Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Is a Patient With a Concussion Admitted to the Hospital?

Recently, I finished a book that included the following medical scenario. The main character fell into a river and suffered a broken arm and concussion. During her ER visit, the doctor tells her she needs to be admitted overnight for observation because of the concussion.

This is a common medical myth (along with the one that a CT scan is required in all instances of head injury-- it's not.)

A simple concussion does not need an overnight hospital stay. Let me qualify what I mean by simple. You receive a hit on the head and have one or some of the following global symptoms (dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and amnesia to the events.) Global symptoms mean more than just the bump on your head hurts.

This is really how concussion is diagnosed. CT scan is reserved for concerns of bleeding and/or fracture that might require a neurosurgical intervention. Typically, symptoms associated with bleeding and fracture are persistent and more dramatic. Headache pain is not relieved with medication and/or worsens. There is more than one episode of vomiting. Persistent confusion. Perseverating-- saying the same thing over and over. Inability to move part of the body. Decreased responsiveness. Amnesia that doesn't improve.

A patient with a simple concussion is monitored in the ER for several hours. Typically, we'll give them medication based on their symptoms to see if they improve. For instance, a patient that has nausea, headache and dizziness will get an anti-nausea medication and an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol or Ibuprofen. If their symptoms improve and/or resolve and they can hold something down to eat then they are discharged home with instructions on when to return to the ER.

In order to be admitted into the hospital the patient must exhibit severe, persistent symptomology and/or have bleeding and/or fracture.

In absence of these, the patient will be discharged home.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Castle: Dying From Medical Inaccuracy

Personally, I loved the show Castle. Sadly, it's been cancelled and perhaps it's for the best-- especially if Season 8, Episode 21 entitled Hell to Pay is any indication of the attention to detail they were giving their medical/forensic scenarios.

The following is the assessment medical examiner, Lanie Parish, gave concerning New York's latest murder victim.

"He bled to death from a wound in his left side. My guess is whatever he was stabbed with punctured his subclavian artery. After that he would have had about thirty minutes to an hour tops."

There are TWO major problems with the above assessment.

First, your right and left subclavian arteries are located just below your collar bones. So, if you're stabbed in the left side, it's really hard to hit that sucker. That got me thinking about what is on your left side that could cause brisk bleeding. Your spleen is located on your left side tucked pretty nicely under your lower left ribs. Perhaps they meant splenic artery which would have been appropriate for the scenario.

Second is the time frame. If you have a severed artery, the bleeding will be severe and deadly if not controlled in a matter of minutes. There is no way this character would have survived thirty to sixty minutes-- I'd give max time at ten minutes and that might be pretty generous.

So Castle, at least go out on a high note with a medically accurate death scenario.