Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Last Day of Actual Surgery and Didactics Presentation

So today was my last day doing actual surgeries - tomorrow I have my last day of clinic with the orthopedic surgeon.  We did two arthroscopic surgery repairs, one of them was a rotator cuff repair which I hadn't seen before.  Another was an arthroscopic knee meniscal repair, and the other two were hand surgeries: carpal tunnel release surgery and a ganglion cyst removal.  I still get along great with the surgeon and his PA, so I'm not worried about my grade for this rotation.  He isn't very book-focused and they always joke when they see me studying so much so I assume they think I am intelligent enough.  

Throughout most of today I was reading and rereading my presentation for today.  As part of our third year clinical rotations, we have to attend didactic lectures on Tuesday, only an hour usually.  Every other Tuesday, one or two of us present, and we each have to do a total of two presentations by ourselves - one on a topic that we can elaborate on, and another on a selected clinical case.  My turn was today, and my topic was Psychiatry, so I chose Major Depressive Disorder because it is applicable to everyone.  I was worried about a lot of things - whether I would run overtime, whether I would bore everyone by talking about antidepressant medications, whether I was saying too much or too little, whether people would be unresponsive or not know how to answer my quiz questions, and whether people are bored to death with depression, because I remember we had a lot of lectures about that at Touro.

Anyhow, I gave my presentation - I got a slight boost of confidence because I went over it orally beforehand and managed to get it down to 19 minutes and 30 seconds, so I wasn't as worried about going overtime.  So I gave my presentation, people seemed to pay attention and like it.  Basically everyone was answering my pharmacology quiz questions, so it was definitely sticking.  When I got feedback, it was essentially a unanimous response that it was the best presentation all year, was really informative, I sounded confident and knowledgeable, had all the information that everyone had been craving, was varied, kept attention, etc.  The physician who attends all the didactic sessions and grades our presentations agreed that it was the best all year and was even at the next caliber level for what he expects from us - that it is the kind of presentation one could expect at the professional level at a real conference.  

Needless to say, this was awesome.  Honestly, I feel like I'm a decent presenter.  I try to convey my enthusiasm for a topic and hopefully drag a few unwilling audience members with me, but it worked out great. I used PowerPoint animations, humor, color coding, quotes... this was exactly the boost I needed to help me keep going on through studying boards and rotations.  I think I'm going to be happy and charged up the rest of the night!  Man.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Week 2, and Week 3 of Orthopedic Surgery

Orthopedic surgery is continuing to do well.  Since those two hip replacement revision surgeries, which apparently are only done once a year or so, I have assisted on several arthroscopic procedures and today we had 9 hours of surgery - no waiting around - two total knee replacements and two total hip replacements.   Apparently I am getting a lot of good experiences, since some of these procedures are not done all that often during a single 4 week rotation period.  I definitely feel privileged to be able to handle shards of bone and help drill into patients' dislocated hips.  

One of the patients today had had a hip fracture a long time ago and was immobile at his hip joint because his bones had not set properly and had accessory bone growth within the joint socket and around it, essentially cementing his femur into his pelvis.  It would be neat to see him in post-op after he realizes he can move his hip again on that side.  

Something interesting I found was how the procedures are very step-by-step - everything is cut based on relative positioning and they have a ton of pre-made accessories that they attach to the bone to help guide their cuts.  Also, when boring into the shaft of the femur to place the metal rod, they first make a small hole, then start with the smallest metal rod, and then build up incrementally to the size they wish and it is all very precise.  It is quite neat.  

My preceptor also seems to think I am coming along fine - he and the PA both think I pick up things fast and my preceptor was pleased with my more recent patient presentations and assessments.  He is also very relaxed - the PA as well.  They both have similar political/religious/cultural views (which I of course let them voice first before chiming in at all - I'd rather not take the risk of striking a bad chord) so that helps make for good conversation in the OR.  I have also been allowed to help put respiratory equipment into patients with the anesthesiologists - just the throat dam (not sure the name), but it's still useful to get a little familiarity with the oropharynx.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 1 Orthopedic Surgery

This rotation is pretty cool.  The clinic days are generally easy, I shadow him, present the new consults, I get to look at X-rays, and he encourages me to take time to research various conditions on my computer (I get a little work station).  I also get a lunch break for an hour and a half sometimes to study for the boards.  I can even do practice questions at work.  I also ran into my last preceptor (infectious disease) at the main hospital when we were there for surgeries, so I got to visit with him a bit and he updated me on some of the last patients we had seen together.

