WAS JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA’S DEATH FROM OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was unexpected. I’ve never examined Justice Scalia, never had access to his medical records, and have no information other than what has been published over the Internet regarding the events of the last 24 hours of his life. According to published news reports, APNewsBreak: Justice Scalia Suffered From Many Health Problems, the Justice suffered from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hypertension.

220px-antonin_scalia_scotus_photo_portrait

As an experienced anesthesiologist, I’ve personally watched over 25,000 patients sleep during my career. Thousands of these patients carried the diagnosis of OSA. I’ve witnessed first hand what happens when a patient with OSA obstructs their airway and stops breathing during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition of cyclic obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, usually combined with excessive daytime sleepiness and loud snoring.Apnea is the medical word for the suspension or stopping of breathing. Observation of at least five obstructive events (apneic events) per hour of sleep during a formal sleep study is a minimal criterion for diagnosing OSA in adults.

Let’s discuss a hypothetical male patient. He is 79 years old, overweight, and has a thick neck. Perhaps he is a Supreme Court Justice, and perhaps he is not. Because of his age and his body habitus, he’s at risk for the diagnosis of OSA, but we have no knowledge of any sleep study to document this.

We’re going to sedate this patient for a medical procedure. Intravenous sedative drugs will include some combination of a benzodiazepine such as Versed, a narcotic such as fentanyl, and a hypnotic such as propofol. The procedure does not require a breathing tube, so we’ll administer the sedation and be vigilant regarding what happens to the patient’s vital signs. As with all anesthetics, the patient will be fully monitored for heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, respiratory rate, and exhaled carbon dioxide level.

This is what happens when we administer strong sedatives to this hypothetical male patient who is 79 years old, overweight, and who has a thick neck:

  1. With the onset of sleep, the rate of breathing becomes slower and the volume of each breath decreases.
  2. Because of the decrease in ventilation, the oxygen saturation level will drop.
  3. As anesthesiologists, we administer oxygen via nasal cannula or via a mask, and the oxygen saturation will increase to a safe level again.
  4. If we progress to administering deeper sedation, the patient’s airway will obstruct. Typically this occurs because the base of the tongue drops back and occludes the airway, or redundant tissue in the oral pharynx relaxes and occludes the airway. With partial obstruction, we hear the patient snore, but ventilation continues. With total obstruction, the patient’s chest moves in an attempt to draw in a breath, but there is no ventilation through the obstructed upper airway.
  5. If this airway obstruction is not remedied, the oxygen saturation will drop below a safe level of 90%. At these low blood oxygen levels, the brain and heart will be deprived of necessary oxygen. A prolonged low blood oxygen level can lead to life threatening cardiac dysrhythmias or a cardiac arrest.
  6. With a physician anesthesiologist present, the airway obstruction is relieved by applying a jaw lift, extending the patient’s neck, inserting an oral airway, or inserting an airway tube.
  7. Without an anesthesiologist present, the patient could die.

In a related scenario, what if our hypothetical male patient who is 79 years old, overweight, and who has a thick neck doesn’t have medical sedation, but rather has a long busy day at 4,400 feet of altitude, and perhaps consumes alcohol with its attendant sedative effects, along with perhaps a sleeping pill or an oral narcotic analgesic taken to relieve the symptoms of a painful shoulder ailment? All of these factors (fatigue, altitude, alcohol, medications) serve to make a patient more sedated. Heavy sleep accompanied by snoring ensues. The partial airway obstruction of snoring progresses to the total airway obstruction of obstructive sleep apnea. The blood oxygen level drops, the heart is denied adequate oxygen delivery, and the patient suffers a cardiac arrhythmia and then a cardiac arrest.

Is this a “heart attack?”

Every one of us will die one day, and every one of our deaths will be accompanied by a heart that ceases to beat. The cause of the “heart attack” will differ for each of us. If someone has significant narrowing of a major coronary artery and attempts to run up a mountain, this event may increase the oxygen demand of the heart and precipitate a lethal heart rhythm. When a hypothetical male patient who is 79 years old, overweight, and who has a thick neck dies in the middle of the night, you can bet the cessation of the heart beat was due to airway obstruction and inadequate oxygen to the heart.

