Saturday, December 25, 2010

My PACES Experience (2)

Ya, as promised, this post is about case presentation in PACES exam, in my humble opinion. There are more than plenty of resources on approaching this exam, hence I won't really elaborate too much. I'd just like to share a "format" that I think is "safe" and can be used even when you're in a panic state (Well, at least it works for me).

Let's just take an abdomen station as an example, and renal transplant case is one of the common ones. Upon completing your examination, you turned to the examiner,

1. General physical findings

"Mr Smith (always use patient's name instead of "this gentleman") is comfortable at rest. He has sallow complexion, conjunctival pallor and I noticed that he has finger prick marks and half-and-half nails, with an arteriovenous fistula at his left arm with no recent needling marks. I also noticed that he has gingival hyperplasia as well as fine tremor of his hands."

2. Main System

"...Moving on to his abdomen, there is a scar at right iliac fossa, with a firm mass beneath which is non-tender and dull on percussion. There rest of the abdomen is soft, and there is no hepato or splenomegaly. The kidneys are not ballotable. There is no ascites, and he has no sacral or pedal edema. "

3. Summary (The most important part - score at this point!)

Always go by - Diagnosis -> Etiology -> Function -> Complication (from disease & Rx)

"In summary, Mr.Smith has a transplanted kidney, which is functioning well, for his underlying end-stage renal failure, which most likely was due to diabetic nephropathy. He has features suggesting that he is on immunosuppressive treatment, most likely a calcineurin-inhibitor. He has no signs suggestive of fluid overload or uremic encephalopathy. There is no lymphadenopathy or any suspicious skin lesion."

Easy? Let me break down the important tips for you:

First of all, spot that this is a renal failure patient (The fistula is obviously the tell-tale sign), then switch on your brain engine and the visual survey, looking for:

1. Other signs of renal failure - as mentioned in textbooks, PLUS the evidence of previous dialysis (neck scar of catheter insertion, abdominal scar for peritoneal dialysis, failed fistula at other sites etc);

2. Possible etiology of the renal failure, e.g
- Finger prick mark - diabetes mellitus. If young patient, suspect Type 1 DM and look also for scar of pancreas transplant (usually done together with renal transplant);

- Nephrectomy scar - trauma, hemorrhage from angiomyolipoma, polycystic kidney, obstructive uropathy etc;

- "Gaunt facies" - lipodystrophy due to underlying Mesangiocapillary glomerulonephritis (Easily missed!);

- Autoimmune features - SLE malar rash, scleroderma, or even just skin vitiligo - could be associated with Type 1 DM - think broadly! ;)

3. Graft function status

Clinically by looking (carefully) at recent needling marks, graft tenderness, and signs of fluid overload/ uremic encephalopathy.

4. Side effects of Immunosuppressive treatment

Steroid: Cushingnoid features (long list)
Calcineurin inhibitor: Tremor, gum hypertrophy, hirsutism
And others (azathioprine, MMF, sirolimus etc)

5. Malignancy - Important!

Mentioning lymph node examination and skin lesion shows that you're aware of the risk of malignancy in post-transplant patient - most important ones being skin cancer (SCC/ BCC) and lymphoproliferative disease.

6. Lastly, mention about blood pressure. It shows that you're aware that cardiac death is the most important cause of deaths in post kidney-transplanted patients, which all cardiovascular risks need to be aggressively controlled. Besides, it could also be the etiology of his renal failure (Hypertensive nephropathy) or as a side effect of cyclosporin/ steroid.

So that's about it. Remember, it's a postgraduate exam so you need to look for "more things" so that you can make the impression. A holistic approach will be essential.

Good luck!

Related posts:
My PACES Experience (1)
PACES Case Sharing


Anonymous said...

Excellent learning points. Wonder how you prepared for it. Hope to see more tips! Thanks!

Zzzyun said...

very enlightening... it will take me many more years before thinking of taking the exam!!

how long did u take the exam after graduating?

Sonz said...

Been reading your blog for quite some time. Love your posts. Just a question, may i know why do u take both USMLE and MRCP?

Darren Lee said...

Anonymous: Thanks!

Zzzyun:'s my 4th year after graduation..I took long time to prepare for I said, it's my nightmare of the year..hehe

Sonz: Thanks for reading! For the exams, Hmm how should I say..I guess it's for more options? I was looking forward to get some exposure in overseas...

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