Thursday, October 19, 2017

Curved Surgical Instruments - What's the Deal?

One of the liberties of being "just a  scrub nurse" was the privilege of asking dumb, foolish questions. When there was a lull in surgical action such as waiting for a phone call from pathology or passing  time until an esoteric instrument was flashed,  the time was ripe to pose philosophical queries to the attending surgeon. Surgeons could come up with some convoluted answers to foolish  questions when they were caught off guard. Timing and delivery of the question was the key to obtaining an offbeat answer.

Here is a sampling of some questions I asked in a foolish attempt to resolve the greatest mysteries of the operating room; "Why do cloth shoe covers track blood on the floor a greater distance than new-fangled plastic disposable covers?...  How normal is 0.9 saline?... Can you sleep on a mattress suture?... and perhaps the ultimate question... "Why is the working end of many surgical instruments curved?"
Four lovely curved clamps in the foreground with the tips arching forward. A pair of straight Allis forceps, straight  hemostats, and a lone, proud Babcock sitting in the background. An obscure visual treasure of glimmering stainless steel enhanced with graceful arching curves, glowing in the brilliant overhead light of the tiled temple. The astounding beauty of those gracefully curved clamps surrounded by the deep sky blue surgical  towel is so easy to overlook while we live out our remaining days craving the cheap balm of a glowing screen. Hmm.. Maybe I could scrub for just one more case.😃

Here are some candid responses straight from the surgeon's masked mouth: "Instruments are curved to match the curve of the human hand....Because that is the way it's done Fool, now hand me a sponge stick and get back to work...There are no straight lines to be found in nature; that's why instruments are curved... Curved instruments have greater utility and are more useful."  That last answer probably made the most sense, but it's still not an elaborate rationale for instrument curves.

With the luxury of time to think about it and lots of experience watching curved instruments in action here is  my foolish explanation. When cutting with a straight bladed scissors the operators hand is directly in-line with the direction of the cut. This can obscure the view of the cutting activity. Curved scissors place the operating hand at a 30-45 degree angle (depending on the acuteness of the curve) to the area being cut, providing an unobscured view. Curved needle holders drivers as you whippersnapperrns call them, follow the same principle.

When using just about any hinged surgical instrument the opposable thumb is moved away from the index finger when spreading the jaws or blades, in the case of scissors.  It takes physical space to accommodate this thumb/index finger span. Curved instruments create an angle to move the hand above the area of work providing room for the necessary finger span. A long handled, curved instrument allows the surgeon to work in some very deep wounds such as encountered with obese patients.

Retractors have gracefully curved blades to distribute pressure over a wide area to minimize trauma. Wrapping those blades with saline soaked lap sponges helps too.  I believed that aggressive retraction caused as much trauma as any blade. Whenever a resident was pulling back so hard on a retractor that he assumed the position of a water skier, tissues were being stretched to the limit. Aggressive retraction always bugged me. Surgery should not resemble a taffy pull.

Old school nurses had the responsibility to ensure surgical instruments were in proper working order. If a surgeon encountered a  hemostat or needle driver with misaligned jaws, it was his prerogative to "fix" the offending instrument by opening it up and bending one arm up and the other down. Instruments that had been curved via this "repair" were rendered useless and thrown into the trash where they belonged. Curves, in this case, served to identify a non-functioning piece of equipment.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Friday the 13th Foreign Body Mishap??

What does this X-ray reveal?  Looks like the scrub
nurse was preoccupied by counting sponges and over-
looked keeping track of the instruments. That looks
just like a straight Mayo scissors at waist level

Foreign body false alarm. That's just an x-ray of a student
nurse in uniform toting scissors in the standard location.
When a snip was needed, student nurses could pull those
scissors out faster than an outlaw cowboy could draw a
six shooter.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Thorazine - An Old Fashioned Cure-All

Thorazine was thought of as a revolutionary breakthrough medication similar to Penicillin when the FDA approved it's use in the early 1950's. It was the very first psychiatric medication useful in the treatment of schizophrenia. Before Thorazine,  institutions used leather restraints, alternating cold and hot body packs and of course crude psychosurgery such as lobotomy.

In a bizzare side note Freud never received the Nobel prize for his work, but the fellow with that ice pick brain surgery  got the call from Sweeden to come pick up his Nobel prize for lobotomy. Efforts to recall this Nobel have been unsuccessful.

Thorazine was discovered while searching for a cure for malaria and worked by blocking dopamine receptors  in the brain - a chemical lobotomy. After Thorazine disables the dopamine receptors all sorts of bad things happen. Blocking dopamine does blunt the psychosis, but fooling around with neurotransmitters never has a happy ending. Akathesia (constant uncontrolled restlessness,) sustained muscle sasms leading to a debilitating constant muscle activity called tardive dyskinesia. I always thought of Thorazine as the equivalent of weeding a garden with a hand grenade. Sure the psychosis was blunted, but so was everything else that made the person an individual. These people were mere shells of human beings. The reeks and wrecks found on the backward of any long term psych hospital were not there only for their psychosis. The institutionalization and side effects of long term phenothiazine therapy were at fault too.

Thorazine was supplied in a wide range of dosage forms including;  syrup,  concentrate, injectable vials and even suppositories.  On my first medication passing adventure at Downey VA I had a med card that indicated the patient was to receive 2000mg of Thorazine concentrate. I was taught the maximum dose was around 200 mg. How could a patient receive 2 grams of this potent tranquilizer and survive? I was told this was the correct dose and the patient acquired a tolerance over the decades and to go ahead and give it. The patient shuffled up to the med room, gulped it down and went about his business. Simply amazing.

Some of the long term Thorazine concentrate consumers requested the nasty tasting substance "straight."  This meant giving the drug in a small medicine cup diluted with just a splash of tap water. The concentrate turned a brilliant shade of pink when the water was added and this was long before the color was associated with cancer survivors. Thorazine concentrate was just plain nasty smelling. Cracking that big brown tinted bottle unleashed a scent not unlike the Testors glue that I used as a youngster to assemble plastic model kits. We usually diluted it in a thick sugary substance called simply "citric." I doubted this tactic made it any more palatable, but at least it knocked some of the unpleasant smell down.

There is ample truth to the old adage that when there are 3 or more treatments for the same condition, none of them are effective. The pharmacologic corollary- If one drug is used to treat multiple divergent illnesses; it's not an effective drug. Here is an interesting hodge-podge of ailments that Thorazine was purported to cure in 1950s ads. A foolish panacea if I do say so.

Hmm.. this might just work. Snow him on Thorazine and see if he makes it to the bar.

I wonder if her "serene detachment" persisted through the muscle spasms of tardive dyskinesia.

In my experience, Thorazine induced rapid, shallow respirations-not sure how well this would play out for asthmatics.

Thorazine was known for it's hypotensive actions. Throw in an old time general
anesthetic with a Thorazine pre-op and watch the B/P drop like a lead balloon.

Wow.. never realized Thorazine was such a miracle drug with an assortment of therapeutic applications. It did work well for nausea in small doses of 25mg, but patients never asked for a repeat dose. I always asked post-op patients if their nausea was relieved by the small dose of Thorazine and their reply was always something to the effect that it worked but made their mouth very dry and induced a profound malaise and general feeling of unwellness. "Don't give that to me again!" was a frequent request.

When drugs are touted as having so many uses I suspect it's because they don't work too well for anything. Of course this lesson has been well learned and would never happen today. HeHe.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Las Vegas Massacre

Despite a rigidly enforced news blackout in my household, the really bad events have a way of surfacing. When I heard hundreds of people were victims of gunshot wounds in Las Vegas  the logistics of treating this much trauma boggled my mind.

Three gunshot wounds were enough to wreak havoc in our busy Chicago OR. We used to mark preop X-rays with paper clips in a usually futile attempt to track trajectory. Projectiles can bounce or tumble after striking bone. The deflected path is difficult to assess. A box of paperclips lasted for years in the old time OR. I wonder if CT scans have eliminated the paper clip markers, but it's painful to think how many paper clips would be needed for hundreds of people.

The aftermath of mass shootings is becoming well scripted. The shooter is characterized as a psychotic madman which further unfairly stigmatizes the mentally ill. Politicians praise first responders and express sympathy for the victims. I heard one senator said it was to early in the investigation to consider legislative solutions. What more investigation is needed after learning the extent of the slaughter.

