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ABC-Assessment

by Julianna Jung, MD, FACEP
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      Emergency Medicine Undifferentiated Patients.pdf
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    00:02 Welcome to the Emergency Medicine Course.

    00:04 I'm gonna start off by talking about the approach to the undifferentiated patient in the Emergency Department.

    00:10 So the first question you wanna ask yourself when you see a patient in the ED is, is this patient sick or are they not sick? If your patient is sick, you know that you need to act quickly in order to get the situation under control.

    00:25 So first and foremost, you're gonna get help, especially if you are relatively a Junior Trainee, you wanna make sure that you have some back-ups so you could take good care of the patient.

    00:33 You wanna also prioritize your sick patients over your not sick patients.

    00:37 Clearly, the ones who have life threat should get cared for first.

    00:40 You wanna rapidly assess the patient so you could get to the bottom of what’s going on, but you wanna simultaneously stabilize them at the same time as you're treating them, so that you can start making them feel better and decrease the likelihood that they're gonna have a bad outcome.

    00:57 And you wanna expedite their diagnostic work up.

    00:59 and management.

    01:00 So when somebody is sick, you really wanna get to the bottom of what’s going on as quickly as you possibly can.

    01:07 When we assess the acutely ill patient, we’re gonna start off with the goal of identifying and treating immediate life threats.

    01:15 That’s gonna be the mantra we repeat to ourselves while we're taking care of this patient.

    01:20 And we’re gonna accomplish that by performing an A-B-C-D assessment, on each and every patient, each and every time.

    01:28 Whenever somebody's sick, we wanna say, “OMI.” That stands for oxygen, monitor, and IV access.

    01:36 Oxygen, obviously to help with breathing, monitor, so we can keep tabs on what's going on with the patient, and IV access, so we can treat them if they need it.

    01:45 Like I mentioned before, the goal with sick patient is simultaneous assessment and treatment so while we are assessing our patient, if we identified a life threat, we don’t wannna just keep going along in assessing them, we wanna address that life-threat immediately.

    02:00 This is not the time to sit down and take a leisurely history and perform a physical exam and then start thinking about treatment.

    02:07 We need to be able to do everything all at once to get the ball rolling for our patient and get them stabilized as rapidly as we can.

    02:15 So we’re gonna start off talking about the ABC assessment, and as you've probably heard before, ABC stands for airway, breathing, and circulation.

    02:24 When we think about the airway, clearly, anybody who's talking, that's a good sign.

    02:28 They have a patent airway.

    02:30 But even for a patient who is able to speak and phonate normally, they could possibly have future airway obstruction and we wanna be prepared to deal with that.

    02:38 So look for signs of edema either on the face or the pharynx.

    02:42 Look for blood, vomit, or other foreign material in the airway and listen to their breathing.

    02:47 Not with a stethoscope but just with your naked ear.

    02:50 Anytime a patient is breathing in a way that’s noisy or easily audible, that’s obstructed breathing, and the louder it is, the more concerned that you should be.

    03:00 Regarding breathing, the best thing we can do is just get a Gestalt sense of how hard the patient is working to breathe.

    03:08 If the patient is using the muscles in their neck and in their chest, and if they're doing push-ups when they try to breathe, those are all signs that they could potentially have impending respiratory failure coz they're not gonna be able to maintain that high level of work of breathing indefinitely.

    03:24 We wanna listen to their breath sounds, and we wanna check their pulse ox.

    03:28 The pulse ox is the single most important vital sign for breathing.

    03:32 The whole purpose of the lungs is to get oxygen into the blood stream and even if the patient looks and sounds great, if they are hypoxic, you’ve got a problem with B.

    03:41 Lastly, we wanna check circulation.

    03:44 So part of circulation is just to general Gestalt look at the patient.

    03:48 If the patient is maintaining well, and they're nice and pink, that’s a really good sign that they're perfusing their brains and the rest of their bodies adequately.

    03:55 Whereas if they are pale, cyanotic, altered, they may potentially not be perfusing as well as we’d hope.

    04:02 We also wannna feel peripheral pulses.

    04:04 Now clearly, a patient who's awake and talking to you, obviously has a carotid pulse, right? They must be perfusing their brain.

    04:09 But if they have a weak or absent peripheral pulse, that's something that we wanna be aware of coz that could tell us potentially that they are not perfusing the periphery as well as we'd hope.

    04:21 We also wanna look at their vital signs.

    04:23 The heart rate, the cardiac rhythm, the blood pressure, these all give us important clues about the adequacy of circulation.

    04:30 So let's start off with A and B.

    04:32 Now A and B are usually assessed together and the vast majority of A and B problems are really B problems.

    04:38 They're usually caused by pulmonary disease rather than primary airway emergencies, although we do look at the two things together.

    04:46 So again, respiratory rate is an important vital sign for A and B.

    04:53 A patient who's breathing very quickly, you wanna be concerned about the possibility that they're gonna tire out and not be able to sustain that respiratory rate.

    05:01 I also wanna mention that respiratory rate is often not documented correctly in the chart, so this is one that you should really check yourself.

    05:08 You should bust out your watch, look at the patient, count their respirations over the course of a minute, so that you can get a really good sense of how quickly they're breathing.

