Episode 63: Understanding dialysis, with Paul Adams

We dive into when to initiate renal replacement therapy, the modalities, settings, and physics involved, troubleshooting problems, and more, with Dr. Paul Adams, a dual-trained nephrologist and intensivist at the University of Kentucky.

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Takeaway lessons

  1. One of the better indications for early dialysis in the ICU patient is to control volume, which in an oliguric patient you know is likely to keep accumulating.
  2. Help determine who is likely to eventually need dialysis (and hence deciding early vs late, not early vs maybe never) with a furosemide stress test: give 1-1.5 mg/kg of furosemide (160 mg is often about right), then if they don’t make about 1 ml/kg/hr of urine for a few hours, they’re likely to end up needing renal replacement therapy.
  3. Realistically, most true indications for acute dialysis in the ICU are hyperkalemia, volume overload, or occasional toxicology.
  4. CRRT is generally more effective at volume management, particularly preemptive volume management, because it continues throughout the day and can more easily keep up with inputs. It is also more hemodynamically stable.
  5. CRRT can be done via CVVH (using convective flow to drag out fluid and solutes via pressure across a filter), CVVHD (using diffusion gradients to clear solute and fluid), or CVVHDF (using both). Which modality of CRRT is used tends to come down to institution and practitioner practice, although there are some clinical differences in amount of solute clearance and such.
  6. Effluent is the balanced electrolyte fluid which is used for therapy, and can be run into the blood before reaching the filter (diluting it and improving filter life, but decreasing efficiency), after reaching the filter (purely to replace what was lost), and on the other side of the filter (creating a dialysis effect). Total effluent rate gets divided among these sites as you like.
  7. UF (ultrafiltration) is essentially whatever fluid is lost that you’re not replacing.
  8. About 25–30 ml/kg/hr is usually about the right effluent rate. A higher rate helps make up for interruptions during the day.
  9. 150–250 ml/hr bloodflow is about right; it generally has relatively little effect on clearance in CRRT (unlike in intermittent HD, where it directly impacts clearance).
  10. Circuit life can be prolonged with anticoagulation. Heparin can be used either systemically or regionally (infused at the start of the circuit, then reversed at the end using protamine), or citrate can be used regionally (replaced with calcium at the end), although it requires close monitoring of ionized calcium levels (really the ratio between total and ionized calcium, since citrate-bound calcium still registers on total calcium assays; a total calcium more than 2-2.5x higher than ionized levels suggests citrate toxicity).
  11. 16–18 hours of CRRT is usually needed before you start to see an impact on serum solute levels. For critical levels like severe hyperkalemia, start with IHD instead to get a quick correction.
  12. Pressure problems at the dialysis access are almost always due to anatomic issues like catheter placement. Try adjusting the line, such as placing it deeper. Reducing bloodflow may help, using a different site, or rarely pharmacologically paralyzing the patient.
  13. Pressure problems at the filter (“transmembrane pressure” or TMP) are usually from clotting. Consider anticoagulation if not already being used, or pre-filter fluid. Inflammatory patients like in sepsis can have very dirty, clotty blood.
  14. If a patient starts making 600-1000ml of urine daily, consider weaning of renal replacement. That is not common in the critically ill, even if they eventually have later renal recovery; transition to IHD is more common.
  15. If volume inputs are still ample (many liters a day), it’ll be hard to keep up using IHD, since UF rates top out around a liter per hour. Stick with CRRT in that case.
  16. Rhabdomyolysis “disproportionately” increases BUN and creatinine, since those are products of muscle breakdown; they may have adequate renal function (demonstrated by robust urine output) despite high numbers.

TIRBO #39: 5 rules for clinical excellence

5 things you pretty much must be doing if you want to be excellent at critical care.

See also on the blog:

The ten laws of critical care

Practicing medicine like an adult

Lightning rounds #28: Online learning with Callie Tennyson

We chat with Callie Tennyson, DNP, ACNP-BC, AACC, CHSE, assistant professor from the Duke University School of Nursing, about the use of the internet and social media for medical education: trends, challenges, and principles for doing it right.

Episode 62: Running a cardiac arrest

Bryan puts Brandon through the paces, discussing the nuts and bolts of managing a code.

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Takeaway lessons

  1. Managing a room is less about asserting authority and more about leading by example. Cardiac arrest is a great microcosm and litmus test for your team dynamics for all resuscitation.
  2. Consider arterial lines early. IOs are usually fine for other access; central lines are rarely essential early.
  3. ACLS is fairly rote and can be easily delegated. The most important role of the team lead, other than assuring quality, is considering reversible causes of arrest.
  4. Consider calcium if hyperkalemia is possible and magnesium if there’s torsades.
  5. Use bedside ultrasound to rule out reversible causes like cardiac tamponade and tension pneumothorax, but don’t interrupt compressions.
  6. Once you have a pulse, expect to need continuous pressors, readdress your ABCs, ensure adequate monitoring, consider TTM, and consider reversible causes such as coronary ischemia.

Lightning rounds #27: Burnout and career satisfaction

We chat about why people get burned out in medicine, how to weigh the pros and cons of our work, and the right perspective on job satisfaction.