The gun rights folks will cite the second amendment which was crafted in an age of muzzle loaded weapons which took time to reload. I don't think our forefathers envisioned wide distribution of  rapid fire assault type weapons, but gun folks might allude to the notion that it's a price that must be paid for freedom.

I wish folks could see how powerful guns are when bullets meet human flesh. Tiny entrance wounds give way to shredded small bowel and lacerated livers. If shooters knew how tired hands get loading hundreds of needle drivers or counting pack after pack of  4X4s they might see things differently.

I am so sorry for the victims and cannot fathom how surgeons and nurses could treat so much trauma.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Surgical Instrument Identification Marking

"Fetch me one of those thingamajigs
with the red and black marking tape"
Carbon based lifeforms have had a fascination with placing marks on things that has evolved over countless millenia. Dogs and cats spray urine and bears strip bark and arrange tree leaves in unique patterns as a marking technique. Homo sapiens of the office sitting operating room  administrative ilk are fond of putting their mark on surgical instruments. See that elegant arrangement of  Germany's finest  set of  VMueller surgical instruments (above)  all decked out with tacky  little identifying bands. I think the green/yellow, red/black tape markings look  worse than a dog spraying a fire hydrant with urine. Marking surgical instruments is a crude way for administrative busy bodies  to seek control over a situation that they have no business fooling around with.

It's not too hard to figure out the marking behavior of dogs, cats and bears, but to find the motivation for  defacing marking surgical instruments we have to delve into the mindset of misguided individuals who likely have rarely set foot in an operating room. How about this gem from an instrument defacing  marking advocate?  "Marking surgical instruments corrects the lack of process visibility and identification for all perioperative stake-holders."

I guess this is a convoluted way of saying you cannot tell what something is just by looking at it or using it. It's not all that difficult to learn the nomenclature of surgical instruments and have a general idea of how the instrument is used. A Penfield is a Penfield because that's what it is. The black and red tape is not what gives an instrument it's identity. So the instrument is the instrument, ineffable, a well defined entity completely independent of the strips of colored tape applied on the whim of an administrative wisenheimer.   If you are working in the perioperative arena and don't know the identity of your instruments, the only steak you should be holding is a T-bone.

"We mark our instruments so as to organize them into sets for a specific case. Green/black markings mean the instrument is part of the fem-pop bypass tray," said nursing supervisor, Mary Marks-a-Lot
This is wrong headed thinking of the highest order. The surgery determines the type of instrument used not the instrument determining  the surgery. The tail is wagging the dog with case specific instrument trays and the circulating nurse  will be running like a whippet to the nearest autoclave to flash sterilize the instruments you really need for unexpected circumstances. I often fantasized about instrument marking misfits standing directly in front of the autoclave when I suddenly cracked the door after a flash sterilization cycle. Maybe a blast of scalding steam to their sensory regions would bring them to their senses.

Instruments used in case specific trays are also more subject to wear and tear because they are used in the same manner time after time. For maximum instrument life it's best to use them on a rotating basis with different cases through varying services. Auto mechanics don't have a breaker bar just for working on struts - they use it wherever it's needed. Surgical instruments should be used as needed and not assigned to a case specific use.

Scrub nurses have enough to keep track of; sponges, needles, and instruments. an additional duty of inspecting each instrument for loose or missing tape is stretching the limit. ID tape is just one more unnecessary worry for a harried nurse.

Microorganisms are crafty little devils and I suspect they could use the ID markings as a sort of shield to escape the unpleasant effects of gas or heat sterilization. I always suspected that tape margin where it interfaces with the instrument surface as an area for assorted biomass crud build-up. Instruments just look cleaner without identification tape.

I usually tried to avoid pharmaceutical reps and medical equipment sales people like the plague. The very reserved German fellow that represented VMueller instruments was a source of information and a true expert on the care and feeding of surgical instruments. He summed up my feelings perfectly when he surveyed an instrument tray with ID tapes plastered on his beautiful product, "Dumkopfs!" he hollered followed by some German cuss words He did not have to explain who or what he was referring to while I nodded my head in somber agreement.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nurse Motivators - Paying a Debt

Intraoperative X-rays meant the gowned and gloved were huddled face-to-face behind that protective lead curtain off in a distant corner. Personal space dissipated more rapidly than Bovie smoke as we sought to guard our gamete giving gonads from gamma rays. (Whew... I was able to stop myself this time before that darned alliteration got out of control.)  I found myself  squeezed into an eyeball to neck position with Alana, the young student nurse I was mentoring. I could not curtail my stares to her neck and sub-mandible.

Now that was one impressive mass of scar tissue stretching from her clavicle and encircling her neck before terminating just below her jaw. A matrix of jagged spider web like connective tissue stacked as if one web was piled  on top of another. I started to ponder what her skin graft donor sites looked like. Despite her sunny demeanor she had been through some significant suffering. Every minor turn of her head against that scar tissue looked like an activity resembling a taffy pull. No wonder she rotated her entire upper torso when scanning the operative field.

As I briefly pondered the backstory here, our eyes made contact and I quickly diverted my gaze, wondering if I should apologize for my crude fixed gaze. Maybe I could come up with a foolish excuse blaming it on the X-ray and being forced to position myself eyeball to neck. I never was known as a very subtle person and it was probably time for some soul searching. Maybe I could make it up to her by teaching her how to load a sponge stick one-handed. She was one of the most gung ho students I worked with.

After the case in the OR lounge I was bumbling and stumbling through a summary of the case while complimenting Alana on doing so well. When I  started my uncomfortable mumbling regarding  the indication for the intraoperative X-ray she sensed my uneasiness and simply replied, " The burn injury happened on a camping trip near the Wisconsin Dells when I was 8 years old. The fuel tank on the cookstove leaked and sprayed me with burning fuel. The nurses on the burn unit at County saved my life and I always felt in debt to them for their skill and many kindnesses. I decided to be a nurse on the day I walked out of that hospital."

Student nurses had diverse motivations for studying nursing, but decades ago it's a fact that money was not one of them.  Alana's motivation was pure and simple, she was repaying a debt and it had nothing to do with remuneration.

How it became a debt for Alana is  not too hard to understand. She felt the nurses on the burn unit at County gave her life back and she owed that much to others. In a fictional account, Alana would return to the County Burn Unit upon graduation and care for patients she could  directly identify with.

The truth of the matter - Alana really like OR nursing and made that a career choice. Whenever I was weary or cynical with negativity barking at my heals, Alana's pure and simple motivation set me straight. As long as I was still vertical on the outside of the siderails, I owed a debt too. It brought tears to my foolish eyes when Alana related she decided to become an OR nurse after her very first scrub-in which happened to be with me.

As time passed, I tried to watch Alana in action every chance I had. Her hands were half the size of mine, but the way she spun a curved instrument in midair to pass it to either side of the table or police her Mayo stand was a mirror image of my technique. We even cut ligatures and wringed out lap sponges the exact same way. I simply loved watching her scrubbed and I never stared at her scar again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tonsillectomy According to Peter Ponsil

This cheery little musical interlude from the 1950's starts out with a chipper chorus of "Have you heard of Peter Ponsil?" A jaunty xylophone riff with breezy notes ascending and descending reinforces the carefree, whimsical mood.  Pete himself then chimes in with an upbeat tale of having his tonsils ripped out removed by the good ol' Dr. Sneeze&Blow. A pretty nurse cheerfully dressing the patient in a "Johnny Coat" also is described in Pete's upbeat, sing-song voice. It's an engaging little song that I hear repeating in the back of my head when I'm engaging some high minded activity like watching the Three Stooges. It was played for us in grade school as part of health class and it stuck with me all these years.

It's probably one of the pioneers in patient education, but the rosy picture it painted of tonsillectomy was bending the truth more than a triffle. Pediatric patients were told many half truths and outright fibs to gain their cooperation. Every old peds nurse knows that sneaky  trick of telling little Peter Ponsil that it's time to check his temperature and then administering a painful intramuscular injection. That old Vistaril pre-op shot used to burn like a branding iron  Misleading youngsters to gain their cooperation was just plain wrong, but I never had much of a say with older nurses.

Peter Ponsil conveniently neglected to mention some of the complications and post op pain discomfort associated with tonsillectomy. The procedure involved outlining the margins of the tonsil with a #15 blade, looping a snare around the offending tonsil and squeezing the mini beartrap of a snare closed to finish the -ectomy.

