Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 057

Just when you thought your brain could unwind on a Friday, you realise that it would rather be challenged with some good old fashioned medical trivia FFFF, introducing the Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 057

Question 1

Why is the equation (age/4)+4 worth remembering?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Most people will know this equation as a guide to choosing the size of an uncuffed endotracheal tube in children. But it can be used for so much more:

  • it is also a guide to the expected A-a gradient in adults.
  • subtract 1 and you have the size of a cuffed ETT in children (some suggest subtracting 0.5, or using (age/3)+3 instead).
  • multiply by 2 and you have the size of an indwelling catheter in children.
  • multiply by 3 and you have the appropriate length at the teeth of an ETT in children (an alternative is to use (age/2)+12).
  • multiply by 4 and you have the appropriate size of an intercostal catheter in children.

Funtabulous, eh!


Question 2

How can you calculate the A-a gradient at a glance of an ABG?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Just get really fast at using the equation: PAO2-PaO2 = (FiO2 x (PB – PH2O) – (1.25 x PCO2)) – PaO2 … yeah right.

You can quickly estimate the expected alveolar PO2 by using the equation: PAO2 = FiO2 x 500.

For instance, at sea level breathing air (21% oxygen), a person with normal lungs should have a PAO2 of 0.21 x 500, which is approximately 100 mmHg. To get the A-a gradient you just subtract the measured PaO2 from it.

But, what’s a normal A-a gradient? (see Q1 if you’ve already forgotten!)


Question 3

How can you easily remember the expected HCO3 in acutely and chronically compensated respiratory acidosis or alkalosis?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Can you count 1-2-3-4-5? Can you put these numbers in 4 squares of a four square grid, with a 3 sitting on top? Can you remember that left is acute and chronic is right? Can you remember that the top row means the numbers go up, and the bottom row means the numbers go down? If so, then you can easily tell if there is appropriate metabolic compensation for a primary respiratory problem.

When you look at a gas either draw this little grid or visualise it with your mind’s eye:

For instance, if PaCO2 is 50 mmHg, that’s an increase of 10 mmHg from normal (PaCO2 40 mmHg). Thus in acute metabolic compensation the HCO3 should increase by 1 mmol/L from normal (HCO3 25 mmol/L) to 26 mmol/L, and in chronic compensation it should increase by 4 mmol/L from normal to 29 mmol/L.

Using the 4 square grid helps you remember which numbers correspond to what (acute comes before chronic, left before right), and whether they go up (top row) or down (bottom row).


Question 4

How can 4 rules help you localise the lesion in patient with a possible brainstem lesion?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Gates’ Brainstem Rule of Fours is handy way of localising a lesion. The key things to know are:

  1. There are 4 structures in the ‘midline‘ beginning with M
  2. There are 4 structures to the ‘side‘ (lateral) beginning with S
  3. There are 4 cranial nerves in the medulla, 4 in the pons and 4 above the pons (2 in the midbrain)
  4. The 4 motor nuclei that are in the midline are those that divide equally into 12 except for 1 and 2, that is 3, 4, 6 and 12
    (5, 7, 9 and 11 are in the lateral brainstem)

The 4 medial structures and the associated deficits are:

  1. Motor pathway (or corticospinal tract):
    contralateral weakness of the arm and leg
  2. Medial Lemniscus:
    contralateral loss of vibration and proprioception in the arm and leg
  3. Medial longitudinal fasciculus:
    ipsilateral inter-nuclear ophthalmoplegia
    (failure of adduction of the ipsilateral eye towards the nose and nystagmus in the opposite eye as it looks laterally)
  4. Motor nucleus and nerve:
    ipsilateral loss of the cranial nerve that is affected (3, 4, 6 or 12)

The 4 ‘side’ (lateral) structures and the associated deficits are:

  1. Spinocerebellar pathway:
    ipsilateral ataxia of the arm and leg
  2. Spinothalamic pathway:
    contralateral alteration of pain and temperature affecting the arm, leg and rarely the trunk
  3. Sensory nucleus of the 5th cranial nerve:
    ipsilateral alteration of pain and temperature on the face in the distribution
    of the 5th cranial nerve
    (this nucleus is a long vertical structure that extends in the lateral aspect of the pons down into the medulla)
  4. Sympathetic pathway:
    ipsilateral Homer’s syndrome, that is partial ptosis and a small pupil (miosis)

According to Gates:

These pathways pass through the entire length of the brainstem and can be likened to ‘meridians of longitude‘ whereas the various cranial nerves can be regarded as ‘parallels of latitude‘. If you establish where the meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude intersect then you have established the site of the lesion.

For a fuller explanation check out the Brainstem Rules of 4 before testing yourself with Using the Brainstem 1 and Using the Brainstem 2.


Question 5

What is an easy way to remember how much to increase the sodium by, and how much hypertonic saline to give, in a patient with symptomatic severe hyponatremia?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Remember two things:

  • the rule of Sixes
  • the rule of Threes

The rule of Sixes:

  • aim for a maximum increase in sodium of 6 mmol/L over 6 hours in the symptomatic severe hyponatremic patient.
  • in chronic hyponatremia, 6 mmol/L in the first 24 hours is a safe maximum increase to avoid osmotic demyelination syndrome — no further increase is necessary if the 6 hour target is met.

The rule of Threes:

  • treat the symptomatic severe hyponatremic patient with 3mL/kg of 3% NaCl over 30 mins.
  • This should raise Na by about 4 mmol/L – if the patient gets better (e.g. mental state returns to normal), stop the infusion!

Check out EMCrit Podcast 39 — Hyponatremia for more sensational saltiness.


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Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five

Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also the Innovation Lead for the Australian Centre for Health Innovation at Alfred Health and Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of two amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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