Tag Archives: acute medicine


Potassium levels and AMI death

An association is demonstrated between abnormal (both high and low) serum potassium levels and in-hospital mortality in patients with acute myocardial infarction. These findings do not necessarily imply a causal relationship, since abnormal potassium levels might be a marker of increased risk of death due to other illness factors rather than a risk of death per se.

Acknowledging that a randomised trial of potassium replacement is unlikely to happen, the authors pragmatically advise:

Our data suggest that the optimal range of serum potassium levels in AMI patients may be between 3.5 and 4.5 mEq/L and that potassium levels of greater than 4.5 mEq/L are associated with increased mortality and should probably be avoided.



Context Clinical practice guidelines recommend maintaining serum potassium levels between 4.0 and 5.0 mEq/L in patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI). These guidelines are based on small studies that associated low potassium levels with ventricular arrhythmias in the pre−β-blocker and prereperfusion era. Current studies examining the relationship between potassium levels and mortality in AMI patients are lacking.


Objective To determine the relationship between serum potassium levels and in-hospital mortality in AMI patients in the era of β-blocker and reperfusion therapy.


Design, Setting, and Patients Retrospective cohort study using the Cerner Health Facts database, which included 38 689 patients with biomarker-confirmed AMI, admitted to 67 US hospitals between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2008. All patients had in-hospital serum potassium measurements and were categorized by mean postadmission serum potassium level (<3.0, 3.0-<3.5, 3.5-<4.0, 4.0-<4.5, 4.5-<5.0, 5.0-<5.5, and ≥5.5 mEq/L). Hierarchical logistic regression was used to determine the association between potassium levels and outcomes after adjusting for patient- and hospital-level factors.


Main Outcome Measures All-cause in-hospital mortality and the composite of ventricular fibrillation or cardiac arrest.


Results There was a U-shaped relationship between mean postadmission serum potassium level and in-hospital mortality that persisted after multivariable adjustment. Compared with the reference group of 3.5 to less than 4.0 mEq/L (mortality rate, 4.8%; 95% CI, 4.4%-5.2%), mortality was comparable for mean postadmission potassium of 4.0 to less than 4.5 mEq/L (5.0%; 95% CI, 4.7%-5.3%), multivariable-adjusted odds ratio (OR), 1.19 (95% CI, 1.04-1.36). Mortality was twice as great for potassium of 4.5 to less than 5.0 mEq/L (10.0%; 95% CI, 9.1%-10.9%; multivariable-adjusted OR, 1.99; 95% CI, 1.68-2.36), and even greater for higher potassium strata. Similarly, mortality rates were higher for potassium levels of less than 3.5 mEq/L. In contrast, rates of ventricular fibrillation or cardiac arrest were higher only among patients with potassium levels of less than 3.0 mEq/L and at levels of 5.0 mEq/L or greater.


Conclusion Among inpatients with AMI, the lowest mortality was observed in those with postadmission serum potassium levels between 3.5 and <4.5 mEq/L compared with those who had higher or lower potassium levels.


Serum Potassium Levels and Mortality in Acute Myocardial Infarction
JAMA Jan 11 2012,307(2):115-213

Enoxaparin in acute medical patients

A large multinational study challenges the practice of routine thromboprophylaxis for hospitalised acutely ill medical patients. Enoxaparin plus graduated compression stockings did not reduce 30 day mortality compared with stockings alone. There was no significant difference in the rates of major bleeding.



Background Although thromboprophylaxis reduces the incidence of venous thromboembolism in acutely ill medical patients, an associated reduction in the rate of death from any cause has not been shown.


Methods We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial to assess the effect of subcutaneous enoxaparin (40 mg daily) as compared with placebo — both administered for 10±4 days in patients who were wearing elastic stockings with graduated compression — on the rate of death from any cause among hospitalized, acutely ill medical patients at participating sites in China, India, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, and Tunisia. Inclusion criteria were an age of at least 40 years and hospitalization for acute decompensated heart failure, severe systemic infection with at least one risk factor for venous thromboembolism, or active cancer. The primary efficacy outcome was the rate of death from any cause at 30 days after randomization. The primary safety outcome was the rate of major bleeding during and up to 48 hours after the treatment period.


