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November 2016 Critical Care Case of the Month

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Phoenix Pulmonary and Critical Care Research and Education Foundation

Gilbert, AZ USA


Critical Care Case of the Month CME Information

Members of the Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and California Thoracic Societies and the Mayo Clinic are able to receive 0.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ for each case they complete. Completion of an evaluation form is required to receive credit and a link is provided on the last panel of the activity. 

0.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™

Estimated time to complete this activity: 0.25 hours 

Lead Author(s): Richard A. Robbins, MD.  All Faculty, CME Planning Committee Members, and the CME Office Reviewers have disclosed that they do not have any relevant financial relationships with commercial interests that would constitute a conflict of interest concerning this CME activity.

Learning Objectives:
As a result of this activity I will be better able to:

  1. Correctly interpret and identify clinical practices supported by the highest quality available evidence.
  2. Will be better able to establsh the optimal evaluation leading to a correct diagnosis for patients with pulmonary, critical care and sleep disorders.
  3. Will improve the translation of the most current clinical information into the delivery of high quality care for patients.
  4. Will integrate new treatment options in discussing available treatment alternatives for patients with pulmonary, critical care and sleep related disorders.

Learning Format: Case-based, interactive online course, including mandatory assessment questions (number of questions varies by case). Please also read the Technical Requirements.

CME Sponsor: University of Arizona College of Medicine

Current Approval Period: January 1, 2015-December 31, 2016

Financial Support Received: None


History of Present Illness

A 45-year-old Iraqi War Veteran was seen in the outpatient clinic after referral for COPD based on abnormal blood gases. He denies any dyspnea or cough.

PMH, SH and FH

He has a history of a lower back injury and uses a motorized wheelchair. His pain is managed with morphine sulfate ER 60 mg daily and morphine sulfate 10 mg every 4 hours as needed for breakthrough pain.

He does not smoke cigarettes but does use marijuana for pain. He denies alcohol abuse.

Physical Examination

Physical examination shows a lethargic man in a wheelchair who intermittently falls asleep during questioning and examination. When aroused he is oriented to time, place and person and frequently mentions that his pain is a 10. His vital signs are normal expect his SpO2 is 75% on room air. His lungs were clear and his heart had a regular rhythm without murmur. His pupil size is approximately 2 mm bilaterally and muscle strength is difficult to determine due to his inability to remain alert or fully cooperate.


A chest x-ray had been performed about a week previously (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Initial chest x-ray.

Spirometry had been performed earlier in the day (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Spirometry.

Which of the following are indicated at this time? (Click on the correct answer to proceed to the second of four pages)

  1. Arterial blood gases (ABGs)
  2. Immediate intubation
  3. Intensive care unit (ICU) admission
  4. 1 and 3
  5. All of the above

Cite as: Robbins Ra. November 2016 critical care case of the month. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2016;13(5):196-201. doi: PDF

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