What is involved in medicines management across care boundaries?

Phipps, D.L. et al. (2017) BMJ Open. 7:e011765


Objectives: To examine the role of individual and collective cognitive work in managing medicines for acute kidney injury (AKI), this being an example of a clinical scenario that crosses the boundaries of care organisations and specialties.


Conclusions: These themes indicate the critical role of cognitive work on the part of healthcare practitioners, as individuals and as teams, in ensuring effective medicines management during AKI. Our findings suggest that the capabilities underlying this work, for example decision-making, communication and team coordination, should be the focus of training and work design interventions to improve medicines management for AKI or for other conditions.

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Acute liver failure: an up-to-date approach

Cardoso, F.P. et al. Journla of Critical Care. Published online: 19 January 2017

Image source: Spike Walker – Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Image shows light microscopy of liver blood vessels


  • Outcomes of patients with acute liver failure have been improving, but morbidity and mortality are still of concern.
  • Earlier recognition and referral to the intensive care unit have been important to improve these patients’ outcomes.
  • Intensive care management should take into consideration hepatic encephalopathy, cerebral edema and intracranial hypertension, hemodynamics, acute kidney injury, coagulopathy, and infection.
  • Selection of patients for liver transplantation has been based on prognostic scores (e.g. Kings’ College criteria) but limitations may apply.

Read the full abstract here

The management of pulmonary embolism

Lewis, J.E. & Pilcher, D.V. Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine. Published online: 19 January 2017

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a significant cause of hospitalization, morbidity and mortality and frequently triggers referral to critical care services. Critically ill patients are also at increased risk of developing venous thrombo-embolism (VTE) and acute PE.

Critical care clinicians should be confident in their approach to the patient with suspected and diagnosed PE. Furthermore, the co-morbid conditions in this patient group may present additional challenges both in diagnosis (e.g. safe access to radiology) and management (e.g. absolute and relative contraindications to anticoagulation/thrombolysis in critically ill patients).

This brief review summarizes the contemporary evidence base regarding both diagnosis and treatment strategies and draws upon this to suggest a simple algorithm for investigation, risk stratification and management, particularly tailored to patients within a critical care setting.

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Albumin administration for fluid resuscitation in burn patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis

This systematic review by Eliajek et al was published in the open access journal Burns.  The full text of this open access article is available to all via this link.

Objective:  The objective was to systematically review the literature summarizing the effect on mortality of albumin compared to non-albumin solutions during the fluid resuscitation phase of burn injured patients.

Data sources:  We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and CENTRAL and the content of two leading journals in burn care, Burns and Journal of Burn Care and Research.

Study selection:  Two reviewers independently selected randomized controlled trials comparing albumin vs. non-albumin solutions for the acute resuscitation of patients with >20% body surface area involvement.

Data extraction:  Reviewers abstracted data independently and assessed methodological quality of the included trials using predefined criteria.

Data synthesis:  A random effects model was used to assess mortality. We identified 164 trials of which, 4 trials involving 140 patients met our inclusion criteria. Overall, the methodological quality of the included trials was fair. We did not find a significant benefit of albumin solutions as resuscitation fluid on mortality in burn patients (relative risk (RR) 1.6; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.63–4.08). Total volume of fluid infusion during the phase of resuscitation was lower in patients receiving albumin containing solution −1.00 ml/kg/%TBSA (total body surface area) (95% CI, −1.42 to −0.58).

Conclusion:  The pooled estimate demonstrated a neutral effect on mortality in burn patients resuscitated acutely with albumin solutions. Due to limited evidence and uncertainty, an adequately powered, high quality trial could be required to assess the impact of albumin solutions on mortality in burn patients.

Use of noninvasive ventilation in immunocompromised patients with acute respiratory failure: a systematic review and meta-analysis

This multi-centred study by Aubron et al was published in Critical Care in December 2017.  The full text of this open access article is available to all via this link.

Background:  Acute respiratory failure (ARF) remains a common hazardous complication in immunocompromised patients and is associated with increased mortality rates when endotracheal intubation is needed. We aimed to evaluate the effect of early noninvasive ventilation (NIV) compared with oxygen therapy alone in this patient population.

Methods:  We searched for relevant studies in MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane database up to 25 July 2016. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included if they reported data on any of the predefined outcomes in immunocompromised patients managed with NIV or oxygen therapy alone. Results were expressed as risk ratio (RR) and mean difference (MD) with accompanying 95% confidence interval (CI).

