On Lab Medicine: A Model for Quality Improvement

What do gopher holes have in common with quality improvement? More than you might think! In a paper available on Lab Medicine’s advanced access, Dr. Yaolin Zhou writes about a novel framework for quality improvement initiatives called EPIDEM, or “explore, promote, implement, document, evaluate, and modify.”

Read the paper and let us know what you think! 

Microbiology Case Study: A 21 Year Old With Chronic Kidney Disease

Case History

The patient is a 21 year old male with a history of developmental delay and chronic kidney disease secondary to posterior urethral valves, status post kidney transplant at age 14, who presents for a routine office visit with his pediatric nephrologist. In the past year, he has had chronic antibody-mediated transplant rejection despite immunosuppression. In addition, he drinks 1-1.5 gallons of water daily, self-catheterizes every three hours, and has an indwelling Foley at night. During the office visit, he denies any urinary symptoms, including dysuria, hematuria, cloudy urine, reduced output, or fever. However, given his significant risk factors for urinary tract infection, his provider orders a urinalysis and urine culture.

Laboratory Identification

The urine was noted to be cloudy, was positive for nitrites and leukocyte esterase, and had 11-50 white blood cells per high-powered field. 

Urine culture demonstrated the growth of two organisms, one of which was identified to be greater than 100,000 CFU of Proteus miribalis, and the second of which grew 10,000-100,000 CFU, was isolated, and is shown below:

Image 1. Appearance of the second organism’s growth on blood agar after the bile solubility test.
Image 2. Gram stain showing gram positive diplococci.

Mass spectrometry by MALDI-TOF confirmed that this second organism is Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bile-soluble gram positive diplococci. 

Discussion

S pneumoniae is implicated in a number of diseases, but it is an uncommon pathogen in the urine. Several case-series and case reports have been published demonstrating a predilection of pathogenic urinary S pneumoniae for pediatric patients with urinary tract abnormalities. In one series, 26 urine cultures from 18 patients were identified as growing S pneumoniae, with CFU counts ranging from 100 to 100,000. Sixteen of the 26 cultures grew only S pneumoniae. Of the 18 patients, only six were adults, eight had had a kidney transplant, and four others had chronic problems with their kidneys (1). In another series of three pediatric cases, one patient had congenital bilateral duplication of the renal collecting system, one had a “congenital imperforate anus (high type 1A) with a rectovesical fistula and grade 4 bilateral vesicoureteral reflux,” and the third had bilateral renal dysplasia (2). Neither case series was able to identify a specific serotype of S pneumoniae responsible for these infections.

As discussed by Choi et al, the altered flow dynamics of the abnormal urinary systems in these patients may be compromising normal host immune clearance mechanisms, thereby increasing the susceptibility to infection (2, 3). However, it is unclear why S pneumoniae infections have a predilection for congenital urinary tract abnormalities, as opposed to all urinary tract abnormalities. Choi et al postulate that some of the gene polymorphisms known to predispose individuals to UTI or pneumococcal infections could be genetically linked to genes responsible for urinary tract abnormalities, thus increasing the probability that an individual with a congenital urinary tract abnormality would have an S pneumoniae urinary tract infection (2,4).

Given the patient’s history and risk factors, the presence of S pneumoniae in his urine was found to be significant. Treatment of both organisms and appropriate follow-up was recommended.

References

  1. Burckhardt, Irene, Jessica Panitz, Mark van der Linden, and Stefan Zimmermann.  “Streptococcus pneumoniae as an agent of urinary tract infections – a laboratory experience from 2010 to 2014 and further characterization of strains.”  Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease.  2016; 86: 97-101.
  2. Choi, Rihwa, Youngeun Ma, Kyung Sun Park,  Nam Yong Lee, Hee Yeon Cho, and Yae-Jean Kim.  “Streptococcus Pneumoniae as a uropathogen in children with urinary tract abnormalities.”  The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.  2013; 32(12): 1386-1388.
  3. Bogaert, D, R de Groot, PWM Hermans.  “Streptococcus pneumoniae colonization: the key to pneumococcal disease.”  The Lancet Infectious Diseases.  2004; 4(3): 144-154.
  4. Yuan, Fang Fang, Katherine Marks, Melanie Wong, Sarah Watson, Ellen de Leon, Peter Bruce McIntyre, John Stephen Sullivan.  “Clinical relevance of TLR2, TLR4, CD14, and Fc gamma RIIA gene polymorphisms in Streptococcus pneumoniae infection.”  Immunology and Cell Biology.  2008; 86(3): 268-270.

