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Daily Recap: ED visits for life-threatening conditions plummet; COVID-19 imaging strategies for kids


Here are the stories our MDedge editors across specialties think you need to know about today:

ED visits drop for life-threatening conditions

Emergency department visits for myocardial infarction, stroke, and hyperglycemic crisis dropped substantially in the 10 weeks after COVID-19 was declared a national emergency, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compared with the 10-week period from Jan. 5 to March 14, ED visits were down by 23% for MI, 20% for stroke, and 10% for hyperglycemic crisis from March 15 to May 23.

“A short-term decline of this magnitude … is biologically implausible for MI and stroke, especially for older adults, and unlikely for hyperglycemic crisis, and the finding suggests that patients with these conditions either could not access care or were delaying or avoiding seeking care during the early pandemic period,” the researchers wrote in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Read more.

Expert recommendations for pediatric COVID-19 imaging

A team of pulmonologists has synthesized the clinical and imaging characteristics of COVID-19 in children, and has issued recommendations for ordering imaging studies in suspected cases of the infection.

Current recommendations from the American College of Radiology (ACR) do not include chest computed tomography (CT) or chest radiography (CXR) as an upfront test to diagnose pediatric COVID-19, but the tests may still have a role in clinical monitoring, especially in patients with a moderate to severe disease course. The potential benefits of utilizing radiologic evaluation – such as establishing a baseline for monitoring disease progression – must be balanced with potential drawbacks, including radiation exposure and reduced availability of imaging resources owing to necessary cleaning and air turnover time.

Based on the most recent international guidelines for pediatric COVID-19 patient management, the authors developed an algorithm for performing imaging studies in suspected cases of COVID-19 pneumonia. The purpose of the tool is to support clinical decision-making around the utilization of CXR and CT to evaluate pediatric COVID-19 pneumonia. “The step by step algorithm addresses the selection, sequence and timing of imaging studies with multiple images illustrating key findings of COVID-19 pneumonia in the pediatric age group,” said Mary Cataletto, MD, of NYU Langone Health in Mineola, N.Y. Read more.

Cortisol levels on COVID-19 admission may be a marker of severity

Patients with COVID-19 who have high levels of the steroid hormone cortisol on admission to the hospital have a substantially increased risk of dying, according to new study findings.

Researchers assessed 535 patients admitted to major London hospitals. Of these, 403 patients were diagnosed with COVID-19 based on a positive result on real-time polymerase chain reaction testing or a strong clinical and radiological suspicion, despite a negative test. Mean cortisol concentrations in patients with COVID-19 were significantly higher than those not diagnosed with the virus and as of May 8, significantly more patients with COVID-19 died than those without (27.8% vs 6.8%).

Measuring cortisol on admission is potentially “another simple marker to use alongside oxygen saturation levels to help us identify which patients need to be admitted immediately, and which may not,” said Waljit S. Dhillo, MBBS, PhD, head of the division of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism at Imperial College London.

“Having an early indicator of which patients may deteriorate more quickly will help us with providing the best level of care as quickly as possible. In addition, we can also take cortisol levels into account when we are working out how best to treat our patients,” he said. Read more.


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