Results:  Five RCTs with 592 patients were included. Early NIV significantly reduced short-term mortality (RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.40 to 0.97, p = 0.04) and intubation rate (RR 0.52, 95% CI 0.32 to 0.85, p = 0.01) when compared with oxygen therapy alone, with significant heterogeneity in these two outcomes between the pooled studies. In addition, early NIV was associated with a shorter length of ICU stay (MD −1.71 days, 95% CI −2.98 to 1.44, p = 0.008) but not long-term mortality (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.15, p = 0.46).

Conclusions:  The limited evidence indicates that early use of NIV could reduce short-term mortality in selected immunocompromised patients with ARF. Further studies are needed to identify in which selected patients NIV could be more beneficial, before wider application of this ventilator strategy.

Is platelet transfusion associated with hospital-acquired infections in critically ill patients?

This systematic review by Huang et al was published in Critical Care in December 2017.  The full text of this open access article is available to all via this link.

Background:  Platelets are commonly transfused to critically ill patients. Reports suggest an association between platelet transfusion and infection. However, there is no large study to have determined whether platelet transfusion in critically ill patients is associated with hospital-acquired infection.

Methods:  We conducted a multi-centre study using prospectively maintained databases of two large academic intensive care units (ICUs) in Australia. Characteristics of patients who received platelets in ICUs between 2008 and 2014 were compared to those of patients who did not receive platelets. Association between platelet administration and infection (bacteraemia and/or bacteriuria) was modelled using multiple logistic regression and Cox regression, with blood components as time-varying covariates. A propensity covariate adjustment was also performed to verify results.

Results:  Of the 18,965 patients included, 2250 (11.9%) received platelets in ICU with a median number of 1 platelet unit (IQR 1–3) administered. Patients who received platelets were more severely ill at ICU admission (mean Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation III score 65 (SD 29) vs 52 (SD 25), p < 0.01) and had more comorbidities (31% vs 19%, p < 0.01) than patients without platelet transfusion. Invasive mechanical ventilation (87% vs 57%, p < 0.01) and renal replacement therapy (20% vs 4%, p < 0.01) were more frequently administered in patients receiving platelets than in patients without platelets. On univariate analysis, platelet transfusion was associated with hospital-acquired infection in the ICU (7.7% vs 1.4%, p < 0.01). After adjusting for confounders, including other blood components administered, patient severity, centre, year, and diagnosis category, platelet transfusions were independently associated with infection (adjusted OR 2.56 95% CI 1.98–3.31, p < 0.001). This association was also found in survival analysis with blood components as time-varying covariates (adjusted HR 1.85, 95% CI 1.41–2.41, p < 0.001) and when only bacteraemia was considered (adjusted OR 3.30, 95% CI 2.30–4.74, p <0.001). Platelet transfusions remained associated with infection after propensity covariate adjustment.

Conclusions:  After adjustment for confounders, including patient severity and other blood components, platelet transfusion was independently associated with ICU-acquired infection. Further research aiming to better understand this association and to prevent this complication is warranted.

Use of Essential Oils Following Traumatic Burn Injury: A Case Study

Jopke, K. et al. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. Published online: January 14 2017



  • This study presents treatment and health outcomes of two children with similar histories of extensive burns.
  • In many health care settings, including post surgery, patients and families are supplementing care with essential oils.
  • Case B’s maternal grandmother supplemented her granddaughter’s care with essential oils.
  • Essential oils may inhibit microbial growth, support wound treatment and facilitate healing however, more research is needed.

Read the full abstract here

Hypothermia for Neuroprotection in Convulsive Status Epilepticus (HYBERNATUS Study)

nejmThis randomised controlled trial by Legriel et al was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December 2016.