-Fritz Eyerer, MD is a first year Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Resident at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

-Christi Wojewoda, MD, is the Director of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Vermont Medical Center and an Associate Professor at the University of Vermont.

Working with Traditionalists: How Other Generations Can Adapt

Traditionalists are the oldest working generation in today’s professional environments. They bring a wealth of information, knowledge, and experience with them. Therefore, organizations that work with Traditionalists either on their staff or on their Boards are fortunate to have access to their input. In order learn as much as possible from this generation, while they are still present in the workplace, it is critical to know and understand their preferred way of communicating, leading, and working. It is also important to know how and when to adapt your own preferred communication, behavioral, and leadership styles to meet the needs and preferences of this
generation.

Typically, Traditionalists prefer face-to-face communication. They grew up with limited communication technology and they prefer to connect in person when possible. If you cannot communicate in person, pick up the phone and call them. Not only is this respectful to their own preferences, it will allow you to increase your verbal communications skills when there is no written form used. Having a personal touch is important, so try not to talk business right away but take time to get to know one another.

When meeting with Traditionalists, some formal protocol is appreciated. Have someone else introduce you, or if you are in charge of the meeting make sure to introduce everyone properly. You can add a personal touch if appropriate. For example, say “This is Betty Jones. She is the current President of our Board of Directors and has been a member of our organization for over forty years. She is here to provide us with strategic details about our new direction. Also, she is an avid fly-fisher!” Additionally, pay attention to meeting protocols such as offering something to drink and sending the agenda ahead of time so that they can prepare. This is, of course, good to do with everyone, but Traditionalists respond especially well to such protocol.

Their leadership style is based on a chain of command and creating contingency plans. They dislike indecisiveness, disrespect, profanity, and poor dress. They appreciate a sense of formality and high quality work. I always think about how Traditionalists dressed, and sometimes still dress, when going on a plane. They dressed very formal, especially compared to today’s travelers. Keep this in mind when meeting with them in person. Forego the jeans and sweaters and wear something more traditionally professional. Finally, use formal address, such as Sir, Doctor, and Madam. Again, the more professional protocol you use, especially in the beginning, will set you up for success when working with them.

Personally, I learned and witnessed that if you include this generation in inquiry-based conversations and discussions that you can learn about additional leadership approaches to increase your own adaptability. Learn from other generations as much as possible, especially the ones that are currently leaving the workforce. There is a lot to be gained from generational diversity and increasing your own ability to meet the needs of every generation in the workplace.

lotte-small

-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


At the ASCP Annual Meeting this October, I had the privilege of facilitating a Roundtable Discussion about diversity in the workplace. I anticipated that we might be talking about issues such as culture, religion, gender, ethnicity, educational level, ability/disability and possibly age and generational issues. I was anticipating a very rich and “diverse” list of topics for this discussion.

To my surprise, generational differences was the primary topic for this Roundtable Discussion. There were nine people at our table with representation from both sub-sets of the Baby Boomer group, as well as, the Gen Xers, and Millennials (Gen Y). There seemed to be a strong disconnect between the Millennials and Gen Xers and the older people in the lab, meaning the Boomers and Traditionalists.

The Traditionalist generation only represents about 5% of the workers in clinical labs, however, the Baby Boomers still represent about half of the work force in the clinical labs. The strongest point of dissention seemed to center on “work life balance.” There was clearly a lack of knowledge and understanding on both parts. Baby Boomers are known for their work ethic and learned well from their Traditionalist’s parents and role models. They identify with their job, profession, and career. This is why we still have Traditionalists and Boomers working in the laboratories. They possess the institutional knowledge, relationships, and a strong sense of loyalty.

The Gen X and Y “work life balance” issue collided with the strong sense of work ethic characterized by the Traditionalists and Boomers. However, once each generation were able to share what they valued, there was a light bulb that appeared at the table and the bridge of understanding began to be built.