According to APNewsBreak, on the morning the Justice was found dead “a breathing apparatus was found on the night stand next to Scalia’s bed when his body was found, but he was not hooked up to it and it was not turned on.” Most likely this was a CPAP machine, or a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine. A CPAP machine includes a mask which the patient straps over their nose or over their nose and mouth prior to going to sleep. The CPAP machine delivers a stream of compressed air via a hose to the nose mask or the full-face mask, splinting the airway to keep it open under air pressure so unobstructed breathing becomes possible. The main problem with a CPAP machine is non-compliance, that is, the patient refuses to wear it. This was seemingly the case with Justice Scalia’s last night.

A take home message from this column is to respect the specter of OSA in your own life and in the lives of your loved ones. If you are a physician, respect the specter of OSA in your patients. Persons with an increased risk of OSA include people older than 60 years of age, patients with hypertension, prior strokes, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, obesity, or the metabolic syndrome including hyperlipidemia and diabetes. The most common symptoms are excessive daytime sleepiness and loud snoring. Persons who fit this profile should undergo a formal sleep study to screen for OSA. Most formal sleep studies require overnight monitoring of breathing patterns and oxygen saturation. The studies are not cheap, so screening every elderly obese snorer in America would be expensive. However, a diagnosis of OSA can lead to a cascade of effective therapies, including:  1) an oral orthodontic appliance to keep the jaw advanced, or 2) a continuous positive airway pressure machine to be worn while sleeping, or 3) airway surgeries on the palate, uvula, mandible, and/or maxilla, or 4) aggressive treatment of the OSA comorbidities of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that 25 million Americans may have OSA, and up to 90 percent of these patients are undiagnosed.

Questions will continue to swirl around the circumstances of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. Was there a pillow over his head, as was first described by John Poindexter, the owner of the ranch who first discovered Scalia’s body? Were sedating medications or alcohol present in his bloodstream? Why did Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounce Scalia dead of natural causes without even seeing the body? Why was no autopsy ordered? Was the Justice murdered, as if this was the plot of some John Grisham legal thriller?

We may never know the answers to these questions, but query most any anesthesiologist about the likelihood that OSA was involved in the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and the answer you will get is . . .

“Yes, with a high degree of medical probability, obstructive sleep apnea is what killed Justice Antonin Scalia.”

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

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Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

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PEDIATRIC ANESTHESIA: WHO IS ANESTHETIZING YOUR CHILD?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

Your 4-year-old son Jake is scheduled for a tonsillectomy next Friday morning.  Who will do Jake’s anesthesia, and how will the anesthesia care be done?

Jake may or may not be diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), based on his history of snoring.  Most children who snore and have enlarged tonsils are not subjected to a formal sleep study.  In a formal sleep study, doctors attach monitors such as pulse oximeters and apnea monitors to the child during a night’s sleep, to determine how often the child stops breathing during sleep and how low the oxygen level in his or her arterial blood drops during disordered sleep.  A sleep study is commonly done for adults with suspected OSA, but  not commonly ordered in children.

The decision to excise tonsils in pediatric patients is a clinical decision, based on the judgment of the pediatrician and ENT surgeon.  The surgery can be scheduled at a community hospital, a university hospital, a pediatric hospital, an ambulatory surgery center, or a freestanding ambulatory surgery center.  The nature of the anesthesia personnel can vary significantly depending on which type of facility the surgery is scheduled at.

In a community hospital, the anesthesia staff will be medical doctors (anesthesiologists), and/or nurse anesthetists (CRNA’s).  The anesthesiologists may or may not be pediatric specialists, but all anesthesiologists receive training in anesthetizing children.  Most likely, the ENT surgeon operates with an anesthesia team he or she is comfortable with, and this anesthesia team is comfortable anesthetizing children for a routine, elective surgery like tonsillectomy.  At a community hospital, it is possible but unlikely that the anesthesiologist will have completed extra years of training in pediatric anesthesia called a pediatric anesthesia fellowship.