The most unusual complication I witnessed involved removing the uvula along with a tonsil. The surgeon told the family not to worry because the little thing hanging down in the back of the throat was unnecessary and just got in the way. He was half right - it did indeed get in the way of his snare.

Another youngster had to make an emergent trip back to the OR for a bronchoscopy because the eschar sloughed off a tonsillectomy wound and lodged in his  right main stem bronchus. I think our friend Peter Ponsil would be singing a different tune post-bronchoscopy.

Our pediatric unit was divided into 3 separate wards: pre-op, post-op, and isolation which was affectionately known as the diarrhea ward. The unsuspecting kids in pre-op frolicked about in their Johnny Coats consumed by blissful ignorance courtesy of Peter Ponsil and his ilk. Post-op was where the reality of the situation reared it's ugly head. Kids howling in pain suddenly aware of how deceitful their friend, Pete, had been. The more rambunctious were even restrained on papoose boards. Peter Ponsil was a spin doctor of the highest order.

There was a great deal of deception in old school healthcare and Peter Ponsil bunches it all up in his little song that represents an entourage of  hospital falsehoods. From nurses telling patients that a Bicillin injection would feel like a mosquito bite to surgeons obscuring an ominous finding, half truths and outright deception was everywhere. The pain word was beclouded by referring to it as discomfort. Of course this was all done for the patient's own good.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Surgery Themed Establishments

DATELINE: Cairo, Egypt....Practicing surgeons have opened a surgery themed restaurant named D.Kebbda  in mid-July where they are festooned in surgical scrubs and prepare their sole offering, grilled beef liver sandwiches behind an enclosed glass kitchen. Kebda is a popular street food in Egypt, but a vector of food poisoning if not  prepared with caution. "We  tried to take our career values and apply them to another field," said Mostafa Baisourny one of the owners. "There is no contradiction here, we are still practicing doctors."

This news item got me to thinking about other possibilities for other surgery themed businesses such as a surgical amusement park. One of the attractions would be to take a spin, so to speak, on the orthopedic traction table. Adduct an arm, abduct a leg and add some acute hip flexion and pretty soon you are twisted up like a pretzel. If you want to spend some time in that unique position just ask the friendly ride attendant to apply the plaster. What fun!

A carnivalesque side show might include an amazing sword swallowing act complete with an old school rigid metal bronchoscope. Those things were brutal and don't forget to duck the flying bits of mucous.

How about a combination buffet and Bariatric surgical center. Everyone enjoys one last big fling before their problem is addressed. Welcome to Stuff N' Cut where after enjoying a 9,000 calory last meal, bypass surgery is performed.  Don't fret we wait  out the prescribed time interval to avert aspiration.

I better cease this foolishness before it gets out of hand. Thanks so much for indulging in my outright preposterousness and a special shout out to you high minded academic types. My readership surges when school is in session.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

PAIN (Purposeful Affliction Isn't Nice)

Nursing presents the practitioner with an assortment of mind boggling difficult and unpleasant (to say the least) circumstances. Putrid and pungent odors, horrific sights of blood and gore along with unimaginable suffering. Every nurse has an Achille's Heal of a hospital situation that brings forth light headedness, tears and a cold sweat.  For some it was blood and or trauma, Bovie smoke got to others, and odors elicited a vaso vagal response in many.

My weak spot was seeing patients in pain, all pain was blood curdling to my soul, but the inadvertently inflicted avoidable pain was what really what got caught in my craw. Needless suffering was the  stuff of real nightmares for me. So in a lame attempt to unburden my tortured soul here is a laundry list of completely avoidable painful events I witnessed over the years. When I have trouble coming up with a coherent post on a single subject, laundry lists are my best friend.

This one really rankles my hackles and I always tried to put a halt to it when I was a circulating nurse in the OR. Eager beaver, out to impress, surgical residents sometimes jump the gun with inserting Foleys or starting lines before the patient is anesthetized. "Whoa not so fast, Dr. Speedy, how would you like that done while you are awake?" usually put a halt to the proceedings.  Keeping Foley trays and other pre anesthesia induction paraphernalia out of sight until the patient was asleep was another effective tactic.

Last minute pre-op exams involving probing wounds or orifices could be stoped dead in their tracks by a good hard smack to the back of the hand with a sponge ring forceps. I never had the temerity to do this, but Alice my beloved supervisor was an equal opportunity sponge stick smacker. Anyone committing a wrongful act was fair game for aching knuckles. A crude but very effective deterrent that I have personally experienced. OUCH!

Hair follicles share the same neighborhood as sensory nerve endings so extricating hair really does smart, a fact some girls know all too well. My usual place to hang out in nursing school was in the lobby right next to the elevator. Occasionally nursing school stressors promoted disagreements among students which then led to hair-pulling donnybrooks. Standard procedure involved forcing the combatants into the elevator and hitting the down button for student nurse Fool to break up by squeezing the hand of the aggressor. I never knew what to expect when that elevator door opened but screams emanating from the elevator shaft was never a good sign.  Somehow I was able to peacefully resolve the altercations, but the clumps of hair on the elevator floor always  turned my stomach.

Every nurse is well versed in the inexcusable pain inflicted by aggressive adhesive tape removal. Kind hearted nurses knew that moistening the adhesive/skin interface zone with acetone helped minimize the hair pulling. Whether to remove adhesive tape slowly or rapidly was a hotly debated topic  in nursing school. I always thought that giving the patient a choice was best and if they expressed a desire self removal, let them have a go at it. At least I was not the culprit inflicting pain.

Here is an unusual and little known unjustifiable hair pulling event that can occur in a very sensitive anatomical site. Pelvic exams place the patient in a vulnerable position and novice physicians have been known to entangle and twist pubic hairs out with those old metal speculums adjusted with set screws. The hair gets caught in the inclined plane of the set screw and subsequent  adjustment yanks pubic hair out lickety-split. One of the reasons nurses were taught to always carry scissors was to cut free entangled hair.

Of all the surgical instruments, it's not those ghastly saws or chisels on  top 10 lists that elicit revulsion in any sentient being - my vote goes to misused towel clips.. These innocent looking devices have two very sharp points that can be engaged by opening and closing the clip like a scissors. They were designed to securely attach towels to each other while draping. The practice of surgeons affixing towels directly  to patients skin  was history, but anesthetists found a use for towel clips that was unsavory at best.
Towel clips are for towels - not patients skin

The tips of the towel clip were engaged  in the patient's skin at various levels to gauge the level of spinal anesthesia. When the patient screamed it was obviously  the limit of the spinal's effectiveness.   There were few of these towel clip wielding anesthetists, but just one is far too many.

Although never witnessed, I have heard horror stories of old time OB practitioners engaging the points of towel clips in a patient's hip to test their saddle block causing new mothers to wonder what demented doctor depredated derieres -  developing devious deep puncture wounds (please excuse the alliteration, it's one of my very bad habits.)

Surgeons from my generation simply loved silk sutures and some even proudly bragged about being a "silk man." Surgical knots never slipped on silk sutures and they never assumed a coiled or unwieldy shape. The nature of these suture's surface was akin to a lattice-like structure owing to the fact they were braided from many fine silk strands. As tissue healed, it became enmeshed in these tiny lattice spaces. Removing silk skin sutures was like trying to pull a bone from a dog's mouth - lots of resistance and growling.

Surgical staple clips put an end to the misery of silk  suture removal but many older surgeons wanted to remain loyal to the history of surgery and refused to accept them. Previous surgeries could be easily identified by the archaeologic artifacts  left behind by black silk sutures. They were highly visible and always a sure sign that man had been in this wound before.

I'm getting off track so it must be time to wrap this post up but minimizing discomfort or aiding a patient in pain is something a nurse can do to minimize hopelessness and promote healing and recovery. A trauma patient will never notice how carefully a scrub nurse cuts ligatures but will always remember if they were patient and caring when transferring them from a Gurney to the table.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Skeptical Scalpel (on my blog roll) has an interesting post regarding the end result of connecting an oxygen tube to a Foley catheter. Even Oldfoolrns know there is very minimal gas exchange across the bladder wall.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bridles Are for Horses - Not Patients

This post is about nursing interventions with nasogastric tubes from  many decades ago and filtered through my aging nervous system so don't count on relevance. It's foolishness of the highest order for entertainment purposes only. With the advent of PEG tubes and a more enlightened attitude, hopefully bridlers are extinct.