So what’s the key to collaboration? It’s all about talking with each other and asking good questions. The Traditionalists can learn from our Gen Xers and Millennials and focus on work life balance. Just as it is important for the Gen Xers and Gen Ys to learn about the institutional knowledge and work practices that can be gleaned from the Traditionalists.

Stakenas-small

-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

In the Line of Fire: Transforming Data into Decisions

Hello everyone. Back again!

This time, I’ve got something to talk about that’s a little more serious. I don’t like to deviate from fun lab-related memes and insights,but every now and then something really strikes a chord. Enough so to talk to all of you about it. Some of you reached out to me after my post discussing clinician burnout and suicide in healthcare and that felt great; connecting with people who had some powerful stories to share really validated that conversation. Today, I want to talk about guns. Specifically, the public health epidemic of gun violence, the current conversation about whose “lane” (read:responsibility) belongs to whom, and what role those of us in laboratory medicine play.

I was horrified to see the recent shooting and murder of three in my Chicago home at Mercy hospital in the Near South Side. I won’t rehash the details that are on the news. Emergency resident physician Dr.Tamara O’Neal, newly minted Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez, and pharmacy resident Dayna Less were all shot and killed point-blank by a gunman in the Mercy Hospital emergency department. A place that is supposed to be for healing, safety, and hope. Senseless.

Image 1. Victims of the Mercy Hospital shooting: (L-R) emergency room Dr. Tamara O’Neal, Chicago police Officer Samuel Jimenez, and pharmacy resident Dayna Less. These were all new to their careers, whose lives were abruptly ended by senseless gun violence. Source: ABC7 Chicago.

This now presses the start button on America’s newest tradition: a very short-lived, ill-timed, and often tone-deaf debate about the firearm subculture in our nation. Okay, bias check: you should know that I am not a fan of guns of any kind. If it were up to me, they would either belong in museums or find more useful lives melted and repurposed as metal used to reinforce hurricane-prone buildings or safe hypodermic needles for patients in need. That said, this isn’t a gun debate article; nor is it an open forum to discuss gun control, the second amendment, the NRA, or anything political. I respect opinions and educated civil discourse, but this piece today is focused on health—public health.

The epidemic of gun violence in America is a problem. The American Public Health Association (APHA) posted on their website extensively on the topic of gun related deaths which “kill more than 38,000 people and cause nearly 85,000 injuries each year. As a longtime advocate for violence prevention policies, APHA recognizes a comprehensive public health approach to addressing this growing crisis is necessary.” (Read their fact sheet here)Furthermore, the American College of Physicians (ACP) published a position paper on the topic in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal (read it here)where they establish a comprehensive set of recommendation from a conglomerate of clinical medical specialty organizations. Increasingly now more than ever does this prevalence of gun related injury and death present itself as a major health concern: a public health epidemic. I could talk to you about the number of mass shootings in our country, or the epidemiologic incidence of gun-related deaths compared to other countries, even the policy discussion around gun ownership and regional policies regarding safety and gun control—it doesn’t matter. All the charts and graphs any recycled article on the subject will just fade into the mist of “yet another shooting.” That’s not okay. I don’t want to drown you in data. Better put, I can’t. See, the problem is you’ll see the same pieces of information regarding the gun debate as you scroll through the news on your social media. Something new I want to add to this conversation is the overwhelming emphasis on the simple truth that this is a public health issue.

Image 2. In the US, we fund approximately as much research for gun violence as we do for drowning and falls. Of the three, mortality related to gun violence is about the same as sepsis—and that’s heavily documented. Source: Journal of the American Medical Association.

