Headache Over Heels: CT Negative Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
This simulation is intended for MS4 or PGY-1 learners.
Both headache and syncope are common chief complaints in the emergency department (ED); however, subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is uncommon (accounting for 1-3% of all patients presenting to the ED with headache), with near 50% mortality.1-3 It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms that point to this specific diagnosis. Once subarachnoid hemorrhage is suspected, it is critical to understand the appropriate workup to diagnose SAH, depending on the timing of presentation. Once SAH is diagnosed, appropriately managing the patient’s glucose, blood pressure, and pain is important.
By the end of this case, the participant will be able to: 1) construct a broad differential diagnosis for a patient presenting with syncope, 2) name the history and physical exam findings consistent with SAH, 3) identify SAH on computer tomography (CT) imaging, 4) identify the need for lumbar puncture (LP) to diagnose SAH when CT head is non-diagnostic > 6 hours after symptom onset, 5) correctly interpret cerebral fluid studies (CSF) to aid in the diagnosis of SAH, and 6) specify blood pressure goals in SAH and suggest appropriate medication management.
High-fidelity simulation was utilized since this modality forces learners to actively construct a differential for syncope, recognize the possibility of subarachnoid hemorrhage, recall the need for lumbar puncture, and talk through management considerations in real time as opposed to a more passive lecture format.
Twenty emergency medicine residents and medical student learners completed the simulation activity. Each learner was asked to complete an eight question post-simulation survey. The survey addressed the utility and appropriate training level of the simulation activity while also including an open-ended prompt for suggestions for improvement.
Five PGY3, four PGY2, four PGY1, and seven medical students completed the survey. Ninety-five percent felt that the case was more helpful in a simulation format than in a lecture format. All learners felt that the simulation was an appropriate level of difficulty. Of the comments received, a few learners noted they preferred more complexity.
Overall, the educational content was effective in teaching about the SAH diagnostic algorithm, CSF interpretation, and blood pressure management in SAH. Overall, learners very much enjoyed the activity and felt it was appropriate for their level of training. The most common constructive feedback was to include more specific neurologic findings on physical examination to help guide the student to the diagnosis of SAH.
Syncope, subarachnoid hemorrhage, cerebrospinal fluid interpretation, lumbar puncture, intracranial bleed, blood pressure goals and management.