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Emergency Medical Minute


Oct 25, 2021

Contributor: Alec Coston, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Flash pulmonary edema or Sympathetic Crash Acute Pulmonary Edema (SCAPE) is a severe illness that requires aggressive treatment
  • Often in patients with heart failure and a sympathetic surge increasing heart rate, decreased diastolic filling, increased preload, and increased afterload causing pulmonary edema
  • Clinical diagnosis: acute onset diaphoresis and respiratory distress, hypoxia and tachypnea on exam
  • Bedside lung ultrasound will demonstrate B-lines, indicative of pulmonary edema
  • Treatment is nitroglycerin and BiPAP
  • Nitroglycerin drip can be started at 80 micrograms/minute, which is similar to the dose delivered by sublingual nitroglycerin


Stemple K, DeWitt KM, Porter BA, Sheeser M, Blohm E, Bisanzo M. High-dose nitroglycerin infusion for the management of sympathetic crashing acute pulmonary edema (SCAPE): A case series. Am J Emerg Med. 2021;44:262-266. doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2020.03.062

Agrawal N, Kumar A, Aggarwal P, Jamshed N. Sympathetic crashing acute pulmonary edema. Indian J Crit Care Med. 2016;20(12):719-723. doi:10.4103/0972-5229.195710

Wilson SS, Kwiatkowski GM, Millis SR, Purakal JD, Mahajan AP, Levy PD. Use of nitroglycerin by bolus prevents intensive care unit admission in patients with acute hypertensive heart failure. Am J Emerg Med. 2017;35(1):126-131. doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2016.10.038

Summarized by John Spartz, MS4 | Edited by Erik Verzemnieks, MD


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