This unfortunate new reality is no different from other public health programs that have addressed various issues over the past decades. What do deaths from motor vehicle accidents, fires, smoking-related ung cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, antibiotic resistant bacterial infections, and traumatic brain injuries have in common? Per the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), they were all public health crises that pushed medicine past a breaking point in clinical burden and forced us to invest in research which conclusively provided results to address related mortality and morbidity. AFFIRM is a non-profit organization which is building a coalition in medicine for the purpose of researching and addressing this newest public health issue. They argue that,without medical evidence we won’t be able to find solutions to the senseless loss of life from gun violence. Death from car accidents gave us the seatbelt and tickets for disobeying its required legal usage. Death in home fires got us the smoke detector and regulations surrounding their installation. Lung cancer deaths led to smoking cessation programs, increased taxation, and policy changes regarding access to cigarettes. Sugar-related morbidities created a conversation about healthy diets, public policies addressing food deserts, and taxation programs for drinks with added sugar. Heart attack deaths gave us longitudinal studies for best care practices and lifestyle recommendations.Resistant bugs established a new discussion on antimicrobial stewardship. Brain injuries gave us new guidelines for concussions. I could go on. That’s only the tip of the public health iceberg. The point is that if there is an epidemiological trend where people are literally dying, data married with health metric-oriented research create solutions!  

But let’s add deaths from gun violence to that list. What then do they all have in common, besides the concern for improving public health? Save for the tragically evident lack of a solution, the similarity becomes clear: there is lobby, interest, power, and support. Cars didn’t always have seat belts, cigarettes used to be cheap and doctors used to smoke at work,no one talked about cheeseburgers giving you heart attacks and diabetes decades ago, and helmet-clashing football players didn’t always receive the treatment they needed. Why? Because some entity—corporate, societal, etc.—wasn’t keen on“buying in.” Much like it takes justification and convincing for administration to buy your fancy chemistry analyzer, so do the public and oppositional lobby groups which require swaying toward the intervention(s) being proposed.

Image 3. The Dickey Amendment passed in 1996 was a small rider in a bill that was part of a larger budgetary spending bill. Effectively, it completely disallows public health research into gun related deaths, gun violence, or any publication that would endorse gun control or limitations. Source: 104th Congress.

Often, the data stacks high enough to influence decisions on its own. But that isn’t the case with gun related mortality. I see gun related violence as sort of the opposite of the vaccine debate: with the flu shot there seems to be too much data and not enough stories to convince the anti-vax movement to realize the significant threat being addressed. On the other hand, gun related violence exhibits far too many stories without any significant amounts of data. Possibly, this might be related to the limitations placed upon the CDC since the mid-1990’s that forbid them from using funds “to advocate or promote gun control.” Yes, really. Just last month, I wrote about the newest advancements in influenza testing and the best practice of vaccinating annually.I cited thousands of deaths related to vaccine-preventable or epidemiologic illness; 80,000 dead from influenza last year, thousands from swine flu over a decade ago, etc. But when you try and cite proper, medical data regarding guns in public health, its … not so easy. No data, no research. No research, no change.

Many of you have undoubtedly read about the current social media “discussion” regarding whose “lane” gun violence is to navigate: The National Rifle Association (NRA) asserted in a tweet that doctors, discussing the issue only within their field should leave it to more “qualified” groups like them. That’s been a tinder box of vitriol the medical community, for lack of a better term, is up in arms about. I followed and read tons of comments about this as it unfolded, hearing from endless doctors, nurses, and laboratorians posting with blood spattered scrubs, decimated trauma bays, and emptied blood bank refrigerators that this growing epidemic is enraging clinicians about. Earlier, I highlighted similarities between public health problems and their respective solutions citing that they all shared oppositional lobby groups. What better profession to handle the topic in question than medicine—whose associated lobby power from professional societies like ours to Big Pharma amass one of the largest voices in policy making in America. And another thing, as gun violence is a public health concern, whose literal job is it to address health, mortality, and morbidity? All of ours. Nurse educators lead patients through lifestyle modifications they can employ to curtail some effects of diabetes, physicians manage patient treatment regimens balancing input from pharmaceutical tools to professional guidelines,clinicians like us strive to provide the best resources available by advancing hemoglobin A1c levels or point of care testing. We all play roles in every single healthcare matter that translates to life or death, so why not this one?

