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January 2017 Critical Care Case of the Month

Seth Assar, MD

Clement U. Singarajah, MD


Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

Banner University Medical Center Phoenix – Phoenix

Phoenix VA Medical Center

Phoenix, AZ USA


History of Present Illness

The patient is a 48-year-old man who presented with two days of progressive shortness of breath and non-productive cough. There were no associated symptoms and the patient specifically denied fever, chills, night sweats, myalgia or other evidence of viral prodrome. He had no chest pain or tightness, nausea, vomiting, or leg swelling and he could lay flat. He had no recent travel or sick contacts and was Influenza-immunized this season.

Past Medical History

  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus with a recent hemoglobin A1C of 11%        

Social History

  • Cook at pizzeria
  • Gay and lives at home with roommate of several years
  • Smokes marijuana weekly.
  • Prior history of cocaine use

Family History

  • Noncontributory

Physical Examination

  • Vitals: T 99.1º F / HR 125 / BP 193/93 / RR 24 / SpO2 88%
  • General: Tachypneic. Alert and oriented X 4.
  • Lungs: Crackles at bases bilaterally, no wheezes
  • Heart: tachycardia
  • Abdomen: NSA
  • Skin: no needle marks or cellulitis


  • CBC: WBC 11,700 cells/mcL with 80% polymorphonuclear leukocytes, otherwise normal
  • Basic metabolic panel: normal
  • Brain natriuretic peptide: 120 pg/ml
  • Urine drug screen was negative for cocaine but positive for marijuana.
  • D-dimer: 0.32 mcg/mL

Hospital Course

He was admitted to the ICU but quickly deteriorated and was intubated for hypoxemia. Empiric ceftriaxone and levofloxacin were begun.

Chest x-ray demonstrated bilateral patchy airspace opacities (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Admission chest x-ray.

Which of the following should be done next? (click on the correct answer to proceed to the second of six pages)

  1. Bedside cardiac ultrasound
  2. Coccidioidomycosis serology
  3. CT scan of the chest
  4. 1 and 3
  5. All of the above

Cite as: Assar S, Singarajah CU. January 2017 critical care case of the month. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;14(1):6-13. doi: PDF

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