Episode 6: Status epilepticus with Gracia Mui

Neurologist and neurointensivist Gracia Mui shows us the workup, initial management, and escalation of care for a case of refractory status epilepticus.

Takeaway lessons

  1. First-time unprovoked seizures usually need no further workup except screening for an underlying trigger, such as a tox screen, basic chemistries, and imaging as appropriate.
  2. Initial seizure therapy: wait around 5 minutes, then give 2–4 mg lorazepam. Repeat every minute or so until convulsions stop, up to 0.1 mg/kg total.
  3. Give an anti-epileptic concurrently: fosphenytoin or phenytoin (15–20 mg/kg), levetiracetam, or valproic acid (40 mg/kg, up to 3000 mg) are all acceptable. If using levetiracetam (Keppra), give a real dose of 60 mg/kg (max of 4.5 g).
  4. After loading with benzos and/or anti-epileptics, if convulsions stop and the patient remains unresponsive, consider the duration of the drug you used. If it’s wearing off (e.g. after about an hour for lorazepam) and they remain unresponsive, suspect non-convulsive status epilepticus.
  5. Any patient not waking up needs an EEG. If not available, they may need empiric deep sedation and intubation until EEG can prove the absence of seizures.
  6. If convulsions are absent, that’s good, as convulsive seizures are more harmful than non-convulsive, but not as good as obviating seizure activity on EEG.
  7. Other than the practical, there is no upper limit for benzodiazepine dosing.
  8. Once you’ve successfully achieved the desired EEG result (either burst suppression or simply the absence of seizure activity) using anesthetics, hold them for about a day, then lighten sedation to see if seizures recur. If so, re-deepen sedation (perhaps for twice as long), increase anti-epileptic agents, then try again.
  9. The patient in status should routinely be screened for underlying triggers, including brain imaging and LP (remember autoimmune causes such as NMDA encephalitis). But about half the time, even in severe refractory status, no underlying cause will be identified.



[this episode was reposted on the website 4/27/2020 due to a database reversion after an unfortunate system breach —ed.]

Episode 5: Cardiogenic shock and ECMO with Brendan Riordan

Cardiothoracic critical care PA Brendan Riordan (@concernecus) shows us his initial approach to the patient in cardiogenic shock, including initiating mechanical support, managing ECMO (plus Impella), and eventual weaning and discontinuation of support.

Some pearls

  1. Anticoagulation on VA ECMO can be titrated to bleeding risk, with a balance between bleeding and circuit longevity—the latter being more than an inconvenience, as changing the circuit in a patient fully dependent on the pump is fraught. Anti-Xa levels are more reliable than the PTT. In a patient with HIT, you may be able to treat through it with bivalirudin, as the heparin-bonded circuit usually cannot be switched out.
  2. “Hypoxemia” on VA ECMO is either regional hypoxemia/North-South syndrome/harlequin syndrome, or oxygenator failure. Rule out the latter by checking a post-oxygenator ABG or just looking to ensure the outflow blood is bright red. Rule in the former by evaluating the ABG or SpO2 from the right upper extremity.
  3. Preemptively placing an anterograde perfusion catheter in the femoral artery is not absolutely mandatory, but is probably simpler and perhaps safer than placing one reactively.
  4. A PA catheter is more useful for weaning ECMO than during the period of full support.
  5. Readiness for weaning is evaluated by recognition of improving cardiac pulsatility, followed by a trial of weaning down pump flow, and finally decannulation in the OR. Consider leaving the Impella if there are any lingering concerns.



Special episode: Initial vent settings for COVID-19

A 5-minute episode describing three hyper-simple, generally safe recipes for the initial strategy of mechanical ventilation after intubating a COVID-19 patient.

Caveat: this is intended for trained clinicians, such as emergency medicine providers, who already have a general understanding of safe and sound life support practices. It glosses over a great deal and is not meant as a primer for trainees.


Full ARDSnet protocol

Special episode: COVID-19 brief

A fast-tracked update: what we know about the active pandemic of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and its resulting respiratory syndrome, COVID-19.

Takeaway lessons

  • Treat like viral pneumonia/ARDS. High PEEP. Prone early. Keep fluid balance dry.
  • Probably avoid CPAP/BiPAP except perhaps for very short trials. Unclear role for HFNC.
  • Watch out for myocarditis-type picture with cardiogenic shock and arrhythmias.
  • Take isolation extremely seriously.
  • Think about innovative ways to optimize patient flow.
  • Take care of yourself and each other, and try to stay sane.



Episode 4: Venous congestion with Philippe Rola

Intensivist and passionate slayer of venous congestion Philippe Rola (@thinkingcc) shows us how to deresuscitate the septic patient, with guidance from his handy ultrasound.

Takeaway lessons

  1. Fluid overload is harmful and should be actively reduced, even in a patient in active shock; it will not harm them.
  2. The VEXUS exam is a good method for stratifying fluid overload by severity, i.e. severe (and harmful) versus mild (and relatively benign).
  3. The IVC, CVP, or hepatic vein doppler offer similar information, and are all effective means of assessing central venous pressure, the first and most important step in evaluating for venous congestion. The portal vein doppler offers the most additional diagnostic yield on top of this. Renal vascular doppler acts mostly as a “tiebreaker” when these other studies are equivocal.
  4. No one study or datapoint tells the whole story in these patients. Gather data from as many sources as possible to form the clearest picture.