So, I touched on it a little here, but what role does the medical laboratory professional play? Besides bullets in tissue section, how does the public health epidemic of gun violence reach the lab? I wasn’t so sure, until I read a story about Dr. Julie Melinek, a forensic pathologist with UC Davis and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. In response to the NRA’s“stay in your lane” tweet regarding gun deaths, Dr. Melinek tweeted “Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn’t my lane. It’s my [expletive] highway.” She proceeded to turn her phone off and work for a few hours. When she returned, things were viral. In an interview with Medscape, she discussed this story and the topic at large with editor-in-chief Dr. Eric Topol. She talked about the epidemiologic role clinicians of all specialties play in risk assessment and harm reduction,saying “…if we see something that’s dangerous for the pediatric population,like a toy that breaks apart or is a choking hazard, we report it to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and it gets recalled because it’s a hazard.”She and Dr. Topol explored the ways clinicians can advocate for patients and public health at large, concluding with some poignant words, encouraging those of us in medicine to reach out to elected officials. The internet facilitates such an easy way to communicate, she says that it becomes paramount to voice the opinions held within the medical community to those in policy-making; especially clinicians who may own guns or be active NRA members! Because, ultimately, this isn’t about gun ownership or second amendment rights—its about the health, well-being, and safety of our patients.

Dr. Melinek represents a single voice within the pathology community. You’ve read my posts about lab management values, interdisciplinary team work, attainable goals, and utilization of data to make clinical decisions. Those of us in lab medicine find ourselves at the forefront of translating data into decisions. When quality control measures on instrumentation fail to correct after countless interventions, do we continue running assays? No! We work-up and investigate what root cause is the problem and fix that if possible; thinking outside the box, looking at lesser-than-obvious causes, investigating all possible solutions, etc. In pathology we’re the first to implement new, highly advanced tests and corroborate with other specialties about what the new changes mean for patient care and management of diseases (i.e. 5thgeneration high-sensitivity troponins and evolving to a new standard of care for acute coronary syndromes). We’re also the first to notice trends that impact patient outcomes and the first to provide solutions: think back to the last time you spent a few minutes reading your labs metrics and goals posted somewhere at work. Dr. Melinek collecting bullets from her autopsy patients is no different than forensic pathologists historically noting trends in mortality statistics, iatrogenic, environmental, and other causes of death.And, when those trends get published and presented, they call for further research and investment into public health interventions that may prevent those deaths in the first place. Pathology, public health, epidemiology, and laboratory medicine are built for this. We’re the tangible bridge between what gets discovered and what gets researched. We’re also in a privileged position to have a bird’s eye view of a larger clinical, epidemiologic picture as pathologists see populations of patients.

In a recent Lablogatory post, ASCP’s Lotte Mulder (ASCP Leadership Institute and Patient Champions programs) wrote about Moral Capacity, Courage, and Resiliency. Specifically, she said “It is not enough to understand and recognize a moral dilemma, it is important to act on it… it is critical for leaders to understand that culture influences moral and ethical behavior.” If America’s gun violence problem is one that desperately needs data, then why shouldn’t we, then, be professional and cultural leaders and advocate through data collection, analysis, and translation like we always do? Let’s use our tools and our talent for lab medicine, in partnership with the growing coalition of clinical professional specialties, and cultural humility for the populations we protect, and address this once and for all.

Thank you.

–Constantine E. Kanakis MSc, MLS (ASCP)CM graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BS in Molecular Biology and Bioethics and then Rush University with an MS in Medical Laboratory Science. He is currently a medical student actively involved in public health and laboratory medicine, conducting clinicals at Bronx-Care Hospital Center in New York City.

Hematopathology Case Study: A 54 Year Old Woman with a Bone Fracture

Case History

The patient is a 54 year old woman who presented to the hospital after a fall, which revealed a pathologic fracture of T1 and a spinal lesion from C6/C7 to T2. CT of the chest/abdomen and pelvis at the time showed a large mass in the anterior mediastinum with extensive lymphadenopathy and lytic lesions in the spine and ribs.

C7-T1 Soft Tissue Excision

H&E 20X
H&E 50X
H&E 100X
CD30
BSAP/PAX5
KI-67

Diagnosis

Sections show sheets of large epithelioid-like cells with segmented nuclei with variably prominent nucleoli and ample amounts of eosinophilic cytoplasm.A majority of these larger cells have abundant cytoplasm and lobulated nucle iwith multiple nucleoli and a surrounding halo. They are consistent with Lacunar cells. These cells form large aggregates and are admixed with numerous neutrophils, histiocytes and scattered lymphocytes.