Nasogastric tubes (NG tubes) were handy little devices. They were used post operatively and connected to low intermittent suction to decompress and keep the operative area clear after gastric surgery. Another use involved feeding patients that were unwilling or unable to take nourishment and this is where the problems showed up.

NG tubes were dangerous devices in the hands of an inexperienced practitioner and complications related to wrongful placement were sometimes devastating. The most common misplacement was in the lung via the right main stem bronchus  (It's more perpendicular and bigger than the left bronchus) We always added a dash of methylene blue dye to feedings  and if your patient coughed up blue mucous, it was a sign of trouble. The pleural regions are not known for their ability to assimilate nutrients and likewise there is little gas exchange across the stomach wall. It's best to respect these barriers and that's the understatement of all time!

Skull fractures involving the cribiform plate invited the disaster of  the NG tube winding up in the brain as shown on the right.  Old time physicians hated to come clean with mistakes and I can just hear an old blow hard doc from the1960s coming up with a clever explanation that the NG tube in the  X-ray  could be used as a ventricular shunt, "after all it did course straight up the ventricle. Now we don't have to worry about complications like  hydrocephalus."

Blogger, Skeptical Scalpel has a fascinating post about an internal jugular vein cannulation by a misplaced NG tube. I think the person that accomplished this amazing feat  blunder would have to fess up to the mistake. Who in the world ever heard of  gaining vascular access via the nose? That phony excuse is just plain unbelievable.

Nurses commonly inserted NG feeding tubes and were responsible for keeping them in place. Post op patients were usually very cooperative as a result of vitamin "D" (Demerol) and did not tamper with their NG tubes. Placement of these NG tubes was also a short term affair of just a couple of days. It's much easier for a patient  to put up with a short term nuisance than a long term festering aggravation.

Having an NG in place for a couple of weeks is a miserable experience that I have had personal experience with. Occluding a nostril for the tube results in forced mouth breathing that makes your throat dry as the Sahara dessert. Dried mucous referred to as snot in less formal arenas dries up around the tube and picking it off results in red sore nares.

Tubes like Foleys are out of the patient's view. NG tubes of yesteryear were a bright red in color and were like the matador's red cape to a bull - always annoying and always in sight. It's no surprise that patient's liked to remove their NG tubes. I always figured these poor  old souls were trying to communicate something to us - they did not want tube feedings and their feelings should be respected. Leave the NG tube out and place a glass of water within reach.

Old nurses from the greatest generation had other ideas and I learned never to argue with these gallant geezers. All too often their interventions reflected their  rigid, authoritarian personality and not the reality of the situation. They did not tolerate fools like me and their answer to patient self removal of NG tubes was a brutal but effective trick called NG tube bridling. Somehow these determined oldster nurses  always prevailed when imposing their idea of therapeutic intervention.

Bridling involved inserting the NG tube via the right nostril until the tip of it was visible just below the uvuala (that funny thing hanging down between your tonsils.) I've been criticized for not writing clearly for non-medical folks, so that crude explanation is one of my lame attempts to be more broad based.

The old battle axe of a nurse then grabbed the NG tube from the back of the throat with a Magill forceps and gracefully pulled  yanked  the tube out the mouth. Some of these old Marquise de Sade nurses had tiny hands which meant they could skip the forceps and yank that bad boy NG  tube out with their fingers. Once pulled all the way out via the mouth the NG tube was looped around and reinserted in the left nostril into the stomach.

The end result was the NG tube anatomically anchored because the loop went completely around the ethmoid bone and maxillary sinuses before it's descent back to the stomach. Pulling on the end of  the NG tube resulted in excruciating pain which was an effective deterrent to removal. From my perspective, bridling was the stuff of nightmares with the poor patient yanking his nose and maxillary sinuses loose along with the offending NG tube.

I always tried to empathize with the patient. Dying patients just wanted peace and quiet on their lonely journey and before the hospice concept arrived this was rare. I always found a way out of the bridling NG tube business and only wish I could have had more influence on bridlers.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Side Rail Peference Separates the Bedside Nurses from the Office Sitters

Any bedside nurse can attest to the fact that the only safe side rail on a hospital bed is one that runs the full length of the mattress from head to foot in a single section. All old school hand cranked beds had full siderails that were raised and lowered guillotine style or hinged to swing out and below the bed when giving care. My favorite was the straight up and down style release because the swinging rail bed had to be moved out from the wall to drop a rail. When dealing with a patient determined to exit stage right it is sometimes helpful to butt the bed against a wall as a containment aid.

Old full length side rails engaged with a reassuring clunk that meant business -  similar to the feeling of a cycling shoe engaging with a clipless pedal - the patient is safe and I'm going to ride forever! At times it can be difficult to disengage from a bike pedal which always results in a fall for me, but I cannot recall any patient falls from an engaged full length side rail bed. Those old school side rails prized function over form which is the exact opposite of new fangled split side rails that are ubiquitous in today's hospital world..
The split rail special shown above is the office sitters dream bed and one big nightmare for the bedside practitioner. Sure it looks less intimidating and has better aesthetics than a full rail bed, but note the egress points between the foot of the bed and the bottom side rail. There is also an potential exit between the two rails that usually results in an extremity entrapment which is never pleasant. I've witnessed harried nurses lube up a patient's leg with Lubafax in a desperate attempt to slide it back to bed from under or between a siderail. Without the Lubafax those side rails are like Chinese handcuffs and the harder you yank on that leg, the more difficult it is to free.

Another fairly common exit strategy with this type of bed is often called the "flying buttress" for lack of a more technical name. The patient does a 45 degree rotation while prone and uses the bottom side rail to leverage his hips up and over the bed. It's prudent for a nurse to intervene while the buttress, so to speak, is still flying because the landing can be a real doozey when the patient impacts the floor. Thankfully most patients emit a verbal warning in the form of a shriek when they get stuck over the siderail and suspended in an uncomfortable, to say the least, position. At least the Surgilube or Lubafax is unnecessary with a flying buttress.

Today office sitting busy bodies are claiming that siderails are restraint devices which is pure balderdash to old nurses who like to think of them as freedom from falling incident devices. All an old nurse needs to keep just about any patient safe in bed is an extra sheet, a washcloth, and a roll of 3 inch gauze. The sheet is applied lengthwise across the patients chest and under the arms. The ends of the sheet are tied under the bed with the full length side rail up.

Mitts are applied by asking the patient to squeeze a rolled up wash cloth. The roll gauze is applied to the clenched fist from the wrist to fingertips creating a boxing gloved appearing hand. This also has the advantage of ceasing IV pulling or self adjustment of Foley catheters by the patient. I have seen motivated patients discontinue their NG tubes by clamping the tube between the mitts and yanking. This only happened once though because seasoned, old time nurses would bridle their NG tube by. OOPS never mind bridling - that's fodder for another post. Bridling of NG tubes is cruel and unusual punishment in my opinion and should never be done.

Egress minded patients are best kept far apart from each other. Semi private rooms become the devil's workshop if a couple of these bed bail out kings become buddies. Many times I have seen one patient perfect an exit strategy and then proceed to free his neighbor from bed. Once freed from the surly bonds of the hospital beds these folks just love to yank on Foleys, discontinue IVs and get into unimaginable mischief.

Full length side rails were highly functional and cost effective. Old hospital beds cost hundreds of dollars, not thousands like the beds of today. It's hard for me to fathom how something so highly functional could go by the wayside.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

If President Trump Tweeted About Disease

Cancer is bad, really bad, but so are oncologists. That chemo is equally bad as the disease they are curing. They are both equally to blame for the disease.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Montefiore Hospital Pittsburgh - A Unique Design

Architecture is not my area of expertise ( at my age about the only expertise left is shooting off my mouth) but I know a really special hospital building when I see it.  Pittsburgh's Montefiore Hospital was built into a hillside, ala, Pennsylvania bank barn style. The main entrance was located at the top of the hill which meant that a substantial portion of the hospital was below you as you entered. A subterranean wonderland of caring catacombs.
Montefiore Hospital, Pittsburgh, like a tree, it's supporting
roots were underground

The apex of the hill entrance floor was aptly named MAIN. There were three floors below main identified by letters."C" level on the very bottom  contained the operating rooms and recovery rooms, "B" level housed critical care units and "A" level contained the morgue and  cafeteria which served the best homemade bagels I have ever tasted. This was the only hospital I worked at that had the morgue so close to the cafeteria. This hospital made exclusive use of those double decker gurneys to transport bodies and morgue supplies were delivered in a cart that looked exactly like patient tray carriers so the general public was unaware of any morgue related activity near the dining area. Pretty clever.