In a university hospital, the anesthesia staff will include anesthesiologist faculty and also anesthesiologist residents and fellows who are in training.  The anesthesia care is directed or performed by a faculty member.  The actual hands-on anesthesia care, such as the placement of breathing tubes and IV catheters, is usually done by the residents and fellows, who are in the midst of their training.  An advantage of university hospitals is that pediatric anesthesia specialists are plentiful.  A disadvantage is that the anesthesia care is usually done by the trainee anesthesiologists who are supervised by these specialists.  At times, one faculty anesthesiologist may be supervising trainee anesthesiologists in two separate operating rooms for two separate surgeries concurrently.

In a pediatric hospital, the anesthesia care will be done by specialty pediatric anesthesiologists.  However, if the pediatric hospital is a university pediatric hospital, all the analysis in the preceding paragraph pertaining to university hospitals will apply.

An ambulatory surgery center (ASC) is a set of surgical suites that is designed to take care of outpatient surgeries, and designed to send the patient home directly from the ASC after recovery from surgery and anesthesia.  Most tonsillectomies are done as outpatient surgeries, and therefore many tonsillectomy patients are operated on in an ASC.  If the ASC is located inside a hospital, the anesthesia care will follow the analysis of community, university, and pediatric hospitals as discussed in the paragraphs above.  Many ASC’s are freestanding–that is, they are not on site in a hospital.  Many are located miles away from hospitals.  It is commonplace in the United States for tonsillectomies to be safely done in freestanding ASC’s.  The anesthesia care in most freestanding ASC’s will be anesthesiologists and/or nurse anesthetists, and once again the ENT surgeon will select an anesthesia provider he or she feels will provide safe care for his patient.

Some anesthesia teams prefer to meet and interview their patients days before surgery.  For a routine surgery such as tonsillectomy, it is common for the family to not meet the anesthesiologist until the day of surgery shortly before the procedure.  Some anesthesiologists will telephone the parent(s) the night before surgery to interview them and provide a preview of what to expect on the day of surgery.

The actual anesthesia care will typically follow this scenario:  Most practitioners will premedicate the child with oral midazolam (Versed) 20 minutes before the surgery.  This medication will make the child sleepy and relaxed, and calm the patient through the time when they separate from their parent(s).  Most facilities in the United States will not allow parents into the operating room.  Inside the operating room, the anesthesiologist will apply standard monitors of oxygen level, pulse, and blood pressure, and induce anesthesia by having the child breath the anesthesia gas sevoflurane through a mask.  Once the child is asleep, the anesthesiologist will place an IV in the child’s arm and a breathing tube in the child’s airway.  After the surgery is completed, the anesthesiologist will discontinue the anesthetics, awaken the child, and remove the breathing tube.  He or she will accompany the child to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) and turn over the care of the child to a nurse there.

Is it safer if your child has a pediatric anesthesiologist, rather than a general practitioner anesthesiologist who takes care of both adults and children?  It depends.  It’s important to ask how often the practitioner anesthetizes children.  Someone who rarely anesthetizes a child under 6 years of age will be less comfortable with such a case, and may be less skillful in dealing with a complication or emergency should one occur.

Is it safer if your child has a fully-trained anesthesiologist rather than an anesthesia trainee/faculty team such as at a university hospital program?  Once again, it depends.  It depends on how much of the care is done by the trainee, and how intensive the faculty supervision is, as compared to an alternative facility where a fully-trained anesthesiologist stays present throughout the entire surgery.

At a community hospital or ASC, it is uncommon to have multiple specialist anesthesiologists on call each day, e.g. one for pediatrics, one for cardiac cases, one for trauma, one for obstetrics, and others for the general operating rooms.  Instead, general anesthesia practitioners cover many or all specialties.  If an anesthesiologist is not comfortable with an individual case, they can seek out a better trained anesthesiologist to cover the case, if such an anesthesiologist is available.  The trend for having a specialist anesthesiologist for every type of case is a difficult one to staff.  The goal at a community hospital is to assure that the standard of anesthesia care can be met with the physicians who are on staff and available.

In my opinion, neonates and  young infants should be cared for by  anesthesiologists with specialized pediatric training.  Whether specialized training should be mandated for children older than infants is debatable.  Policies to define a minimum age limit for patients of general anesthesiologists may be a hot topic in the future.