Occasional Hodgkin cells and multi-nucleated Reed-Sternberg cells are seen, as well as scattered medium size hyper chromatic cells with irregular nuclear contours and scant cytoplasm consistent with mummy cells.

Immunohistochemical staining revealed that the largea typical cells are immunoreactive for CD30, CD15 and PAX5/BSAP. CD45 highlighted background lymphocytes but showed infrequent dim staining in the large atypical cells. By Ki-67, the proliferation index is 50-60% in the large atypical cells. Taken together, the findings are consistent with Classic Hodgkin Lymphoma, nodular sclerosis, syncytial variant.

Discussion

Classic Hodgkin lymphoma (CHL) has four distinct subtypes including nodular sclerosis, lymphocyte-rich, mixed cellularity and lymphocyte-depleted. These subtypes differ based on characteristics of the background non-neopalastic reactive cells and the histomorphology of the Hodgkin/Reed-Sternberg cells (HRS). Nodular sclerosis Classic Hodgkin lymphoma accounts (NSCHL) for approximately 70% of all CHLs. The mediastinum is the most commonly involved site and it generally occurs in people between the ages of 15-34 years old. Generally, the histology shows nodules with surrounding fibrosis. There are a variable number of Hodgkin/Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells mixed with other inflammatory cells. The characteristic HRS cell is called a lacunar cell. This is a type of HRS cell with more cytoplasm, less prominent nucleoli and can show retraction of the cytoplasm in formalin-fixed tissue that gives the cell a halo or “lacunae.”1

The syncytial variant (SV) of CHL, nodular sclerosis was first described in the 1980s. It presents in 5-15% of cases of NS CHL. It is characterized by sheets and clusters of “lacunar cells” typical of the type of HRS cell most commonly seen in NS CHL. Previous studies had determined the SV of CHL to have a worse prognosis and more aggressive course than other subgroups. In a more recent study by Sethi, et. al. the clinical features and response to treatment of patients with SV were compared to patients with typical NS CHL. Within the cohort, 43 patients with SV were compared to 124 patients with typical NS CHL. The study found that there was no significant difference in age, sex, performance status, stage, bulky disease, number of nodal sites and chemotherapy regimens used between the two groups.2

As far as treatment outcomes, the rate of complete response in the SV group was 74% vs. 87% in the NS group. This result approached statistical significance with a p=0.05. The medium progression-free survival in the SV group was significantly shorter compared with the NS group. The overall survival, however was not statistically different, indicating that salvage chemotherapy was ultimately able to match the clinical outcomes for patients with SV type to patients with NS type. 2

Currently, all CHLs are treated with adriamycin, bleomycin,vinblastine, decarbazine (ABVD) chemotherapy regimen plus or minus radiation therapy regardless of subtype. Patients with relapsed or refractory disease are treated with a “salvage” chemotherapy regimen followed by an autologous stem cell transplant. Emerging therapies including PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab have shown great effect in patients with CHL. PD-1 or programmed death ligand 1 is overexpressed on HRS cells. This ligand binds with receptorson T-cells to prevent the T-cell immune response and reduce cytokine activation and targeted  response against the proliferating HRS cells. By using an antibody against the PD-1 ligand in CHL,the ability of the tumor to suppress the immune response is decreased and patients have been shown to have better clinical response rates.3

Patients with SV do need to be recognized as a distinct subgroup that may have a higher risk of disease progression with first line chemotherapy agents.  Due to the high numbers of HRS cells seen in patients with SV and the increased failure rate of initial chemotherapy agents, antibody therapies such as PD-1 inhibitors may be even more successful in those patients.

References

  1. Swerdlow SH, Campo E, Harris NL, et al. WHO Classification of Tumours of Haematopoetic and Lymphoid Tissues (Revised 4thedition). IARC: Lyon 2017.
  2. Sethi, T.K.,  et al. Differences in Outcome of Patients with Syncytial Variant Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) Compared with Typical Nodular Sclerosis HL. Blood. 2015;126(23),1441. Retrieved from http://www.bloodjournal.org/content/126/23/1441.
  3. Bond DA, Alinari L. Emerging treatment options for the management of Hodgkin’s lymphoma:clinical utility of nivolumab. J Blood Med. 2017;8:41-54. Published 2017 May 11. doi:10.2147/JBM.S117452.