Results A total of 8307 patients were randomly assigned to receive enoxaparin plus elastic stockings with graduated compression (4171 patients) or placebo plus elastic stockings with graduated compression (4136 patients) and were included in the intention-to-treat population. The rate of death from any cause at day 30 was 4.9% in the enoxaparin group as compared with 4.8% in the placebo group (risk ratio, 1.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.8 to 1.2; P=0.83). The rate of major bleeding was 0.4% in the enoxaparin group and 0.3% in the placebo group (risk ratio, 1.4; 95% CI, 0.7 to 3.1; P=0.35).


Conclusions The use of enoxaparin plus elastic stockings with graduated compression, as compared with elastic stockings with graduated compression alone, was not associated with a reduction in the rate of death from any cause among hospitalized, acutely ill medical patients. (Funded by Sanofi; LIFENOX ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00622648.)


Low-Molecular-Weight Heparin and Mortality in Acutely Ill Medical Patients
N Engl J Med 2011; 365:2463-2472

TIA workup renders ABCD2 unhelpful

ABCD2 is recommended to stratify the risk of stroke in patients presenting to the ED with TIA symptoms. In some centres this is used to differentiate those that need to be admitted for further evaluation and treatment from those that can be followed up in the outpatient setting. A recent study showed that if a detailed work up was done in the ED on all TIA patients (followed by appropriate intervention), the ABCD2 score did not predict adverse outcomes, which were lower in this cohort than in the original ABCD2 cohort.

STUDY OBJECTIVE: We study the incremental value of the ABCD2 score in predicting short-term risk of ischemic stroke after thorough emergency department (ED) evaluation of transient ischemic attack.

METHODS: This was a prospective observational study of consecutive patients presenting to the ED with a transient ischemic attack. Patients underwent a full ED evaluation, including central nervous system and carotid artery imaging, after which ABCD2 scores and risk category were assigned. We evaluated correlations between risk categories and occurrence of subsequent ischemic stroke at 7 and 90 days.

RESULTS: The cohort consisted of 637 patients (47% women; mean age 73 years; SD 13 years). There were 15 strokes within 90 days after the index transient ischemic attack. At 7 days, the rate of stroke according to ABCD2 category in our cohort was 1.1% in the low-risk group, 0.3% in the intermediate-risk group, and 2.7% in the high-risk group. At 90 days, the rate of stroke in our ED cohort was 2.1% in the low-risk group, 2.1% in the intermediate-risk group, and 3.6% in the high-risk group. There was no relationship between ABCD2 score at presentation and subsequent stroke after transient ischemic attack at 7 or 90 days.

CONCLUSION: The ABCD2 score did not add incremental value beyond an ED evaluation that includes central nervous system and carotid artery imaging in the ability to risk-stratify patients with transient ischemic attack in our cohort. Practice approaches that include brain and carotid artery imaging do not benefit by the incremental addition of the ABCD2 score. In this population of transient ischemic attack patients, selected by emergency physicians for a rapid ED-based outpatient protocol that included early carotid imaging and treatment when appropriate, the rate of stroke was independent of ABCD2 stratification.

An Assessment of the Incremental Value of the ABCD2 Score in the Emergency Department Evaluation of Transient Ischemic Attack
Ann Emerg Med. 2011 Jan;57(1):46-51

MAU faster than wards, but slower than ED

In many UK  hospitals patients referred to hospital by their family doctors may bypass the emergency department (ED) and be admitted straight to admissions units, where additional staff duplicate the assessment and investigation that would have been done in the ED. The ED continues to see self-presenting and emergency ambulance cases as well as patients who ‘spill over’ when the admission units are full.

The effect of the introduction of a Medical Admissions Unit (MAU) on times to key interventions for four acute medical conditions was assessed. Interventions were delivered significantly faster in the ED than on the MAU, which in turn provided specific interventions faster than the general medical wards.

The authors rightly conclude that acute admissions should be assessed in a dedicated unit fit for purpose. It would appear from their data that if the purpose is timely intervention, then the ED is the most fit.

Improvement in time to treatment following establishment of a dedicated medical admissions unit
Emerg Med J. 2009 Dec;26(12):878-80