Locating the OR on the very bottom of the hospital was a real switheroo for an older hospital as the most common locus was the very top floor. Explosive anesthetics were never used at Montefiore because a basement explosive mishap would have been catastrophic. There was little foot traffic on "C" level and this was a very quiet OR.

Montefiore's ER was underground on "B" level and accessed by ambulances entering a tunnel like opening from a side street. When recovering trauma patients related stories about near death experiences involving journeys through a tunnel, nurses set them straight by explaining that their near death experience was not all that ethereal. They were just entering the ER.

Having worked at Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish Montefiore, my nursing journey (I hate that journey business) has been an ecumenical experience. Of the three permutations, Montefiore was special. Some hospitals are focused on research, education, or making money but Montefiore was patient care oriented to the highest degree. Patient needs were the highest priority here.

There was never any of that "We will have to see if you are covered" or "That  treatment is unavailable because it's against church teaching."  Patients migrated to Montefiore like salmon swimming upstream knowing that once in the hospital, kindness and concern reigned even if their journey was one way. Dying patients never received a hospital bill.

The director of nursing even made rounds to the nursing units and never harangued or harassed a soul. She frequently inquired if we needed anything. If it was for a patient, we got it pronto.
Montefiore had its own 3 year nursing diploma school that was open from 1902-1974 and floors were staffed almost exclusively with RNs

In 1990 Montefiore was bought out by a giant healthcare corporate entity, UPMC. The first thing to go were the homemade bagels - they fired the baker. Next on the corporate agenda was renaming all the hospital floors; "C" became "1" and so forth. They even installed kitschy computer screens in subterranean rooms and connected them to an outside camera.

Maybe the renamed floor numbers made sense, but you cannot replace caring with virtual window  kitsch. Today a patient is lucky to find a pleasant nurse that is not umbilicated  to one of those computer on wheels monstrosities. It breaks my heart to return to Montefiore today. What is gone will never be replicated

Thanks for taking the time to peruse my foolishness. I have no idea how that stray line crept in at the conclusion, but I cannot seem to get rid of it!

could be wheeled from an ambulance to the ER without even having to open a door. si sized o

Friday, August 4, 2017

Emerging Nurse Leaders - What in Blue Blazes?

It doesn't take all that much to rankle my hackles these days. From nurse office sitters that don't know the basics of setting up a Mayo stand or how to cut a series of ligatures all the exact same length with just 2 snips of your Straight  Mayos. These are the same folks who dictate aseptic procedures while sneezing without a Kleenex. Regulatory and office sitting busy bodies regularly let loose with more crap than a chimp on laxatives and it's high time they stopped circling the bowl.

What the heck is an EMERGING nurse leader. It's high time they got off the pot and did something for a patient. Find someone to suction, milk a chest tube, load a Raney clip and by the way that Foley bag needs emptied. Emerge already and do something. Back away from that desk, arise out of that comfortable chair and for gosh sakes do something. While you were preoccupied with emerging other nurses were out there actually doing things for patients. Enough is enough!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Souttar Craniotome

Every surgical specialty has a memorable instrument from the past that inspires trepidation in modern folks; urology had the Kollman dilator, OB had the cephalotribe,  and neurosurgery had a host of ghastly  tools to fashion approaches to the brain.

The dicey part about accessing the brain is that it's covered in a very durable, hard, boney box-like structure, the skull. The dura which covers the brain lies directly beneath the skull. The trick is to get through the bone without harming the underlying dura. Just like fashioning a small round opening in a boiled egg without touching the white.

Modern pneumatic craniotomes  in use since the mid 1960's do a great job of this. There is a blunt foot on the end of that whirling dervish of a  cutiing blade that leaves the dura unscathed. It was invented  by John Nash who ironically became one of the first customers to utilize his invention. He required a craniotomy for a brain abscess shortly after marketing his device.

My favorite neurosurgeon, Dr. Oddo, just loved antique neurosurgical  instruments and had them proudly displayed in his office. I was fascinated by an unusual device for cutting thorough that bony barrier, the skull. The Souttar crainitome  consisted of   a solid 6X1 inch stainless steel post with an adjustable expanding  base, a pivoting arm that moved around the post, and a cutting wheel that resembled a plumbers pipe cutter.

Dr. Oddo was more than delighted to explain the operation of the Souttar craniotome which was invented in the early 1930's. It was designed to cut a perfect circle in the skull in whatever diameter the surgeon desired. Asking dumb questions was one of my signature moves so I asked Dr. Oddo what's wrong with a square or rectangular opening into the skull. "Intersecting lines never work in neuro surgery. If there is pressure building up under a square opening there will be greater pressure in the corners. An oval or round opening heals best and permits pressure equilibrium beneath the bone flap."  Thanks for the enlightenment Dr. Oddo, but can bone wax be used to polish a surgical instrument? Can ambulatory patients receive care at Chicago's Lying In Hospital? How normal is normal saline? Do blood gases smell funny?  Oops, those dumb questions never cease when Oldfoolrn is on the case. It's time to get back on task.

Henry souttar was an engineer before he took up medicine so maybe his skull opener was inspired by circle cutting devices from other discplines. To the left is an arts and crafts circle cutting device that is a dead ringer for the Souttar craniotome.

In Souttars version a burr hole was manually drilled in the center of the intended skull opening. Burr holes were drilled using a device that resembled a boring brace and the bit was attached to a clutch mechanism that ceased the rotation of the bit when it was through the bone.

The next step involved inserting a stainless steel post in the burr hole. The post was rigidly secured in the burr hole with a set- screw activated expanding base which was identical to the manner a bicycle stem is secured in the top of the fork.

Once the pivot post was secured in the burr hole, an arm with a cutting wheel was attached. The size of the circular skull opening could be varied by sliding the cutting wheel on the arm. As the cutting wheel was moved out the radius of the circle increased making a larger opening. The pressure of the cutting wheel on the bony skull could be increased by tightening a screw atop the wheel. When Dr. Oddo demonstrated the device in action he compared it to children frolicking around a Maypole. The action was similar, but the analogy gave me the creeps. What in the world do innocent children have to do with chopping a hole in someone's skull?

The old school neurosurgeon stopped frolicking  the  cutting action just before the skull was cut through to protect the underlying dura. The final removal of the bone flap was done with a mallet and chisel.

You can count on Oldfoolrn Blog to bring you the latest in little known, esoteric, meaningless information. I Googled, Binged, and Medscaped "Souttar Craniotome" and came up dry. This post is based on memories sifted through an aging nervous system so reader beware.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Skeptical scalpel has information regarding the possible ultimate solution for that unsavory perineal fallout issue. There is a link to his blog on my blog roll.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Vintage Operating Room - Circa 1930

When I started this blog I envisioned it as a  museum of nursing history with an emphasis on life in the OR. After reviewing some of my previous posts,  I came to the realization that my endogenous foolishness has resulted in a blog that more accurately resembles a carnival side show. It's time to put the foolishness on the back burner and restore some credibility with a straightforward post.

So here it is; a guided tour of a 1930's operating room. Prominent in this overhead view is the unique shadowless lighting system. A very rare, explosion proof resistant black Operay. That black Sputnik-like orb contains the light sources and lenses to focus the beams of light on the reflecting mirrors arranged around the periphery. The goal: shadowless lighting.  Here is the link to an old Operay post.

This old photo  illustrates one of the problems with Operay surgical  illumination.  Shadowless lighting failed to live up to it's hype and the folks in this OR augmented it with a floor stand pedestal spotlight which is visible in the upper left hand corner. Unlike contemporary operating rooms that are filled to the hilt with electronic equipment, Old ORs had plenty of floor space for pedestal lights that could be moved about on wheeled platforms. If a light bulb element went kaput in the middle of a case, no problem, just wheel it to the corner and bring in another light.  Pedestal mounted lights were very versatile and  tons of  fun until you stubbed your toe on that unyielding massive pedestal. OUCH.