Episode 61: ECPR with Scott Weingart

We chat with Scott Weingart of Emcrit about the use of crash VA ECMO for the cardiac arrest patient.

Check out the REANIMATE course here!

Listen to the ED ECMO podcast on ECPR here

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Takeaway lessons

  1. ECPR candidacy may account for age, comorbidities, and code duration. Physiologic age is probably more important than chronological age. No-flow time without CPR should be very brief (witnessed is best), but low-flow time (with CPR) can actually be very long and still have good outcomes with ECPR. New systems should probably have stricter inclusion criteria, as numerous poor outcomes can endanger a fledgling program.
  2. The cause of arrest is usually not as important, partly because it’s often not known so early. ECPR can be a bridge to diagnosis and prognosis.
  3. One team should run the ACLS arrest while another handles the ECMO cannulation; it’s not possible to effectively do both. The cannulator should have their own ultrasound machine, and can function alone, although at least one skilled assistant is helpful. Mechanical CPR devices help by reducing energy in the room and reducing movement of the lower body; if not present, assign someone to manually stabilize the pelvis.
  4. Cannulation can be done by various services as long as they’re immediately available. Whoever it is should be comfortable using ultrasound. Cutdowns are probably not the preferred technique except in niche cases. A second service like CT surgery can arrive after a short delay to do the dilation and cannula placement if the in-department provider like EM or CCM can get initial access with smaller devices.
  5. Get ready by setting up equipment, position the ultrasound, and get sterile. As the patient arrives, have someone strip the clothes, expose the femoral region, and prep it, then get started with venous and arterial access.
  6. Vein vs artery cannot be distinguished without ultrasound, and can be difficult even with it. Don’t use anatomic location – use appearance. Arteries are thicker walled and small in cardiac arrest. TEE with a bicaval view to see your wire can be a huge help.
  7. The femoral artery should be accessed between the ligament and the bifurcation. Too high means RP bleeding risk; too low means potential for vessel damage. Similar for the venous access, although it’s more forgiving.
  8. Initially, place wires and then some kind of sheath, dilator, or line that will accept a larger, stiffer wire (Scott uses the Amplatz Superstiff). Going directly from needle to stiff wire is challenging and higher risk for vessel damage. This also means if you end up not proceeding to ECMO, you can just use the smaller sheaths for venous and arterial access.
  9. Even when a pulse returns, it’s often safer to proceed to ECMO in good candidates with a long arrest time. Supporting them through the next few days when they’re high risk of re-arrest, reperfusion injury, and other complications is likely to be safer than letting their heart do the work.
  10. Dilation for ECMO is similar to other dilation, just less forgiving. Follow the same consistent angle as the needlestick, constantly rack your wire, and consider dilating to a somewhat smaller cannula than in other VA ECMO situations, which is often tolerated post-arrest. Arterial cannulae of 17fr (women) to 19fr (men) or even smaller can achieve adequate flows, with venous cannulae of 19-23 Fr or even smaller.
  11. Goal: 5 minutes from first needlestick to active bypass.
  12. Ideally, one cannula per leg, but you can place both in the same side if needed. Certainly use the same side if using a cutdown.
  13. Venous cannula for the arrest patient should have the tip in the SVC (i.e. traversing the RA, not stopping before it). Use TEE to visualize this, or measure externally from groin to right nipple.
  14. Pumps can be pre-primed and sit waiting for 30-60 days in most cases; check manufacturer guidelines. Nurses can handle the pump with some extra training, at least for initial set-up, then transition care after 15 minutes or so to a perfusionist or ECMO-trained respiratory therapist.
  15. Pan-CT everyone. In fact, pan-CT all your cardiac arrests, as traumatic bleeding is common. Maybe do a coronary artery CT as well.
  16. Initial settings: 100% oxygen and titrate down quickly. Flow can be somewhat low compared to normal VA ECMO, allowing the native heart to keep some output and allowing smaller cannulas. Traditionally set sweep gas at roughly similar to bloodflow, but this tends to cause dramatic, rapid initial drops in PCO2, which may be harmful to a vulnerable brain; instead, start at a low sweep and gradually titrate it up.
  17. Do NOT prognosticate cardiac function early; recovery may happen late, and early withdrawal falsely affects your outcome figures from ECPR cases. The best numbers can only be achieved when the ECPR team continues to “own” the patient during their initial ICU course and doesn’t allow early withdrawal of ECMO.
  18. Neuroprognostication, conversely, tends to be easier; patients often stratify relatively early into clear good and bad outcomes. It should be established early on that families may want to pursue life support and that’s fine, but the team determines how long to continue ECMO, and it won’t be continued indefinitely.
  19. Economics: ECPR pump runs are short (<1 week usually), and reimbursement is all up front, so it actually pays well compared to many ECMO types, like long VV courses.
  20. The future: ideally, EMS would recognize good ECMO candidates and divert patients to ECPR centers. In rural areas, ED teams would be able to cannulate and start initially on ECMO, then transfer to larger referral centers.

TIRBO #35: Vent double-triggering

Understanding the causes of doubled vent breaths, including premature/short cycling and reverse triggering, plus a basic approach to managing them.