Chelsea Marcus, MD is a third year resident in anatomic and clinical pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA and will be starting her fellowship in Hematopathology at BIDMC in July. She has a particular interest in High-grade B-Cell lymphomas and the genetic alterations of these lymphomas.

Microbiology Case Study: A 44 Year Old Man with Severe Back Pain

Case History

A 44 year old male presented to the emergency department with severe, throbbing back pain in his mid-thoracic spine. He states the pain began a couple weeks ago and noted no recent fevers or night sweats, but does admit to chills. His past medical history is significant for end stage renal disease requiring dialysis, insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, and multiple amputations. On physical examination, there was tenderness to palpation along spine in mid-thoracic region. Lab work showed a normal white blood cell count, C reactive protein of 0.90 mg/dL (0.00 – 0.50 mg/dL), and an erythrocyte sedimentation rate of 60.0 mm/hr  (0.0 -10.0 mm/hr). MRI of the spine was consistent with discitis and osteomyelitis at T7-8 with compression fractures causing spinal stenosis and cord compression. Given the concern for an infection process, blood cultures were collected and interventional radiology performed a bone biopsy. The specimen was sent for bacterial, fungal, and AFB cultures as well as for histology.

Laboratory Identification

Image 1. Discrete, creamy colonies growing on blood agar (left) and Sabouraud dextrose agar (right) after 48 hours of incubation at 35°C.
Image 2. Fragments of bone with focal necrosis, foci of acute and chronic inflammation with clusters of yeast forms and pseudohyphae consistent with a Candida spp. infection.

The organism grew as discrete, creamy colonies growing on blood agar and Sabouraud dextrose agar after 48 hours of incubation at 35°C and resembled a yeast. MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry identified the isolate as Candida parapsilosis.  Similarly, the surgical pathology specimen showed necrotic bone with inflammation and yeast forms and pseudohyphae consistent with a Candida spp. infection. Blood cultures were negative. On chart review from an outside hospital, it was discovered the patient had an episode of candidemia ten months ago which was thought to be related to his dialysis port.

Discussion

Yeasts are ubiquitous in the environment and make up the normal microbiota of human skin as well as the oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract and genitourinary tract. In general, when Candida spp. cause infections it is thought to an opportunistic infection acquired endogenously and due to exposure to prolonged antibiotics, suppressed immune system, or as a result of intravascular catheters. Those with diabetes mellitus, mucositis, bowel perforations, and intravenous drug users are most susceptible. Infections with Candida parapsilosis are becoming more common, and have the potential to cause invasive disease, such as fungal endocarditis and severe infections in the neonatal population. 

In the microbiology laboratory, C. parapsilosis grows rapidly as discrete, creamy colonies on a variety of agars. On cornmeal-Tween 80 agar, C. parapsilosis grows as short, curved pseudohyphae with blastoconidia arranged singly or in small clusters at points of constriction. The arrangement is sometimes described as resembling a sage bush. C. parapsilosis is germ tube negative and is negative for urease. In many laboratories currently, identification is achieved by automated methods, such as Vitek 2, or mass spectrometry, allowing for more rapid and accurate identification.  

Anti-fungals, such as echinocandins, azoles, and amphotericin B, are all potential therapeutic options to treat C. parapsilosis infections. CLSI C.parapsilosis specific breakpoints exist for fluconazole, voriconazole,micafungin, caspofungin, and anidulafungin in the M27-S4. Susceptibility testing should be performed on significant isolates from normally sterile sites.

In the case of our patient, infectious disease was consulted and he was started on IV micafungin and then transitioned to oral fluconazole. He had a transesophgeal echo and eye exam performed to ensure he didn’t have endocarditis or an invasive eye infection due to hematogenous spread of the yeast. He was discharged home on long term oral fluconazole.  

-Rim Alkawas, MD, is a second year Anatomic and Clinical Pathology resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. 