One of the mysteries in this photo is the use of the black explosion resistant Operay in a room that could never be used with flammable anesthetics. Cyclopropane gas anesthesia was in vogue back in the 1930s, but despite the correct Operay for an explosive environment, that beautiful  ceramic tile floor could never be condutive so as to minimize static electricity. No Cyclo allowed in this room.  Ether and chloroform were popular agents and you can see the agents being delivered by mask on the laterally positioned patient. Intubation was yet to come.

Old school hospitals were very cost conscious and you can see the scrub nurses using an old wooden pallet to gain some necessary elevation. It would have been considered fiscal recklessness to splurge on a fancy metal platform when old wooden pallets could be had for nothing. Function trumps form anyday in this acient OR.

The twin scrub nurses suggest a training situation. As an eager  youngster learning the trade, I had the opportunity to scrub with a veteran nurse only once and  then I was thrown to the lions surgeons. I spent many happy evenings perusing Alexander's Care of the Patient in Surgery and mentally planning my cases for the next day, praying that I wouldn't get yelled at or forced to duck a thrown instrument.

Where is the back table in this old time OR? My favorite OR supervisor, Alice, loves yammering on about this feature of vintage  operating rooms. "We used one massive curved back table that was stocked with all of the supplies and instruments for a full day's caseload. The curve facilitated corner placement of the table with maximum usable surface area," she explained.

"Old school nurses were motivated and did not sashay in and out of the rooms like you youngsters are so fond of doing. Once that back table was stocked, we stayed put in the room until the day's caseload was finished. Between cases the circulator carefully covered the back table after the scrub nurse fetched her instruments. It was considered bad form for the scrub nurse to need an item from the back table once a case started, so we had to use our head's for something other than a hat rack."

Alice was an OCD nut and insisted her charges prepare for and conduct cases in a  Kabuki Theater like style. Everything had to be planned for and conducted exactly according to her rigid authoritarian rules which was fine until something unexpected happened. There was only one way to open an instrument set or thread a suture needle in old school ORs. The scrub nurse in the photo has her left hand under the Mayo stand. A  definite according to Alice and grounds for getting a knuckle slap with a sponge ring forceps. That'll learn ya to keep both hands above the Mayo stand.

What's missing in this old OR? There are no electronic monitoring devices or piped in medical gasses. Anesthetists monitored vital signs using a precordial weighted stethoscope that was taped to the chest. An earpiece connected to a stop cock enabled toggling back and forth between the stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. Anesthesia sans any type of electronic monitoring.

These old time ORs were places to have something removed and every case was an -ectomy of one type or another far removed from the repair and replace surgery of today.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Paper Medical Records

A paper medical records trifecta; med cards, kardex
and paper chart. Med cards and anything recorded in
Kardex was tossed after their purpose was served.

The importance of the medical record cannot be overstated. Communication of patient information in a usable format has been a priority for many eons. Where else can you find a blow by blow account of surgical treatment, response to drugs, and basic diagnostic information. Whippersnapperrns complain endlessly about electronic medical records and older practicing nurses often  dream of a return to paper records.
Paper records had a certain charm and ease of use, but there were problems with divergent formats, inaccurate data, and unauthorized access, which in some ways, mimics problems with electronic records. At least with paper records nurses were not distracted by a wheeled monster of a computer that followed them everywhere. I don't think there is anything more frustrating than communicating with a person distracted by a  computer screen.

 Most private and charity hospitals were writing progress notes and physicians orders on standard 8 1/2 X 11 size paper. Federal agencies such as the VA medical system had a very unique paper size which was 8 X 10 1/2. This was another example of that infamous VA tag line, "The right way, the wrong way, and the VA way." President Reagan established a government Committee for the Simplification of paper sizes in 1980 and the VA switched to the 8 1/2 X 11 standard.

 When a VA patient was admitted to a private hospital the combination paper sizes were difficult to stack (VA patients always had voluminous records) and the end result was a leaning tower of medical records. How acute the lean angle became was dependent on the volume of the record and the sequence of the odd sized paper. Old nurses always characterized the medical record lean orientation as port or starboard. For some obscure reason port side canted records usually foretold a very difficult patient care situation.

Everyone approached patients with leaning  paper medical records with due caution. These were complex, time consuming patients. One nurse summed it up nicely with this little ditty. "Those patients have every case but a suitcase." It was amusing until one of these patient care conundrums actually brought their suitcase with them to the hospital. It could have been much more morbid. When a patient was not expected to recover one family sent along a three piece suit. "Make sure one of the nurses gives that suit to the undertaker when he comes for Gramps," was the instruction.

Today nurses must be concerned with hacks and computer glitches upsetting the delicate order and sequence of recorded medical data. Paper was not immune from unpredictable  disorder. Old time hospitals were never air conditioned except perhaps for the director's office. This meant that nursing stations were equipped with gigantic fans capable of moving as much air as a Piper Navajo on take off roll. That prop wash at the nursing stations was capable of sending any and all stacks of paper flying off into the wild blue yonder.

I vividly recall one sweltering August afternoon  at Downey VA  Hospital when a stack of newly minted physician's orders was placed on the ward secretary's desk for transcription. Unlike patient care areas where the windows had security screens, administrative zones like nursing stations  went screenless. The massive floor fan actually blew the new orders directly out the open  window. I quipped that the records were "gone with the wind." The head nurse, Lois, had the last laugh and ordered me out of the building for order chasing duty.

Another problem presented by paper  pages was how to organize them into a format for ease of perusal by health care workers. There were clipboards and spring loaded metal chart jackets that worked the best. Later ringed  notebooks came into favor, but there were compatability problems with 2 hole or 3 hole. The VA Health system actually  came up with a  novel and unique system of punching 2 holes into the top of the record and affixing it to the chart with a metal hasp.

Data security is a big deal today with HIPPA this and HIPPA that frequently cited. Paper records did not require mixed character passwords to protect. In hospitals there was someone present by the chart rack 24/7 and physician's offices made a ritual of keeping records under lock and key. When a chart was sent with a patient for a procedure or diagnostic test, the chart was encased in a canvas bag with a locking zipper. Data security at it's finest.

Finally. since paper records were always physically close to the patient they communicated a sense of presence. Nothing tells the story of a harried trauma surgery like an anesthesia record splattered with blood or prep solution. The physical appearance tells the story better than the data recorded. Nurses frequently did their charting while taking a break for a Coke and a smoke. It was common to be ceremoniously greeted by a cascade of cigarette ashes when opening the chart to the last nursing note.
Sometimes the "presence" of paper medical records resulted in a messy situation.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Crash Cart - Circa 1921

Inventory of ancient crash cart: Tracheotomy set, solutions of H2O2, adrenalin, tannic acid, and gallic acid. Equipment to administer a stimulating enema and if that failed, how about some smelling salts?  Sterile supplies with the notation, "If carefully done up, these will not need to be frequently sterilized."

I should probably publish  this post without pontificating about crash carts, but like the oldfoolrn that I am, here I go shooting off my old wrinkled up mouth. Mouth flapping and jaw jacking at it's finest about a subject I have no current experience with.

There is something almost talismanic, I think, about having an assemblage of lifesaving equipment and pharmaceuticals gathered together in a  mobile crash cart or trolley. The individual components assume a far greater reverence and respect than they would on their own and the ability to move them throughout the hospital is indeed  magical.  If a patient is circling the drain, it's always prudent to park that crash cart right outside the door to chase away that bad juju.

Whippersnapperns were quick to admonish oldfoolrns like me for failing to respect the supernatural  powers  of  collective resuscitation equipment, "Hey you need to have the crash cart at the bedside when you do that," was their frequent outburst. They were just shocked, and awed by my magical power to convert tachy arrhythmias to normal sinus by slight of hand vagal tricks  like applying gentle ocular pressure, a trick old nurses learned from watching the 3 stooges. There were no crash carts in the stooge era and I never converted anyone into cardiac stand still, but the youngsters had a good point and I became more concerned about access to a crash cart later in my nursing life..

Whippersnapperrns were always flabbergasted to learn there were no crash carts in the OR and we never called a code for a patient that was on the table. The rationale for this practice was the notion that anesthesia was on the ready with all  equipment at hand for resuscitation. I was explaining this in my usual blowhard, know-it-all tone of voice to a young whippersnappern and she piped up with the question, "Where is the defibrillator, fool?"  I did not have an answer as all that we had available were defibrillators with  internal paddles. "Well..I guess we could run over to ICU and borrow their defibrillatoer," was my lame reply.