In the meantime, I recommend you ask your child’s anesthetist:  1) who is doing the actual anesthesia care today, a fully-trained anesthesia doctor, a doctor-in-training, or a nurse anesthetist?  2) how much training does the anesthetist have with children Jake’s age? and 3) how many children of Jake’s age have they anesthetized for a similar surgery in the past 12 months?  If you are uncomfortable with any of the answers, find another place for Jake to have his surgery.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at ricknovak.com by clicking on the picture below:  

DSC04882_edited

 

 

EMERGENCY AIRWAY BLEEDING AFTER SLEEP APNEA SURGERY

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

Clinical Case for Discussion:   You are called at 0200 hours  to anesthetize a 50-year-old man who is bleeding from his palate.  He is 14 hours status-post  a uvulopalatopharyngeoplasty (UPPP) for sleep apnea.  He is 6 feet tall, weighs 200 pounds, and  he is spitting up blood.  What do you do?

Discussion:   You meet the patient in the ICU.  He is sitting up in bed,  spitting out small amounts of blood and swallowing the rest.  He has been bleeding for four hours, and the total volume of blood seen has been less than a cup.   Vital signs are:  pulse 100, blood pressure 160/90, and oxygen saturation 97% on room air.  The airway exam reveals dried blood on the mouth and tongue, moderate edema of the  pharynx, tongue, and mucous membranes, and no bleeding point is seen.  Review of the chart reveals that your partner intubated the trachea with a Miller #2 blade without difficulty that morning for elective surgery. The surgeon wants the patient asleep as soon as possible.  You transport the patient to the operating room, and have him breath 100% oxygen through a mask while you prepare for the anesthetic.

The A-B-C’s of Airway-Breathing-Circulation dictate that the Airway is the most important factor to consider in this case.   You have the principles of the ASA Difficult Airway Algorithm (see http://www.ASAhq.org) committed to memory.  You plan a strategy for the airway management.  Per the Algorithm, you begin by assessing the likelihood of four basic problems:  1) Difficult ventilation, 2) Difficult intubation, 3) Difficulty with patient cooperation, and 4) Difficult tracheostomy.   You assess that you will be able to mask ventilate this patient, but there is some chance that the blood and edema will make intubation difficult.  You also consider that blood and edema could make both mask ventilation and intubation difficult.  Patient cooperation is adequate, and the surgeon states that he would not have difficulty doing a tracheostomy or cricothyroidotomy.

Next you consider the choices of:   a) awake intubation vs. inducing general anesthesia first, b) use of non-invasive techniques as the initial approach to intubation vs. surgical techniques like tracheostomy, and c) preservation of spontaneous ventilation during intubation attempts vs. ablation of spontaneous ventilation.

Your assessment is that awake fiber optic intubation would be difficult secondary to the active airway bleeding.  Blind awake nasal intubation is a possibility, but looking at the patient, you make a different choice.   You are confident that you can induce general anesthesia, use cricoid pressure, paralyze the patient, and intubate the trachea using a Miller #2 blade as your partner did the previous morning.  If you have difficulty seeing the larynx, you will use a Yankauer suction to clear blood, try alternate laryngoscope blades, and support oxygenation by mask ventilation while cricoid pressure is continued. You may utilize other options as necessary, including a bougie or a light wand.  If ventilation becomes difficult, you will insert an LMA.  If ventilation becomes impossible, the surgeon will perform an emergency surgical airway.

You need an assigned individual to assist you during your airway management.  Because there is no other anesthesiologist in the hospital, your otolaryngology colleague is the obvious assistant.   Before you induce anesthesia, you bring the difficult airway cart into the operating room, as well as a tracheostomy tray for the surgeon.

You discuss this plan with the surgeon.  After  preoxygenation, you induce anesthesia with propofol and succinylcholine.  Cricoid pressure is applied.  When you insert the  laryngoscope  into the mouth, all you see is blood, swollen tissues, and no view of the larynx.  Your next action is aggressive suctioning with a Yankauer catheter, and after repositioning the laryngoscope, you are able to see the larynx.  The tracheal tube is placed, the cuff is inflated, and its location confirmed by CO2 and auscultation.  You recheck vital signs, begin  maintenance anesthesia with sevoflurane, and the surgery begins.