Surgery days: I get to study in between surgeries - I review through the USMLE First Aid Step 1 in between surgeries, and I am listening to Goljan lectures in the car. 

As for the actual surgeries themselves, they are pretty interesting.  The laparoscopic procedures remind me of kelp forests because the golden glistening tendrils of intra-articular fat and meniscal tears have this fluffy look to them and they are waving back and forth in the water due to the irrigation.  On Friday I got to assist on two total hip revisions - very complicated procedures, the surgeon who is my preceptor was working with the UCSF doctor who was his attending in residency.  Apparently the UCSF doctor only assists on surgeries if they are more challenging cases.  In these cases, we were 'revising' the prosthesis, as in taking out the prostheses that were implanted in the hip and femur, shaving out the concrete and re-forming the implant sites, and then using a combination of cadaver bone, current bone, new prostheses, metal cables, screws, and cement to reattach them.  It's amazing that it produces a functional hip at the end.  We have to wear knee-high foot covers over our scrubs (normal surgeries you only need foot covers to the ankle), and also these heavy plastic face shields that you wear like a helmet that circulate air inside your helmet.  There's a lot of blood spray, so that's what those are for.  Unfortunately, the strap around my head was giving me a pretty bad headache in the second surgery, and this whole weekend I have had a mild-severe tension headache from my neck straining against the weight.

Another week starts tomorrow, hopefully it will be educational as well as productive in terms of board review.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Infectious Disease, Last Week

Things are going well with Infectious Disease still.  We've had a few interesting developments.  One of our patients, the homeless young female patient who has had altered mental status and been in full restraints for the past week and has systemic Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infection has actually started to come out of it.  From the start she had altered mental status and we haven't been able to get an MRI to see how her brain is functioning, so we have had no way to know how her brain was doing.  Through this we were speculating that she had bacterial vegetations forming throughout her body that could be throwing clots to her brain, and she even grew MRSA in her spinal fluid, so it could have been forming microabscesses in her brain as well.  Not to mention the huge abscesses in her iliacus and piriformis muscles (anterior to the spine in the lower back, behind the abdominal viscera) that started the whole deal.  I think none of us were really expecting her to ever come back to mental awareness, and we had not seen her in anything resembling a lucid state since we started treating her.  

Today she woke up.  

For her it almost seemed like nothing ever happened - just saying "I'm hungry," and "I feel tired," like she'd had a really long nap.  Calm and tired, not thrashing about or pulling at her tubes or anything like that.  No alarm yet, maybe has a little bit of a drugged look (understandably), and we still don't know the extent of the damage of this week of MRSA sepsis, but she's lucky she had my preceptor on the case for her infection and such a good team of ICU specialists.  It's amazing - there are some patients who you really don't know if they will recover who somehow bounce back, and then there are others who look fine and are ready for discharge and they die that evening.  Definitely drives home how unpredictable medicine can be.  

That's not to say that I think we should do everything in our power to keep a human body running when it is beyond what a clinician would estimate is "the point of no return".  Some absolutely septic patients, with multi-organ failure, and other comorbidities like diabetes and obesity are still getting specialty bone scans and send out labs even when their lactic acid level is at 14, they are on 5 different pressor medications and their blood pressure is still not in control, their stats are steadily dropping, and they're on a ventilator.  There is a time and place for hospice and palliative care.  Some points that indicated that perhaps our homeless young woman might recover were the following: she was never on a ventilator, her laboratory values were never all that particularly horrible, she was young, AND she wasn't obese, diabetic, or suffering any other comorbidities that we knew of (aside from drug abuse).  It's amazing what diabetes and obesity will do to your survival rates in a hospital.