Background; Convulsive status epilepticus often results in permanent neurologic impairment. We evaluated the effect of induced hypothermia on neurologic outcomes in patients with convulsive status epilepticus.
Methods:  In a multicenter trial, we randomly assigned 270 critically ill patients with convulsive status epilepticus who were receiving mechanical ventilation to hypothermia (32 to 34°C for 24 hours) in addition to standard care or to standard care alone; 268 patients were included in the analysis. The primary outcome was a good functional outcome at 90 days, defined as a Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score of 5 (range, 1 to 5, with 1 representing death and 5 representing no or minimal neurologic deficit). The main secondary outcomes were mortality at 90 days, progression to electroencephalographically (EEG) confirmed status epilepticus, refractory status epilepticus on day 1, “super-refractory” status epilepticus (resistant to general anesthesia), and functional sequelae on day 90.
Results:  A GOS score of 5 occurred in 67 of 138 patients (49%) in the hypothermia group and in 56 of 130 (43%) in the control group (adjusted common odds ratio, 1.22; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.75 to 1.99; P=0.43). The rate of progression to EEG-confirmed status epilepticus on the first day was lower in the hypothermia group than in the control group (11% vs. 22%; odds ratio, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.20 to 0.79; P=0.009), but there were no significant differences between groups in the other secondary outcomes. Adverse events were more frequent in the hypothermia group than in the control group.
Conclusions: In this trial, induced hypothermia added to standard care was not associated with significantly better 90-day outcomes than standard care alone in patients with convulsive status epilepticus.

The full text of the article is available to subscribers to this journal via this link.  The Library and Knowledge Service can obtain the full text of the article for registered members by requesting one via the library

Progesterone for acute traumatic brain injury

This systematic review by Ma et al was published in the Cochrane Library in December 2016.  The text below is the plain language summary with the full text available via this link.

Review question  To find out whether using the hormone progesterone to treat people who have had an injury to the head that caused brain damage (traumatic brain injury (TBI)) is helpful and safe, if given within 24 hours of the injury.
Background  TBI is one of the main causes of death and disability in people with injuries. Damage to the brain can start at the time of the injury, but can continue for days after the injury too. Progesterone is a hormone that some doctors think could be used as a potential medicine for reducing brain damage if given shortly after TBI. However, as there is uncertainty about the effectiveness of this hormone, it is important that we assess the evidence.
Study characteristics  We searched the medical literature widely for randomised controlled trials that investigated the effects of progesterone in people with TBI up to 30 September 2016. Randomised controlled trials provide the most robust medical evidence. .
Key results:  We included five studies with a total of 2392 participants, and identified three ongoing studies. The studies all compared a group of participants who received progesterone within 24 hours of TBI against a group who received a pretend – or dummy – medicine (known as a placebo) that looked the same as the progesterone.  The results of our review did not find evidence that, when compared to placebo, progesterone could reduce death and disability in people with TBI. There were too few data available on the other outcomes that we were interested in (pressure inside the skull (intracranial pressure), blood pressure, body temperature and adverse events (harms)), for us to be able to analyse these in detail. However, although the information available shows no evidence of a difference in effect between the progesterone and control groups for intracranial pressure, blood pressure or body temperature, one study showed an increased level of an adverse event called phlebitis (inflammation in the vein) in the progesterone group, possibly because the progestreone was given into the vein through an intravascular infusion (‘drip’).
Quality of the evidence  We judged the quality of the evidence to be low for the data on risk of death, and moderate for the data on risk of disability. These judgements resulted from differences across studies, including different doses of progesterone and different time points for assessment of participants in the included studies. This means that we have limited confidence in the conclusions of this review.

Oxygen therapy for acute myocardial infarction

cochrane-57-1This updated systematic review by Cabello et al was published in the Cochrane Library in December 2016.  The text below is the plain language summary with the full text available via this link.

Background  Many people who are having a heart attack are routinely given oxygen to breathe.
Review question  We looked for the evidence to support this longstanding practice by searching for randomised controlled trials that compared the outcomes for people given oxygen versus normal air to breathe. We were primarily interested in seeing whether there was a difference in the number of people who died, but we also looked at whether administering oxygen reduced pain or other adverse outcomes.
Key results  We found five randomised controlled trials that compared people with suspected or proven heart attack who were given oxygen to a similar group of people who were given air (evidence is current to June 2016). These trials involved a total of 1173 participants, 32 of whom died. There were similar death rates in both groups, suggesting oxygen neither helps nor harms, but the trials are not big enough to know for sure. Moreover, it is possible that more heart muscle might be damaged in people given oxygen than in people given air.
Conclusion  Since there is no evidence whether the oxygen is good or harmful in this clinical condition, it is important to test oxygen in a big trial as soon as possible to be sure that this common treatment is doing more good than harm in people who are having a heart attack.