This case study is interpersed with medical algorithms to illustrate how they can be utilized in clinical practice to help physicians obtain quick, reliable results.
Donald is a 45-year-old obese male who started noticing that his abdomen was becoming distended. He had a history of hypertension, sleep apnea, and worsening shortness of breath. There was no history of chronic fever, inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. His family history was unremarkable. In addition to the increasing girth, he had some nausea after eating and recently noted swelling of the ankles.
Evaluation: Abdominal Ascites Symptoms
The initial evaluation included an ultrasound and a CT scan of the abdomen and these showed the presence of ascites. The liver was also firm on palpation and the diagnosis of cirrhosis was made clinically. However, the exact cause for the cirrhosis was uncertain. He denied alcohol use (but many alcoholics do). He had risk factors for metabolic syndrome which can lead to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and cirrhosis. He has several tattoos, the first one received over 20 years ago when he was in the military. He got his most recent tattoo 3 months ago. There is also a lot of hepatitis C in his community.
Because of the uncertainty as to cause it was decided to perform a percutaneous liver biopsy. The liver biopsy showed extensive amyloid deposits.
A bone marrow biopsy showed a mild increase in plasma cells. FISH studies showed an abnormal plasma cell clone. Extensive amyloid was noted in the core biopsy. The diagnosis of a plasma cell neoplasm was made.
Because of the diagnosis of amyloidosis, additional studies were performed. The heart was enlarged with reduced LVEF. The kidneys were enlarged and there was mild proteinuria.
Amyloidosis is often a systemic disorder with deposits of the abnormal protein in multiple organs. It can occur with a variety of disorders including plasma cell neoplasm (myeloma), chronic inflammation, and familial causes.
The prognosis depends on the extent of end-organ involvement and progression to organ failures. In this patient the status of the plasma cell neoplasm is also important.
- Amyloidosis often mimics more-common diseases.
- Early diagnosis can help prevent further organ damage, which can be achieved with the use of medical algorithms and clinical expertise.
- Medical algorithms, if used strategically and appropriately, can be instrumental in the diagnosis, assessment and disease management of amyloidosis and nearly any other medical condition.
About the Authors
Umang Jain is the Health Innovations Fellow at Apervita. He is passionate about medicine, research, and business. He is a fourth year medical student at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and will pursue Emergency Medicine residency. Umang’s scholarly interests include surgical outcomes research, in which he is published in the fields of ENT, orthopedic, plastic, cardiac, and urologic surgery. He has also participated in research in neurodegenerative disease at MIT and Boston University. Umang’s business experience stems from his work at the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Boston, MA. He worked closely with Dr. Donald Berwick, Administrator of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Sir Nigel Crisp, the former Chief Executive of UK’s National Health Service, on engaging in evidence-based healthcare improvement interventions on a global scale. Umang was also an intern at Senticare Inc. and Personica, where he evaluated EHRs and in-home health monitoring equipment.
Dr. Chad Rudnick, MD, FAAP is a board-certified pediatrician in Boca Raton, FL. He is the Medical Director of The Medical Algorithms Company. A proponent of incorporating medical technology into his practice, Dr. Rudnick uses telemedicine and medical algorithms from The Medical Algorithms Company in his daily practice to better serve his patients and their families. An accomplished medical writer, he maintains a popular pediatric blog, All Things Pediatric, and has written for numerous online and print publications including KevinMD.com.
John Svirbely, MD is a founder and Chief Medical Officer of The Medical Algorithms Company and the primary author of its medical algorithms. John is a co-founder of the Medical Algorithms Project and has developed its medical content for nearly 20 years. He has a BA degree from the Johns Hopkins University and his MD from the University of Maryland. He is a board-certified pathologist with a fellowship in medical microbiology and biomedical computing at Ohio State University. Currently he is in private practice in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has authored multiple books and articles on medical algorithms.