CICM Second Part Exam Practice SAQs 15022018

As prepared by Bevan Roodenburg, here are the practice written questions from a recent CICM Second Part exam practice session at The Alfred ICU, with recommended reading from’s Critical Care Compendium and other FOAM sources:


A 35-year-old man presents 4 days after a penetrating wound to the thigh with fevers, trismus, and generalised myalgias.

  1. How is the diagnosis of tetanus made? (2marks)
  2. List 6 differential causes for presentation with features of tetanus. (2 marks)
  3. List the different modes of death from tetanus? (1mark)
  4. Describe specific therapies for the management of tetanus. (5 marks)

Learn more here:

  1. How is the diagnosis of tetanus made?
    Clinical. Hx-recent wound, incubation typically 2-24 days, can be 1d-6months!. Non immunised or immune-defficient. Generalised form: increased muscle tone and spasm, Masseter muscles often first, dysphagia, stiff neck, shoulder/back pain. Paroxysms of severe muscle spasms. Culture often negative.
  2. List 6 differential causes for presentation with features of tetanus.
    Strychnine poison, drug induced dystonia, local infection ,stiff person syndrome, hypocalcaemia, malignant hyperthermia, stimulant use, serotonin syndrome, seizure, psychiatric disorders, other sepsis. (from college question on same)
  3. List the different modes of death from tetanus?
    Vomiting/aspiration ,apnoea, laryngospasm, hypoventilation, sudden cardiac arrest and autonomic dysregulation.
  4. Describe specific therapies for the management of tetanus.
    Organism: Antitetanus Immunoglobulin, antibiotics (pen or metronidazole or macrolide), wound debridement
    Spasms: magnesium, intrathecal magnesium, diaz/benzo, paralysis and ventilation+/- tracheostomy
    Autonomic dysfunction: sedation, alpha/beta blockade, analgesia



An 87-year-old man is referred by the Emergency department with sepsis from a urinary tract infection. He presents with fever, lethargy, dysuria and pre-syncope, and is referred to ICU with persisting oliguria, hypotension and elevated lactate despite 3.5L of IV crystalloid and appropriate broad spectrum antibiotics.

His vital signs are:

  • Temp 38.5C
  • HR 120/min
  • BP 80/40 mmHg
  • RR 28/min
  • SpO2 92% on 4L 02 via standard nasal prongs
  • He is orientated but exhausted.
  1. Describe your approach to determining his suitability for ICU admission (50%)
  2. Describe (broadly) your recommendations for the care of this patient (50%)

Learn more here:

CICM IC-14 Statement on Withholding and Withdrawing Treatment:


  • ICU admission requires complex and careful consideration for every pt. Involving multiple medical teams, patient and family. The wishes of the patient are fundamental. So patient and or family should always be consulted.

Assessment of patient:

Indication for admission involves considering the balance of:

  • Need
    • acute critical illness/injury requiring monitoring or therapeutic interventions not possible/safe outside of ICU. Depends on physiology/prognosis for the patient without ICU care. Actual or potential disability/life threat
  • Benefit
    • Reversibility considered. Preventability of death/disability considered. Reasonable expectation for response and acceptable quality of life likely.
  • Burden of ICU
    • Intensive care can be painful, stressful, undignified, drawn out, debilitating, long term convalescence and rehabilitation required. Loss of independence and functional capacity is expected in many and even more so where frailty exists


  • Category 1. Appropriately meets needs and burden outweighed by potential benefit, so admit to ICU with no limits to ICU management
  • Category 2. Provisionally appropriate but with explicit limits to types of management (such as RRT/ventilation).
  • Category 3. Inappropriate for ICU admission. Where burden disproportionately outweighs a small potential benefit ICU can be inappropriate. “ICU will be of no enduring benefit to this patient”.


A 32 -year-old man presents with 2 days history of fever, productive cough and progressive dyspnea. He is diagnosed with community acquired pneumonia.

He has a history of incomplete quadriplegia after a traumatic spinal injury ten years earlier. He lives with supportive parents who are not contactable due to overseas travel. He is usually wheelchair bound, requires 24 hour nursing care which he receives 365 days/year. He is only just able to move his right arm enough to feed himself but requires support with all other personal care.

His vital signs are:

  • Temp 38.5C
  • RR 38/min
  • BP 130/70 mmHg
  • HR 110/min (regular)
  • SpO2 84% on estimated Fi02 0.9 via NIV after failure of non-rebreather mask to correct his hypoxia
  1. Describe your management of this patient’s immediate care. (50%)
  2. List potential complications that should be considered in the management of this patient during an ICU admission. (50%)

Learn more here:

Gall A, Turner-Stokes L. Chronic spinal cord injury: management of patients in acute hospital settings. Clinical medicine. 2008; 8(1):70-4. [pubmed] [pdf]

ANSWER 1. expected to be focused on identifying need for intubation, with modified RSI and attendant risks of spinal patients with regards to difficult airway, regurgitation, hypoxia, autonomic instability and shock, etc..

ANSWER 2. See attached article with lists of complications and DON’T FORGET the increased risk of MISSED DIAGNOSIS due to lack of sensation of pathology such as pressure injuries, compartment syndrome, bowel obstruction, urinary retention etc etc .

You can access all the previous practice questions since 2014 here:
See this link on INTENSIVE for exam resources:

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