Old nurses knew and practiced resuscitation without new fangled devices like ambu bags using mouth to mouth. I once performed mouth to mouth on a chap with about a weeks worth of whiskers and it felt like trying to blow up a water ballon studded with porcupine quills. Ambu bags were one of the greatest inventions for lips-off resuscitation.

This cart is so important that a nurse is obligated to check on it every shift. I knew a nurse that accrued big time trouble because an amp of bicarb was a month out of date and her initials were last on the checklist when a supervisor went through a crash cart. Nurses can get into trouble for the most inconsequential of misdeeds. It never paid to worry about supervisor admonishments because trouble always accrued from something totally unforeseen. Don't happy and carefully check that crash cart was always good advice.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Metrecal For Lunch Bunch

Old time surgeries could last for a very long time as a result of their complexity, a lackadaisical attitude about anesthesia time, or unforeseen pathology. After 6 hours of standing on your feet (never, ever lock those knees) a sense of fatigue would settle in and it was tough to be at your hypervigilant  best. I always knew I was in trouble when my head started to feel heavy or my hands began to shake. I devised some strategies to deal with hand tremors and they are O.R.  tested. You can find these tips at this link. It's a common problem with some straightforward  solutions that worked well for me.

For that generalized malaise and heavy headedness feeling there was only one remedy and that was intraoperative nourishment. You can't eat a Big Mac in the midst of surgery although I did witness an attempt to ingest a hot dog which  was accompanied by an assortment of gastronomic complications. Those tube steaks are hard to slip under a surgical mask and difficult to properly masticate with mask ties impeding jaw movement.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, Mark Sanchez knows all too well the down side of eating hot dogs on the job because of the trouble he got into eating a tube steak  on the sidelines. It did not work well in the OR either. The consistency of a traditional hot dog makes it an aspiration hazard if eaten quickly. The diameter of the hot dog is the perfect size  to occlude a trachea or if further down the line, a main stem bronchus. At least in the OR, a Magill forceps is close at hand to extricate that wiener plug from an airway. For hot dogs to work in a surgical setting, the contents of the meat in the casing would have to be similar to toothpaste. Just have the circulator inset an end of the hot dog under the mask and once the scrub nurse chews the end off, squeeze the meat paste into her mouth. The Surgi Dog is born.

This illustration of Hawkeye of MASH eminence shows some of the challenges with intraoperative nutrition. The circulator, Hotlips, just contaminated the front of the surgeons gown with her nutririve ministrations. Solid food which requires sacrificing the surgical mask coverage is not prudent. The ideal mid surgical procedure meal is a liquid, nutrient dense, and shelf stable. The name of that miracle surgical sustenance was an old time product that was one of the very first diet products, Metracal.

The longing for a svelte body is not a new phenomenon. Mead Johnson came up with the diet drink, Metracal, which soon became a pop culture icon in the 1960's. Each can which required the use of a genuine can opener, delivered 225 calories derived primarily from soy protein. The consistency was a miserable watery, pasty slurry that often contained tiny lumpy glops of congealed soy protein. To disguise the unpleasant taste, novel flavors like Danish coffee and egg nog delight were offered.

Ad copy from the mid 1960s touted, "Join the Metracal for lunch bunch on a new kind of treasure hunt. Discover Metracal which tastes just like a milk shake." The ad suggested that 4 cans per day of this diet drink would trim off the pounds in nothing flat. It was a popular product and sold for 12 cents a can at your local grocery store even though it tasted nothing like a milkshake.

We discovered that Metracl was a near perfect nourishment for intraoperative sustenance. In the OR can openers were readily available for popping the tops off multi-dose vials and also  worked great to open the Metracal cans. The next step was to obtain a straight catheter (18 Fr. worked just perfect) and insert the business end into a can of Metracal. The flared distal end of the catheter was carefully threaded through the side of the anxiously awaiting scrub nurse's mask  and it was lunch time while the surgeon searched for that last persistent bleeder.

There is nothing quite like savoring the gastronomic delight of a Danish coffee Metracal while inhaling putrid Bovie smoke. That combination of gustatory delights is bound to induce an anorexia syndrome that practically guarantees weight loss. Maybe Mead Johnson should have figured out how to can and sell Bovie smoke.

Since Metracal was mainly protein, we would add a 20ml ampule of D50 ( concentrated Dextrose)after about half the can of Metracal was consumed. I just loved the loud snap-crack noise those big ampules made when they were cracked open with bare hands. The scrub nurse knew that a pick me up was close at hand when that crack thundered throughout the room. Metracal and  D50 really did enhance vigilance when lassitude settled in during a lengthy case. My all time favorite flavor was called Thahitian treat - a taste of coconut delight from the islands while sweating it out in a Chicago operating room. Life  was good.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Whatever Happened to Sluice Rooms?

It's a conditioned response. Whenever I observe a Whippersnappern wearing gloves for routine patient care or  worse, comingling sheets soiled with scatatolgical resideue and run-of-the-mill dirty linen my anxiety mounts to intolerable levels. Someone is going to be raked over the coals for these misdeeds. Hospitals of yesteryear had unique protocols for these unpleasant circumstances.

Any sheet soiled with solid matter-what a euphemism-required a sluicing in the dirty utility room. A lovely, white 6 foot porcelain slab lined one of the walls of the dirty utility room. It was not for napping. At the elevated end of the sluice there was a massive faucet capable of unleashing a Niagra Falls torrent of water flow. The depressed end of the slab terminated at a slop sink which had a massive drain. This drain could accommodate a bolus biomass of stool the size of a bowling ball. Don't ask how I came to know that  little factoid. Someone had the foresight to install a trap on this sink which seemed to me comparable to the diameter of a subway tunnel. At least once the fetid fecal foosball facsimiles were beyond the trap they were gone for good and you could breath again.

To properly sluice a sheet place the origin of the offending substance at the lowest point of the sluice nearest the slop sink. If you enjoy inhaling aerosolized particulate matter simply reverse this procedure. Now for the fun part; turn that mighty faucet to full blast and watch that mass of olfactory offensive material sliding away on it's merry way to the waiting slop sink. Some types of residue affectionately referred to as smears, mucilaginous masses messes,  or pasty blobs require some encouragement from the intrepid sluicer and for this unsavory task a squeegee borrowed from housekeeping acted s a pusher. I always found it strange that the housekeeping personnel never asked for nursing to return their squeeges.

Suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue in the very early 1970s a memo from the nursing director came out stating that sluicing was no longer required due to improvements in the hospital laundry system and we could simply toss soiled sheets into the hamper. Sluicing like the lobotomy was gone for good and nurses were ecstatic.

This really piqued my curiosity and called for a personal visit to one of my favorite places which was our on site laundry operation. The Hispanic staff working the laundry were among the most content of all hospital staff despite working in a place that reminded me of Dante's inferno. This place was hotter than a brick oven, louder than a Pittsburgh steel mill and to top it off, smelled funny and that's putting it nicely. These folks made $2.20 an hour and were overjoyed with their pay (minimum wage was $1.65 an hour.) They were some of the nicest people in the hospital and even helped me with my lackluster Spanish skills.

When I asked about the new sluice free linen policy they happily showed me their brand new washers that had a built in sluice cycle. The washers had huge outlets that opened before the start of the wash cycle that permitted a huge flow of water through the batch of linen before the wash was initiated.

I was invited to observe a mechanical sluice cycle and it was very impressive. The mighty roar of the water being injected through the linen sounded like a 747 on take off roll in the midst of a rain storm. These giant sluice/washing machines had to be one of the greatest engineering accomplishments in healthcare history-and you thought anesthesia was an impressive invention. An open drip ether drip mask is nothing compared to these sluicing behemoths.

A few years ago nurses from my alma matter were invited to a homecoming. Changes made in the use of space at the hospital were depressing. The old OR suite, home to much drama and lifesaving (I hate that "L" word with a passion.) had been remuddled remodeled to fancy administrative offices. The beautiful terrazzo floors had been covered with Karastan carpet and pretty pictures hung on the walls. The sluice room on one ward had been converted to a data processing room filled with computer doo dads with blinking LED lights.

