This hot case typically has three major areas of interest:
Previous hot cases with this sort of theme to them can be found below.
The standard introduction
Ask examiners about turning up the lights
The physical examination
The details of this section can be seen in the opposite column.
The obs and investigations
The Physical Examination in Brief Detail
Ask the examiners to sit the patient up
Ask the examiners about any language barriers
Ask examiners to lay the patient flat.
Sit the patient back up again
One can ask the examiners the following questions:
One should ask about the following parameters:
One should ask to look at the pressure-volume loops.
A decreased lung compliance might suggest pneumothorax, or pulmonary contusions.
There may be surgical drains (what is in them? How much of it?). Asking how much has been coming out may be relevant in a hot case which focuses on the diagnosis of a shock state.
The pleural catheters are also interesting. One should make a mental note of whether the ICCs are on free drainage or on suction. The content of these drains could be informative, especially if one notices blood or chyle.
This stage is critically important. The drug and fluid infusions which are currently in progress give a clue as to what problem is currently being addressed. One should not neglect the labelled bags; the choice of antibiotics gives one some idea of where the source of sepsis is thought to be.
Specifically, one should focus on blood products and evidence of rescue osmotherapy for raised ICP (eg. hypertonic saline or mannitol).
Thiopentone may be running.
One should observe the following features of an EVD:
Ideally, one should get the patient sitting up to 30-45°. This may not be possible. However, one should still ask for it.
Ideally, the patient should be exposed from the waist up. The candidate can then stand back and look for anything externally obvious:
Performing the GCS should be the first step, unless you notice that a neuromuscular junction blocker is among the infusions. The level of consciousness then determines how you go about examining the rest of the patient.
A traditionalist, who is examining Mr Bloggs, would approach the GCS in the following manner:
Characteristic posturing may be observed.
One has just performed a GCS assessment; one is still holding the hands.
Now, time to look at them more closely.
First, one should spent a second assessing whether they are warm or cold.
Then, one can spend a moment on the nails. Nail signs are numerous and deserve their own page. This should not be a prolonged scrutiny.
Assess the pulse. While one still has both of the patient's hands, one ought to try to compare the radial pulses. An aortic dissection may result in a radioradial delay, or an asymmetrical pulse amplitude.
Tone of the upper limbs
Move up from the hands. While you are still holding the hands, you can perform a sort of gross examination of tone by pronating and supinating the wrists, and by flexing and extending the elbows.
Ask the examiners whether this is appropriate before going ahead- one does not want to be testing the tone of a multiply fractured limb.
Examine the cubital fossa for
One should then palpate the axillary lymph nodes.
Palpate the neck:
One should take a moment to inspect the head for injuries.
If there are any head injuries, particularly features of a base of skull fracture, the candidate should examine the cranial nerves with as much detail as possible.
Thus, this section can be divided into three broad groups:
|The paralysed patient||The unconscious patient||The awake patient|
A Snellen chart is ideal, but probably will not be available.
The extubated patient should be able to read the time on the clock in the room.
One performs this test with each eye individually.
This tests CN II.
Ask the examiners to dim the room lights.
Open both eyes. Each eye is exposed to light. The opposite pupil should constrict consensually.
This tests CN II (afferent) and CN III (efferent).
The cornea (not the sclera) is touched lightly with a moistened corner of a piece of gauze.
A normal reflex is to blink.
This tests CN V (afferent) and CN VII (efferent)
The conscious patient will be able to follow the tip of the candidate's finger.
The pattern of movements should be tracing the six cardinal points: superior left, inferior left, superior center, inferior center, superior right, inferior right.
This tests CNs III, IV and VI.
Typically, this is performed by putting some pressure on the superior orbital notch.
The patient should either open their eyes or localise.
This tests CN V.
The conscious patient will be able to perform a series of grimaces to assess the bilateral motor control of facial muscles:
In the comatose patient, as the head is moved from left to right, the eyes should move in the opposite direction. A fixed unchanging gaze is a negative test; the reflex is not working.
This tests CNs III, IV, VI, and most importantly VIII.
Cold water is funneled into the patient's ear. A positive reflex consists of the eyes turning towards the chilled ear. This is a more potent stimulus for CN VIII than the oculocephalic reflex.
Now that one has finished with the upper cranial nerves, one can move on to the mouth, airway, and swallowing apparatus.
The Yankeur sucker is used to probe the posterior pharynx, on both sides. A gag reaction should result from this.
This collectively tests CN X and IX.
While on the subject of CN X, one may test the cough reflex by suctioning the trachea.
