Managing Sexual Assualt in Primary Care

Thanks to those who participated in a great discussion in AMR last week. I wanted to share some of what we talked about here…

Sexual assault is an unusal complaint inside of a primary care clinic.  Many victims head straight for the ER or a Rape Crisis Center, others never report their attack. But for many, their primary care doctor may seem like a trusted source for health care in a very scary and chaotic situation. Since it is also a scary and chaotic situation for the provider, I thought that an organized process may help you know what to do in such a scenario.


Legal Issues

The patient may need or want an exam in order to collect evidence for future charges against an attacker. There is a very specialized process that is used to collect evidence, and maintain the chain of custody.  I would recommend that you contact your Emergency Dept or Rape Crisis Center for help.  In Birmingham, the Crisis Center offers Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Exams in a safe and secure facility, and may be a more comfortable alternative to an ED.  They have a SANE nurse on call 24/7. Many times, this exam must be done within 72 hours of the attack.

Pregnancy Prevention

Most women should be offered post-coital contraception after a sexual assault.  The most effective oral option is Le
vonorgestrel, (Plan B is one brand name).  Ulipristal (Ella) is a newer form of emergency contraception that is effective up to 120 hours after unprotected sex.

 

STI Prevention

The CDC recommends antibiotic prophylaxis for GC, Chlamydia, and Trichomonas.  If your patient declines, you should see her back in a week for testing.  You need to give (all single dose therapies):

  • Ceftriaxone 250mg IM for Gonorrhea
  • Azithromycin 1g PO for Chlamydia
  • Metronidazole 2g PO for Trichomonas

Hepatitis B Prevention

If the Hepatitis B status of the attacker is not known, and the victim is not already immune, the victim should receive the Hepatitis B vaccine on first visit, and then at 1 and 6 months.  If the attacker has Hepatitis B, then you should offer HBIG.

HIV Prevention

There is some data that post-exposure prophylaxis with antiretroviral drugs prevents HIV transmission. Most of this data is in the healthcare setting, when folks like us are exposed with needles. The studies done in sexual exposure and IV drug users are all small and observational. Side effects with these medicines are fairly common, and usually of the GI variety.

Given limited data, and relatively low risk of transmission for a single sexual exposure (0.1% for consensual vaginal intercourse and 2% for consensual anal intercourse- transmission rates with nonconsensual sex are likely to be higher), the CDC only recommends post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if:

  • The assailant is known to be HIV positive
  • The victim presents within 72 hours
  • There was exposure OF: eye, mouth, vaginal, rectum, other mucus membrane or nonintact skin
  • WITH: semen, vaginal fluid, blood, rectal secretions, milk, or other bodily fluids that are known to transmit HIV.

However, they do give you an option to treat other patients on a case-by-case basis. Many experts recommend that PEP is offered to all victims of sexual assault that present in the first 72 hours and have a chance at HIV exposure.  If you were going to prescribe, it should start within 72 hours (the earlier the better), and continue for 4 weeks. Three drug combinations are usually used, the same as in occupational HIV PEP.

  • Tenofovir/emtricitabine 300/200 plus Dolutegravir 50mg once daily
  • Tenofovir/emtricitabine 300/200 plus Raltegravir 400mg twice daily

Psychologic Support

Probably the most important thing that you can do. Your patient came to use because you were trusted, available, and supportive. You need to continue to be those things. After an assault, many victims will struggle with nightmares, anorexia, guilt, anxiety, and PTSD.  As a primary care doctor, you can gently ask about these issues, and guide your patients to helpful therapies and supportive environments. Again, rely on your local resources for crisis counseling and psychiatry, in addition to using all of your own talents.

Here is a NEJM article (subscription needed) if you are interested in reading more: NEngl J Med 2011; 365:834-841.

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Contraception Myths

Some highlights from my contraception mythbusting crusade.  If only I could get to the Supreme Court…

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

For combined Estrogen and Progesterone contraceptives: These prevent ovulation, primarily with the progesterone.  The normal menstrual cycle is below, the cyclic fall and rise of progesterone triggers the LH surge. By keeping this high, negative feedback to the hypothalamus is washed out. No LH surge, no ovulation.  The estrogen is there to recruit more progesterone receptors (so less progesterone is needed), and stabilize the endometrium (less breakthrough bleeding).

menstrual cycle

Ovulation happens at the LH surge. LH is surging because progesterone is low.

Large doses of progesterone only contraceptives (DepoProvera, the MiniPill, and Implants) is enough progesterone to prevent ovulation.  The lower dose progesterone only contraceptives (Mirena/Skyla IUDs, the MiniPill) work by thickening cervical mucus, reduce fallopian tube motility, and thinning the endometrium.

IUDs are not abortifacients.  They actually prevent conception from ever happening: the IUD creates a sterile inflammatory response that is toxic to sperm and ova.  This has been shown in vivo with tubal flushing studies.  Women who are not on contraception can be found to have sperm, non fertilized eggs, and even fertilized, but nonviable eggs in the tubes.  Women with IUDs have fewer of all three: the sperm never get there and fertilization doesn’t happen.

IUDs do not increase the risk of STIs or PID.  There is a slightly higher risk of infection in the first 20 days after insertion. This is either from incompletely sterile technique or if the woman is already infected when the IUD is placed. So make sure your patient is free from cervicitis before inserting an IUD. After that, the risk is no different.  This myth comes from an old IUD, the Dalkon Shield (that parasite-looking thing in the picture below), which DID increase the risk of PID, because it had a multifilament string that acted as a bacterial superhighway.   IUDs

Emergency Contraception is not an abortifacient either.  The EC pills are mostly large doses of progesterone- which works to prevent ovulation, thicken cervical mucus, and impair motility in the fallopian tubes.  Women do not get pregnant if they have had intercourse after ovulation. Sperm lives in the female reproductive tract for up to 6 days after intercourse, and all that time it is making its way up to the fallopian tubes, where fertilization happens.  EC pills prevent ovulation, and are more effective the sooner after unprotected intercourse they are taken (this is why it is helpful for a woman to have it at home before something goes wrong).  If a woman does get pregnant despite taking EC, the pills will not harm the pregnancy.  

Here’s a great table to use when talking about contraception with your patients. Aim to pick a method from the top row: these are the most effective with typical use (because they don’t require the woman to think about anything once in place).  As you move down the rows, preventing pregnancy gets closer and closer to just luck.  And we can do better than that!

contraception effectiveness

Link Roundup: what I learned on “The Twitter”

Did you know that saying “The Twitter” immediately ages you by 9 years? You know that I was only kidding, right…

Here are the highlights of ambulatory medicine from the last few weeks.  Follow @ihaterashes to get these in real time.

 

 

While you are following new people on twitter, check out @medicalaxioms.  This guy is smart, funny,and usually spot on.  Some highlights:

A few things came across my screen about overdiagnosis of breast cancer from BMJ and Annals of IM Just a reminder that raising awareness isn’t enough.  A ribbon doesn’t provide any information- that’s our job.

I’m starting to tweet Grand Rounds when I can.  #uabmgr.  Here’s what I learned in the great talk on The Gut Microbiome given by Martin Rodriguez and Casey Morrow

And finally, I feel the need to share a few articles making the rounds some of the frustration in clinical medicine these days: burnout in Washington Post, competing agendas in NYT (here on Danielle Ofri’s site) and irritation with EMRs in The Atlantic. I have mixed feelings about these things, I love my job and want all of you to become primary care physicians. But burnout is real, as are the administrative challenges of practice.  We need to be able to talk about it, and I am relying on all of you to help make it better!