Crude rooms that were vital and offered maximum utility for patients  were converted to an office sitters paradise and an electronic wasteland. A depressing commentary on contemporary healthcare.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Operating Room Superstitions

 Old time operating rooms were fertile ground for the proliferation of  superstitions. Surgeries performed with equal technical excellence can have profoundly divergent outcomes causing thoughts of supernatural powers. Unexpected complications can occur without reason or explanation. Practices and behaviors that accompany good outcomes can be elevated to cause and effect status even when there is no supporting science. A Cartesian circle of the highest order develops. (I tossed that Cartesian word in there to try and sound smart..I'll be darned if I know what it really means.)

Superstitions have one thing  in common with science, they gain real traction with repetition. Thoughts like "Hey..the patient always does well when I use that scrub sink near the door." Pretty soon another nurse notices the same phenomenon and a "lucky" scrub sink is born. If a superstition does boost confidence it becomes much like a positive affirmation. Thinking positively was not one of my strong qualities and some superstitious actions do serve to boost confidence in nervous Nellies like me. If there is no danger to the patient and superstitions boost staff confidence a positive aspect of such non - science backed behavior becomes apparent. Without further ado, I present the magic superstitions I have encountered over the years and there is not a single full moon or "Q" word among them. No nurse would dare tempt fate by uttering the "Q" word especially when the moon is full.

Intracranial aneurysm surgery is a high stakes and nerve wracking procedure. Dr. Oddo, my favorite neurosurgeon had a couple of unusual habits for aneurysm clippings. Rule #1, No talking during the surgery and now comes the mystical  photon diminution exsanguination challenge. After the offending aneurysm is clipped, the overhead and ceiling lights in the OR are turned OFF for one full timed minute. The bone flap cannot be wired into position until the lights out test is completed and assurances of a dry field confirmed. I asked Dr. Oddo if the rationale for this test was the fact that it would be dark in a closed skull and he admonished me for overthinking the matter. "I do it because it's effective," he muttered.

Surgeons love to brag about their "bucket time." This refers to the interval from incision to when the diseased organ is ceremoniously tossed into the kick bucket. Every circulating nurse worth their salt  knows the sooner that pathology infested gall bladder or ripe appendix is bagged up and out of the room the better. If a resident wants to fool around with the specimen looking for stones or what not-do it in a scrub sink outside the room. Get that thing outta here-It's bad JuJu of the highest order! Skin approximation at closing time is so much easier when that specimen is gone and the anesthetist will thank you too when it's emergence time. Everything is just...better.

This lucky maneuver was brought to my attention by a very bright Filipino surgeon. In his native country, the surgeons would place a huge leaf from a tropical plant under their  scrub caps as an aid for cooling. Serendipitously, it was discovered that surgical outcomes improved with the tropical leaf  undercap maneuver. We don't have tropical forests in Chicago unless you count that flower shop on Belmont St. in July, but we have cabbage leaves readily available in the hospital kitchen. This green vegetable worked just fine and there was usually a head (of cabbage) in the OR refrigerator. Just look under all those blood bags-yep we comingled food, blood, and (get em outta here) specimens in the same refrigerator. Our overseers were safely hidden away in their offices and dared not even approach the double doors to the OR.

Here is an oldie but goodie that every old nurse has probably practiced. The idea of transferring this maneuver from the bedside to the OR was a stroke of sheer genius. When a patient is declining rapidly old school nurses would tie a knot in a corner of the bottom sheet usually at the foot of the bed. It's best not to question superstition practitioners, but the explanation had something to do with binding the soul to the body. If a problem developed during surgery some circulators would duck under the table under the guise of adjusting a Bovie pedal and knot the sheet covering the OR table.

If sheet knotting is such a great thing I thought maybe we should just knot the sheet before each case prior to draping. An old nurse was quick to admonish me, "It doesn't work that way Fool. The knot has to be secured after the patient begins that downward slide. You should have learned that in nursing school."  I stand corrected.

Thanks for indulging in my foolishness. My blog always experiences a marked decline in readership after the traditional school year ends. Somehow, I did not think foolishness and academics mixed, but I must have been wrong.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Let's Stop Using These BS Terms

Calling a doctor's office an INSITUTE such as Two rivers Orthopedic Institute. When a doctor hangs out his shingle he can't be the founding father of an institute. The term "institute" refers to an entity that combines clinical practice, research, and academic endeavors under one umbrella (another BS term if I've ever heard one.)  I better be more careful.

Clever spellings of terms like orthopAedics, just to sound like a bigshot. It's orthopedics unless you happen to live in England. I interviewed  asked an orthopedic man the rationale for this nonsense and he said it was being used a  nod to the history of the specialty. That's piling BS on top of BS if you ask me.

Calling patients "consumers."  This was tried in the past by calling patients "clients." It did not work back then and won't work now because it depersonalizes sick people seeking help. History is on the side of calling sick people patients, so let's not mess with it.

Let's stop calling dense urban centers with lot's of health issues "medically underserved."  There are lots of medical folks in your nearby hospital. The problem is horrendous, intractable social problems not a lack of medicine or medical personnel.

Doctors who refer to the number patients cared for as a "patient panel." I'm not sure where this one came from, but suspect it has something to do with remuneration. How do you determine the size of your "panel?"  Maybe the number of patients you see per day times  the number of days you see patients. Patients have highly variable levels of acuity. Maybe it would be easier to categorize by acuity before assembling a panel or just say how many people can give you a phone call and be seen by a provider. Yikes, provider sounds like another BS term and that's stacking BS on top of BS. I'm getting into some really bad habits here.

Free pharmaceutical samples from your local, friendly Doc that are not free or samples. UPMC the dominant domineering health system here in Pittsburgh hands out bottles of cheap generic drugs plastered with advertisements for their brand of health insurance. It's enough to make me sick!

Physicians that promote themselves by proclaiming they are a Harvard educated medical specialist. From my experience an Ivy league education does not promise a good outcome. That sounds like a misguided superiority complex to me.

 Two BS terms for the price of one - "experience" and "journey."  Your weight loss journey begins with a surgical experience with our Harvard educated (oops) bariatric surgeon.  Weight loss is not a journey and having your gut rearranged is not an experience.

Here is a real gem. "Work needed to undergrid  healthcare  reform involves a new paradigm in perception." That "paradigm" word has been around forever. Dr. Slambow, my favorite person to scrub with, said that whenever you here that paradigm word it's someone attempting to sound smart when they don't know what they are talking about. Maybe I need to come up with a new paradigm with this foolish blog.

Friday, May 26, 2017

What is This Newfangeled Juxta Business?

Medical terminology is in a constant state of flux and I'm all for change if more concise or precise - hey it rhymes- information is provided by the new term. But what's this new fangled juxta prefix  applied to anything and everything all about?

We have juxtaglomerular, juxtacortical (brain or kidney?), juxtapyloric,  juxtavertebral, juxtachondral, and who knows what juxta  else. In the good old days we had prefixes like peri-,circum-, or in plain speak,  thereabouts. These old school terms worked very well but,perhaps lacked some of the cache of the newfangled juxta speak. However, I think the lingo from yesteryear was more straightforward and served it's purpose well.

Youngsters seem to have a preoccupation with inventing new  terms to replace old school terms that have withstood the test of time. On a recent visit to the Carnegie Museum it was a shock to find all the dinosaur names unrecognizable. A taxonomic smart aleck had pulled a switheroo with all the classic dinosaur nomenclature. The venerable T. Rex (I can't spell the full name) was renamed Tarbosaurus. I think that sounds like the name of a docile creature like some delicate avian species. It certainly does not jibe with a apex predator like the T rex.

All this terminology and taxonomy malarkey calls for some harsh correction from the Oldfoolrn  Institute for the Advancement of Medical Terminology. It's always nice to know the prognosis when various medical terminology terms ejaculate from the tongues of sophisticated medical  banterers. It's a simple matter to tack on a suffix to the medical term to indicate prognostications.

If a good outcome is anticipated the suffix is  -goodjuju which can be abbreviated GJJ. If  a  storm is brewing on the medical  horizon and the patient is juxtaing the drain-oops I mean circling the drain, the appropriate suffix is badjuju or simply BJJ. Here is a sample: Aortic dissection BJJ or erythematous skin lesion GJJ. My system is straight forward and fun. Feel free to use the next time you are typing in a diagnosis on the EMR. Maybe if enough folks use this system it will gain traction, just like that silly Juxta prefix.