This tests CN X.
This is also a convenient time to ask about the volume and character of the secretions.
The conscious patient is asked to protrude their tongue, and move it from side to side.
This tests CN XII.
The uvula deviates away from the lesion.
This tests CN X and IX.
The conscious patient is asked to shrug their shoulders against resistance.
This tests CN XI.
Thus, the whole process should look like this:
During the cranial nerve examination, one will inevitably end up tripping over the endotracheal tube. One should note whether there is anything unusual there; for instance, is there a dual-lumen tube, or a bronchial blocker?
One puts both their hands on the chest to assess the symmetry of chest expansion.
The whole chest must be palpated.The crepitus of subcutaneous emphysema cannot be missed. Plus, one needs to find the flail segment, if there is one.
One might wish to percuss the chest.
Changes in percussion resonance may be worth commenting on.
One may begin by auscultating the apices anteriorly. Then, one should auscultate as posteriorly as possible. The money is in the bases.
The clever candidate will make a big show of palpating both the apex and the right sternal edge.
One should auscultate in the following sequence:
The various clicks and murmurs one encounters are discussed elsewhere.
For this, one should ask to lay the patient flat.
The pelvic content would have been palpated during the abdominal examination.
The more important part of this examination is the groin.
At this stage, the patient should be re-draped - cover them from the waist up, and uncover their legs.
Observation and palpation of the pelvis:
Examination of the lines
Examination of the genitals and rectum
Once one is finished with the pelvis, one should cover it again, so that only the legs are sticking out.
One should ask to remove TEDs and compression stockings.
Leg muscle tone
The best way to test muscle tone is by holding the knee. Roll the knee gently to distract the patient; then try to lift it off the bed. In the presence of increased tone, the leg will remain straight and the whole thing will lift up; with normal or decreased tone, only the knee will bend
In the conscious patient, one might be able to assess whether a gentle calf squeeze produces the characteristic pain which suggests a DVT may be present.
This brings one to the feet, and to the beginning of the neurological examination.
The feet would have already been palpated to assess their temperature, and to look for pitting oedema.
Observation of the feet
One should look specifically for changes suggestive of chronic diabetic foot disease, or chronically poor vascular supply.
Palpation of the feet
This should consist of palpating the dorsalis pedis and posterior tibial pulse.
One should test the Babinsky bilaterally.
One should attempt to assess clonus in both feet.
Now is the time to properly start the neurological examination of this patient.
Power of the muscle groups may be tested in the following sequence:
The patient has spent most of this time flat and supine. Time to sit them back up again.
Power of the upper muscle groups may be tested in the following sequence:
Now that one is back to the upper limb, one may as well start their reflex tests there.
The reflexes may be tested in the following order:
After testing the ankle jerk reflex, one is again back to the feet.
At this stage, with a conscious patient, one may wish to test light touch sensation.
The following order (with corresponding dermatomes) is suggested:
Now, usually, the cerebellum requires all sorts of dynamic manoeuvres- one should assess the gait, balance, speech, and so forth. The intubated ICU patient does not permit the majority of these. They are so entangled in tubes they may not be able to perform dysdiadochokinesis.
The following is a list of cerebellar tests one may be able to perform with an intubated ICU patient.
Many of these findings would have been discovered during earlier stages of the examination.
This would have become apparent during the testing of the eye movements.
This would have become apparent during the test for nystagmus
This is an assessment of coordination. The patient is asked to alternate between touching their nose and touching the finger of the candidate, who keeps changing its position.
The patient is asked to run the heel of one foot along the shin of the opposite leg.
Ask to see the obs chart. If it is not allowed, ask for the following:
One may also wish do demonstrate an interest in the trends of any sort of advanced haemodynamic monitoring, eg. cardiac index as measured by PAC or PiCCO.
One needs to show an interest in the following labs:
One should always ask for the following:
"Mr Bloggs is suffering from [severe, moderate, mild] head injury."
"This is complicated by [raised ICP, ventriculitis, VAP, aspiration, C-spine trauma, other injuries]"
"I base this assertion on the following findings: [insert clinical findings here]"
"In my survey, I have also found the following injuries: [insert clinical findings here]"
"I would like to confirm my diagnosis with the following investigations: [insert appropriate investigations]"
"My management of his intracranial pressure would consist of the following strategies: [a brief list of management priorities]"
"The other management issues are as follows: [a brief list of management priorities]"
"I would approach the management of these issues in the following manner: [list of management strategies; it helps to organise this into an A,B,C,D,E approach if one has a complex multisystem problem to manage]"