July 2019 Critical Care Case of The Month: An 18-Year-Old with Presumed Sepsis and Progressive Multisystem Organ Failure 
Monday, July 1, 2019 at 8:00AM
Rick Robbins, M.D. in HLH, NK cell, anakinra, criteria, ferritin, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, multisystem organ failure, overactive inflammation, soluble interleukin-2 receptor, treatment

Robert A. Raschke, MD

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix

Phoenix, AZ USA


Critical Care Case of the Month CME Information

Completion of an evaluation form is required to receive credit and a link is provided on the last page of the activity. 

0.50 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™

Estimated time to complete this activity: 0.50 hours

Lead Author(s): Robert A. Raschke, MDAll 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 completing this activity, participants will be better able to:

  1. Interpret and identify clinical practices supported by the highest quality available evidence.
  2. Establish the optimal evaluation leading to a correct diagnosis for patients with pulmonary, critical care and sleep disorders.
  3. Translate the most current clinical information into the delivery of high quality care for patients.
  4. Integrate new treatment options 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: The University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson

Current Approval Period: January 1, 2019-December 31, 2020

Financial Support Received: None


History of Present Illness

An 18-year-old female student from Flagstaff was transferred to our hospital for refractory sepsis. She had presented with a 2 week history of fever, malaise, sore throat, myalgias, arthralgias and a rash.

PMH, SH and FH

She reported no significant past medical history or family history. She attended cosmetology school, denied smoking or drug abuse and was sexually monogamous. She had only traveled in-state, did not hike or camp and her only animal exposure was playing with her two pet Great Danes.

Physical Examination

The patient had a fever of 38.5°C. on original presentation. HEENT exam was reported as unrevealing. Lungs were clear. There were no heart murmurs and the abdominal exam was unremarkable. No joint effusions were apparent. A rash was mentioned, but not described and it apparently disappeared shortly after admission.

Initial laboratory testing was significant for WBCC of 12.1 K/mm3, creatinine of 1.5 mg/dL and AST of 45 IU/L. A rapid influenza screen, urinalysis and chest radiography were unrevealing. Blood cultures were drawn and intravenous fluids, piperacillin/tazobactam and azithromycin were administered. Over the next four days, the fever persisted and the blood cultures resulted in no growth. Serial laboratory values demonstrated progressive worsening in renal function and increasing hepatic enzymes. The patient became dyspneic and developed rales and progressive hypoxia prompting transfer.

On arrival in our ICU, the patient was alert, in mild respiratory distress and hypotensive to 78/43 mmHg, requiring immediate initiation of intravenous norepinephrine. She reported nausea and severe diffuse myalgia and arthralgia. On examination, she was ill-appearing with blood pressure 101/58 (on norepinephrine at 25 mcg/min), heart rate 104 beats/min, respiratory rate 33 breaths/min, temperature 38.8°C. She had mild oropharyngeal erythema, some shotty cervical lymph nodes, bilateral rales, mild epigastric and right upper quadrant tenderness, and a macular erythematous rash approximately 14 x 29 cm on her left forearm that disappeared within several hours.

Her ICU admission chest x-ray is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Admission ICU portable chest X-ray showing bilateral areas of consolidation.

Her laboratory evaluation showed the following:

What are diagnostic considerations at this time?  (Click on the correct answer to be directed to the second of six pages)

  1. Rocky mountain spotted fever (RMSF)
  2. Acute retroviral syndrome
  3. Still’s disease
  4. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  5. All of the above

Cite as: Raschke RA. July 2019 critical care case of the month: an 18-year-old with presumed sepsis and progressive multisystem organ failure. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2019;19(1):1-9. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc043-19 PDF 

Article originally appeared on SOUTHWEST JOURNAL of PULMONARY & CRITICAL CARE (http://www.swjpcc.com/).
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