wide differential - likely represents lymphoma or germ cell tumor. Less likely thymic or thyroid origin.
CT Chest - Sagittal
Anterior mediastinal mass with a wide differential - likely represents lymphoma or germ cell tumor. Less likely thymic or thyroid origin.
27F with no PMH presenting with progressive localized lymphadenopathy. Resultant dysphagia, cervical and supraclavicular distribution as well as abnormal tracheal sounds concerning for mediastinal involvement. The patient is currently stable without evidence of airway compromise. A CT of the chest was obtained to evaluate for thoracic malignancy, which showed a large anterior mediastinal mass concerning lymphoma or germ cell tumor. The location of the mass likely explains the patient’s dysphagia due to compression of the esophagus, as well as the abnormal pulmonary exam with compression potentially irritating the trachea and triggering her non-productive cough. The patient was admitted for further workup.
Lymphadenopathy Applied – Lymphoma
This case applies the differential diagnosis of lymphadenopathy. The most abnormal finding on examination was non-tender, left supraclavicular lymphadenopathy. The duration of symptoms and lack of tenderness is concerning for malignancy, and the left supraclavicular location suggests a thoracic or intra-abdominal source.