-Lisa Stempak, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Pathology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS. She is certified by the American Board of Pathology in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology as well as Medical Microbiology. She is the Director of Clinical Pathology as well as the Microbiology and Serology Laboratories.  Her interests include infectious disease histology, process and quality improvement, and resident education.

Regulatory Inspections: Are You Ready?

Part Three: The inspectors have left – now what?

In the previous 2 blog posts we discussed how to prepare for your inspection, and what to expect during the inspection itself. In the last of our 3 part series on regulatory inspection preparedness, today we’ll be covering what to do after the inspection ends.

Throughout the inspection itself, the inspectors should be communicating any issues or citations they uncover; ensure that your management staff is taking notes on any of these potential findings. Based on these notes, you should start working to address and correct any issues right away. Formal documentation regarding the nature of any official citations can take several weeks to receive back, depending upon the regulatory agency performing the inspection. Waiting for the formal report to begin making corrections will reduce the time you have to form a plan of correction, and can further impact patient care depending upon the citation received.

Have a Plan. Draft a spreadsheet to record: 1) each issue identified, 2) laboratory department(s) it was found in, 3) associated risk factor (patient care or safety issues = 1, regulatory requirements = 2, recommendations = 3), 4) staff member assigned to investigate and correct the issue, 5) due date for investigation response, and 6) status of the investigation (in progress, on hold, completed). Share this spreadsheet with your management team, and review at weekly/monthly staff meetings for updates on progress completion.

Risk 1 Issues. The safety of your patients and staff, along with ensuring accuracy in testing results is the number one priority of a laboratory. If the inspectors identified any weaknesses in these areas, they should be addressed first. This would include items such as staff not adhering to required safety precautions, not following manufacturer requirements for quality control testing or instrument maintenance/calibration, lack of follow-up for QC or proficiency testing failures, along with any other finding which questions the integrity and accuracy of the testing being performed.

Risk 2 Issues. Double check the regulatory standard to ensure you fully understand the requirements, and that you have appropriate evidence of compliance. As the testing activity menu and complexity of testing increases, the amount of documentation requirements can increase as well. Even with a paperless system, it is easy to overlook a signature of review or checkmark on a log. “If it’s not documented, it wasn’t done.” For simple administrative oversights, review your current processes to identify any gaps or areas that can be improved upon to ensure all documentation is properly filled out each month. If the inspectors noted a discrepancy between your current policy and how staff are actually performing a test, review the testing process to see where the true discrepancy is – is the policy outdated and needs to be revised, or do staff need to be retrained on the current policy with competency assessed for compliance?

Risk 3 Issues. Inspections are a great opportunity for further education for all those involved, both the inspector and staff being inspected as well. For some regulations, there is no one set way that must be followed in order to demonstrate compliance with a requirement. Hearing how someone else is meeting the requirements may spark an innovative idea from your own staff on how your current processes can be improved. Be open to hearing new ideas, and find ways to implement those which you feel would be successful at your institution.

Evaluate All Sections of the Lab. When investigating a finding in one laboratory department, ensure that any process improvements are shared across all areas of the lab. Just because microbiology didn’t get caught with expired reagents like hematology did this inspection, doesn’t mean that they aren’t at risk for future inspections.

Focus on the Positives. Congratulate and recognize your staff on their successes in the areas you performed exceptionally well in. It’s a joint effort to ensure the lab is inspection ready; be sure to pass along any compliments received throughout the inspection process to all levels of staffing. Focus on what you’re doing well and how you can continue to maintain those processes and implement them in additional areas.

A little bit of preparation ahead of time will make the inspection process smoother and less stressful for all involved. When viewed as a learning experience and opportunity for improvement rather than a visit from the “lab police”, laboratory inspections can be a useful tool to confirm the quality of your overall laboratory program.

 

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-Kyle Nevins, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM is one of ASCP’s 2018 Top 5 in the 40 Under Forty recognition program. She has worked in the medical laboratory profession for over 18 years. In her current position, she transitions between performing laboratory audits across the entire Northwell Health System on Long Island, NY, consulting for at-risk laboratories outside of Northwell Health, bringing laboratories up to regulatory standards, and acting as supervisor and mentor in labs with management gaps.