When 2022 began, we started seeing some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Vaccines were widely available, and even with new variants of the virus still occasionally emerging, the rates of severe morbidity and mortality appeared to be decreasing.
Expectedly, journals appeared to start moving more toward mainstream topics and publications rather than what seemed like a major focus on COVID-19 publications. The resulting literature was fantastic.
Several of those topics were discussed in a prior Emergency Medicine Viewpoint from this news organization, and many more of the research advances of 2022 will be discussed in the near future. However, in this Viewpoint, I would like to present my annual review of my three “must-read” articles of the past year.
As in past years, I am choosing reviews of the literature rather than original research articles (which, all too often, become outdated or debunked within a few years). I choose these articles in the hopes that readers will not simply settle for my brief reviews of the key points but instead will feel compelled to download and read the entire articles. These publications address common conditions and quandaries we face in the daily practice of emergency medicine and are practice-changing.
Myocardial dysfunction after cardiac arrest: Tips and pitfalls
The management of post–cardiac arrest patients remains a hot topic in the resuscitation literature as we continue to understand that the immediate post-arrest period is critical to patient outcome.
Ortuno and colleagues reviewed the current literature on post-arrest care and wrote an outstanding summary of how to optimally care for these patients. More specifically, they focused on post-arrest patients who demonstrate continued shock, or “post–cardiac arrest myocardial dysfunction” (PCAMD).
They propose three mechanisms for the pathogenesis of PCAMD: ischemia reperfusion phenomenon, systemic inflammatory response, and increased catecholamine release
I will skip through the details of the pathophysiology that they describe in the article, but I certainly do recommend that everyone review their descriptions.
Management of these patients begins with a good hemodynamic assessment, which includes clinical markers of perfusion (blood pressure, capillary refill), ECG, and point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS). If the initial assessment reveals an obvious cause of the cardiac arrest (e.g., massive pulmonary embolism, myocardial infarction, pericardial tamponade), then the underlying cause should be treated expeditiously.
In the absence of an obvious treatable cause of the shock, the fluid status and cardiac function should be addressed with POCUS. If the patient is hypovolemic, intravenous fluids should be administered. If the fluid status is adequate, POCUS should be used to estimate the patient’s ventricular function. If the ventricle appears to be hyperdynamic with good contractility, shock should be treated with norepinephrine. On the other hand, if the ventricle is hypodynamic, dobutamine should be substituted for norepinephrine or, more often, added to norepinephrine.
The above represents a simplified summary of the critical points, but the authors do delve into further detail and also discuss some other options for therapies, including steroids, coronary revascularization, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and so on. The review is very thoughtful, thorough, and definitely worth a full read.