I had a case of this type twice in the last 5 months.  Both cases were effective in raising the endogenous catecholamine level of this anesthesiologist.   Both were good exercises in planning airway management.  The most striking characteristic of each case was the amount of blood in the airway when I inserted the laryngoscope.  The Yankauer suction catheter was essential, and I recommend inserting it immediately after inserting the laryngoscope.

The literature documents the prevalence of bleeding after UPPP as 1.4% (Mickelson SA, Is Postoperative Intensive Care Monitoring Necessary After UPPP?, Otol Head Neck Surg 1998 Oct, 119(4) 352-6.)   The bleeding patient post-tonsillectomy is a similar presentation.  Miller (Anesthesia, 2000, p 2188) writes “The incidence of post-tonsillectomy bleeding that requires surgery is 0.3 to 0.6 %. . . The extent of blood loss may not be obvious and is usually underestimated. . . Most problems before induction of anesthesia for bleeding tonsil are caused by unsuspected hypovolemia, full stomach, and airway obstruction. . . At induction of anesthesia, an additional person should be available to provide good suctioning of blood.  A rapid-sequence induction of anesthesia with application of cricoid pressure and slight head-down positioning of the patient will protect the trachea and glottis from aspiration of blood.”

The ASA Difficult Airway Algorithm. . . learn it well, and be prepared to apply it in the middle of the night.  Your heart rate may be faster than the patient’s.

Introducing …,  THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel. Publication date September 9, 2014 by Pegasus Books.

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at ricknovak.com by clicking on the picture below:  

DSC04882_edited

 

 

STOP-BANG AND OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA IN A FREESTANDING SURGERY CENTER

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

Airway obstruction at the base of the tongue in a patient with obstructive sleep apnea

Clinical Case for Discussion: You’re the anesthesiologist for a 51-year-old man scheduled for arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery at a freestanding surgery center.  His wife volunteers that the patient is a loud snorer.  The patient denies ever being diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.  Should you proceed with the surgery?  Can the patient safely be discharged home after surgery at a freestanding facility ?  What would you do?

You discuss the case with an anesthesia colleague.  She recommends you utilize a STOP-BANG questionnaire on the patient.  What is she talking about?

Discussion: Frequent snoring is present in 34% of men and women over the age of 40. (Baldwin, et al, Sleep disturbances, quality of life, and ethnicity: the sleep heart health study, J Clin Sleep Med. 2010 Apr 15;6(2):176-83).  Does any physician ever cancel a surgery at a freestanding surgery center because the patient is a snorer?  Should we?  Is there any data?

STOP-BANG may sound like a title from the next James Bond movie, but it has nothing to do with spies, guns, or crime.  STOP-BANG is a tool for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common comorbidity in surgical populations. It’s estimated that approximately 4% of men and 2% of women, 18 million Americans overall, have OSA (Miller’s Anesthesia, 2010, p 2776). An estimated 82% of men and 92% of women with moderate or severe sleep apnea have not been diagnosed (Chung F, Elsaid H, Screening for obstructive sleep apnea before surgery: why is it important? Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2009 Jun;22(3):405-11). Patients with OSA are at higher risk for post-operative respiratory arrest (Cullen DJ: Obstructive sleep apnea and postoperative analgesia—a potentially dangerous combination. J Clin Anesth  2001; 13:83).

OSA is defined as complete cessation of airflow during breathing lasting 10 seconds or longer despite maintenance of neuromuscular ventilatory effort, and occurring five or more times per hour of sleep, accompanied by a decrease of at least 4% in Sao2. (Miller’s Anesthesia, 2010, p 2092). The gold standard for diagnosis is an overnight sleep study, or polysomnography, which is both expensive and resource-intensive. The results of polysomnography are reported as the apnea/hypopnea index (AHI).  The AHI is derived from the total number of episodes of apnea and hypopnea divided by the total sleep time.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine classifies the disease as follows:

Mild OSA = AHI of 5 to 15 events per hour

Moderate OSA = of 15 to 30 events per hour

Severe OSA = AHI of greater than 30 events per hour

The STOP questionnaire was first published in Anesthesiology in 2008, where it was validated in surgical patients at preoperative clinics as a screening tool. (Chung F, et al. STOP questionnaire: a tool to screen patients for obstructive sleep apnea. Anesthesiology. 2008 May;108(5):812-21).