    05:17 Pulse ox, we already mentioned is absolutely critical it's the most important vital sign for A and B, and again, that work of breathing.

    05:25 If a patient is using a lot of metabolic energy to get air into their lungs, they're not gonna be able to sustain that indefinitely.

    05:32 Meaning, that they're gonna be able to continue oxygenating and ventilating normally in the long run.

    05:40 And they're at risk for developing respiratory failure.

    05:44 Anytime you suspect a problem with A and B, you wanna start off by giving them high flow oxygen that’s gonna obviously address hypoxia and hopefully also reduce their work of breathing coz they'll be able to oxygenate with less effort.

    05:57 You wanna be ready to manage the airway.

    06:00 That’s not to say that every single patient needs to be entubated right this minute but you wanna have the necessary equipment, medications, and personnel available, so that if you do need to manage the airway, you’ll be ready.

    06:13 You wanna auscultate the lungs and that’s really important because auscultation doesn’t tell you if there's a problem with airway and breathing but it can help tell you why.

    06:22 It can help narrow your differential.

    06:24 So if your patient is wheezing, you're gonna manage them differently than if they have crackles versus if they have unilaterally absent breath sounds.

    06:32 So different lung sounds are gonna help us understand what the underlying problem is and treat it accordingly.

    06:39 And then lastly, we wanna get a stat chest x-ray.

    06:41 Any patient with any degree of respiratory distress deserves to have a picture of their lungs so we can get a better sense of what's going on with them physiologically.

    06:50 Let’s move on to C.

    06:52 So we already mentioned some of the things we wanna check for C.

    06:54 I wanna also stress the importance of vital signs for circulatory assessment.

    06:58 So anytime a patient is tachycardic, there's one of two things going on.

    07:03 Either A, they're having a cardiac dysrhythmia and you wanna make sure that you address that rhythm disturbance as a primary disease process, or two, if they're in sinus tachycardia so their cardiac rhythm is normal but their heart rate is fast, then you wanna recognize that they're trying to physiologically compensate for some underlying derangement, you wanna figure out what that derangement is and take care of it .

    07:30 Blood pressure is kind of like pulse ox, right? It’s the bottom line on circulation, it’s the bottom line for C.

    07:37 The whole point of the circulatory system is to send blood to the vital organs, and if your blood pressure is low, then the perfusion pressure for those vital organs is gonna be low, meaning that your circulation is inadequate.

    07:50 So even for a patient with a normal heart rhythm and rate, if they're hypotensive, we have a C problem and we need to take care of it.

    07:58 Anytime we suspect a problem with C, we wanna make sure we get two large pore IV catheters.

    08:05 Not one, but two.

    08:07 And that's so important because we wanna make sure that we have the ability to rapidly infuse fluid or blood products if the patient needs it and in the event that one of our IV’s infiltrates or falls out, we wanna always have a back up so that we're not facing interruptions or obstacles in trying to treat our critically ill patient.

    08:25 We wanna make sure that we get a good look at the monitor and differentiate those patients who have non-sinus from those who have sinus rhythms, and again, if they have a non-sinus rhythm, we wanna think about treating it.

    08:36 And lastly, we wanna consider IV fluids.

    08:38 Now, not every single patient with a circulatory abnormality needs IV fluids but the vast majority will benefit.

    08:46 There are some cases like cardiogenic shock, where the underlying problem is really pump failure.

    08:51 The heart's not squeezing adequately to perfuse the body.

    08:54 That’s a situation where fluid isn't gonna benefit you, but in the vast majority of cases, filling up the tank or optimizing intravascular volume is gonna be the first step in stabilizing C.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture ABC-Assessment by Julianna Jung, MD, FACEP is from the course Emergency Medicine: General Topics. It contains the following chapters:

    • How to Manage Sick Patients
    • ABC - Airway, Breathing, Circulation

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. You should initially try to manage the patient on your own
    2. You should prioritize the sick patient over the not sick patients
    3. You have to rapidly assess the patient
    4. You have to simultaneously treat and stabilize the patient
    5. You have to expedite their diagnostic workup and management
    1. The treatment of the acutely ill patient begins after a thorough history-taking and once all possible diagnostic examinations have been done
    2. The goal is to identify and manage immediate life threats
    3. You must perform A-B-C-D assessment on all patients at all times
    4. Hook the patient to oxygen, a cardiac monitor, and place an IV access
    5. You have to address the life threat immediately
    1. Oxygenation via pulse oximetry
    2. Sound of breathing
    3. Respiratory rate
    4. Arterial carbon dioxide levels
    5. Visible chest expansion
    1. The patient is able to verbalize without any difficulty what he is feeling
    2. There is facial edema
    3. There is use of neck muscles in breathing
    4. The patient has a loud and audible breathing
    5. The pulse oxygenation level is at 85%
    1. Cardiogenic shock
    2. Hypovolemic shock
    3. Anaphylactic shock
    4. Septic shock
    5. Neurogenic shock

    Author of lecture ABC-Assessment

     Julianna Jung, MD, FACEP

    Julianna Jung, MD, FACEP


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