Our apologies for the section of missing audio and slightly below-par audio quality in this one.



Beaubien-Souligny W, Benkreira A, Robillard P, et al. Alterations in Portal Vein Flow and Intrarenal Venous Flow Are Associated With Acute Kidney Injury After Cardiac Surgery: A Prospective Observational Cohort Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018;7(19):e009961.

Denault AY, Beaubien-Souligny W, Elmi-Sarabi M, et al. Clinical Significance of Portal Hypertension Diagnosed With Bedside Ultrasound After Cardiac Surgery. Anesth Analg. 2017;124(4):1109–1115.

Iida N, Seo Y, Sai S, et al. Clinical Implications of Intrarenal Hemodynamic Evaluation by Doppler Ultrasonography in Heart Failure. JACC Heart Fail. 2016;4(8):674–682.

Tang WH, Kitai T. Intrarenal Venous Flow: A Window Into the Congestive Kidney Failure Phenotype of Heart Failure? JACC Heart Fail. 2016;4(8):683–686. doi:10.1016/j.jchf.2016.05.009

Tremblay JA, Beaubien-Souligny W, Elmi-Sarabi M, et al. Point-of-Care Ultrasonography to Assess Portal Vein Pulsatility and the Effect of Inhaled Milrinone and Epoprostenol in Severe Right Ventricular Failure: A Report of 2 CasesA A Case Rep. 2017;9(8):219–223. [this pertains to a discussion of inhaled inodilators, which occurred during the lost section of audio]


Credit and thanks to Eduardo R Argaiz (@ArgaizR) for this clip.

Episode 3: Refractory ARDS

What stops do you make along the garden path of hypoxic respiratory failure?



An ARDS review: Fan E, Brodie D, Slutsky A. Acute Respiratory Distress: Syndrome Advances in Diagnosis and Treatment. JAMA. 2018;319(7):698-710

Lung protective ventilation (The original ARDSnet ARMA trial): Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Network, Brower RG, Matthay MA, et al. Ventilation with lower tidal volumes as compared with traditional tidal volumes for acute lung injury and the acute respiratory distress syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2000;342(18):1301–1308.

Steroids for ARDS (SCCM/ESICM guidelines): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Critical Illness-Related Corticosteroid Insufficiency (CIRCI) in Critically Ill Patients (Part I): Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) and European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM) 2017

Prone positioning (PROSEVA trial): Guérin C, Reignier J, Richard JC, et al. Prone positioning in severe acute respiratory distress syndromeN Engl J Med. 2013;368(23):2159–2168.

Driving pressure: Amato MB, Meade MO, Slutsky AS, et al. Driving pressure and survival in the acute respiratory distress syndromeN Engl J Med. 2015;372(8):747–755.

… and a driving pressure meta-analysis: Aoyama H, Pettenuzzo T, Aoyama K, Pinto R, et al. Association of Driving Pressure With Mortality Among Ventilated Patients With Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Crit Care Med. 2018;46(2):300–306.

APRV: Zhou Y, Jin X, Lv Y, et al. Early application of airway pressure release ventilation may reduce the duration of mechanical ventilation in acute respiratory distress syndromeIntensive Care Med. 2017;43(11):1648–1659.

Recruitment maneuvers (ART trial): Writing Group for the Alveolar Recruitment for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Trial (ART) Investigators, Cavalcanti AB, Suzumura ÉA, et al. Effect of Lung Recruitment and Titrated Positive End-Expiratory Pressure (PEEP) vs Low PEEP on Mortality in Patients With Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2017;318(14):1335–1345.

Paralysis (PETAL trial): National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute PETAL Clinical Trials Network, Moss M, Huang DT, et al. Early Neuromuscular Blockade in the Acute Respiratory Distress SyndromeN Engl J Med. 2019;380(21):1997–2008.

ECMO (EOLIA trial): Combes A, Hajage D, Capellier G, et al. Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Severe Acute Respiratory Distress SyndromeN Engl J Med. 2018;378(21):1965–1975.

Episode 2: Takotsubo (Stress) Cardiomyopathy

A tricky case of refractory heart failure.

Case files

Image credit: B Boling, personal files
Image credit: B Boling, personal files



Champion S, Belcour D, Vandroux D, et al. Stress (Tako-tsubo) cardiomyopathy in critically-ill patients. Eur Heart J. 2015;4(2):189-96.

Chockalingam A. Stress cardiomyopathy of the critically ill: Spectrum of secondary, global, probable and subclinical forms. Indian Heart J. 2018;70(1):177-84.

Dawson D. Acute stress-induced (takotsubo) cardiomyopathy. Heart. 2018;104:96-102.

Ghadri JR, Cammann VL, Jurisic S, Seifert B, Napp LC, Diekmann J, et al. A novel score (InterTAK Diagnostic Score) to differentiate takotsubo syndrome from acute coronary syndrome: results from the International Takotsubo Registry. Eur J Heart Fail. 2017;19:1036-42.

Muratsu A, Muroya T, Kuwagat Y. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy in the intensive care unit. Acute Med Surg. 2019;6(2):152-7.

Nunez-Gil IJ, Almendro-Delia M, Andres M, et al. Secondary forms of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy: A whole different prognosis. Euro Heart J. 2016;5(4):308-16

Episode 1: Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infection

A troubling case of a painful finger.