The STOP questionnaire queried patients on:

(S) Snoring: Do you snore loudly (loud enough to be heard through closed doors?”

(T) Tired:  Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during daytime?

(O) Observed:  Has anyone observed you stop breathing during sleep?

(P) Blood Pressure:  Do you have high blood pressure?

A patient with a STOP score of 2 out of 4 was considered at high risk for OSA.  Patients’ scores from the STOP questionnaire were evaluated versus his or her AHI total from polysomnography. In Chung’s study, the STOP questionnaire was given to 2,467 patients, and 211 of these patients underwent polysomnography. The sensitivities of the STOP questionnaire in identifying patients with an AHI greater than 5, greater than 15, and greater than 30 were 65.6, 74.3, and 79.5%, respectively.

In the same study, the STOP questionnaire was expanded into a STOP-BANG questionnaire, which also queried patients on:

(B) Body mass index>35 kg/m2?

(A) Age>50?

(N) Neck circumference >40 cm (15 ¾ inches)?

(G) Gender=male?

With the added four questions, a patient with a score of 3 out of the possible 8 was considered at high risk for OSA. With STOP-BANG, sensitivities in identifying patients with an AHI greater than 5, greater than 15, and greater than 30 were increased to 83.6, 92.9, and 100%.

In a recent study, (Ong TH, et al, Simplifying STOP-BANG: use of a simple questionnaire to screen for OSA in an Asian population. Sleep Breath. 2010 Apr 26), 348 patients undergoing polysomnography were asked to fill in the 8-question STOP-BANG questionnaire. The sensitivities of the STOP-BANG screening tool for an AHI of >5, >15, and >30 were 86.1%, 92.8%, and 95.6%, respectively.

Thus STOP-BANG has been validated as a tool with high sensitivity that can be used to screen patients for moderate and severe OSA.  As a clinician, what do you do with the STOP-BANG information?

You ask your shoulder arthroscopy patient the 8 STOP-GANG questions, and he scores 1 point for snoring, 1 point for age>50, and 1 point for male gender.  These results qualify him for a possible diagnosis of OSA.  Will you still anesthetize him for this outpatient surgery?

The most useful reference to answer this question is the ASA Practice Guidelines for the Perioperative Management of Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (Anesthesiology 2006; 104:1081–93).  If a sleep study is available, the Practice Guidelines feature an OSA Scoring System which scores on three criteria:  (A) the severity of sleep apnea, (B) the invasiveness of the surgery and anesthesia, and (C) the requirement for post-operative opioids.  Per this OSA Scoring System, our shoulder arthroscopy patient scores (A) 2 points for presumed moderate OSA, (B)  2 points for peripheral surgery with general anesthesia, and (C) 2 points for possible high doses of oral or parenteral opioids post-op.  His OSA Score is the total of (A) and the higher of (B) or (C), or 2 + 2 = 4 points.  The Practice Guidelines state that, “Patients with a score of 4 may be at increased perioperative risk from OSA.”

The Practice Guidelines state that for “minor orthopedic surgery/general anesthesia” on patients suspected of having OSA, the decision to discharge the patient home after outpatient surgery is “equivocal,” as there is no convincing data advising one way or another.  The Practice Guidelines also state that “these patients should not be discharged from the recovery area to an unmonitored setting (i.e., home or unmonitored hospital bed) until they are no longer at risk for postoperative respiratory depression, . . . and may require a longer stay as compared with non-OSA patients undergoing similar procedures.”

The Practice Guidelines suggest regional techniques rather than systemic post-operative opioids, in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of adverse outcomes in patients at increased perioperative risk from OSA.

So what do you do?

You go ahead and anesthetize the patient.  If you’re comfortable with upper extremity regional blocks, you may utilize this technique in your anesthetic.  In any case, you’ll use your excellent judgment to delay discharge until the patient looks safe to be discharged home.  If his oxygen saturation, airway status, or opioid requirements are unsatisfactory, you’ll transfer him to a hospital for overnight stay.

With STOP-BANG or without STOP-BANG, your clinical judgment . . . based on your training . . . will still be your most valuable tool.

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

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Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at ricknovak.com by clicking on the picture below:  

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