Nausea and Vomiting

Neurologic pathways involved in pathogenesis of nausea and vomiting

HPI:

57yo male with a history of HTN, DM, and MI s/p stent in 2011 presenting with nausea/vomiting and hypotension. The patient had one episode of non-bloody, non-bilious emesis approximately 6 hours ago. He felt unwell so a friend checked his blood pressure which was found to be 75/50, prompting a visit to this emergency department.
The patient’s emesis came 2 hours following a normal meal (frozen dinner), and was associated with chills/sweats but no abdominal pain. The patient had some associated shortness of breath (baselines), but no chest pain, arm or jaw pain, or palpitations.

He states that these symptoms are unlike what he experienced during his MI. He reported no change in bowel or urinary habits.

PMH:

  • HTN
  • DM
  • CAD
  • MI
  • Hyperlipidemia

 PSH:

  • Stent placement (2011)
  • Right knee neuroma excision (2012)

FH:

  • Non-contributory

 SHx:

  • No current t/e/d
  • 80 pack-year smoking history

Meds:

  • carvedilol 6.25mg p.o. b.i.d.
  • metformin 1000mg p.o. b.i.d.
  • atorvastatin 20mg p.o. daily
  • aspirin 81mg p.o. daily

Allergies:

  • NKDA

Physical Exam:

VS: T 98.4 HR 65 RR 17 BP 96/56 O2 95% 2L NC
Gen: No acute distress, speaking in complete sentences
HEENT: PERRL, MMM no lesions, no cervical lymphadenopathy
CV: RRR, normal S1/S2, no murmurs, no extra heart sounds, no jugular venous distension
Lungs: CTAB, no crackles
Abd: +BS, soft, NT/ND, no rebound/guarding, no organomegaly
Ext: Warm, well-perfused, peripheral pulses equal b/l, no LE edema
Neuro: AAOx3

Labs:

  • EKG: normal sinus rhythm, anterior lead q-waves suggestive of old infarct, no T/ST changes
  • Troponin: <0.01
  • CBC: 7.4/15.5/47/228
  • BMP: 139/5.1/107/26/8/1.19/112 (baseline creatinine 1.06 in 2/2013)

Studies:

  • CXR: no effusion, no cardiomegaly, no focal consolidation
  • Bedside US: normal cardiac wall motion, estimated EF 40-45%, retrohepatic IVC collapses with respiration

Assessment/Plan:

57M hx HTN, DM, MI s/p stent presenting with nausea/vomiting x1 and hypotension. The patient’s symptoms and history were concerning for acute myocardial infarction; however, early EKG and troponins were reassuring. Additionally, the absence of characteristic physical findings that would be associated with an acute MI causing cardiogenic shock (elevated JVP, extra heart sounds, pulmonary crackles) were not present. Evidence of end-organ damage was also absent.

Other potential causes for nausea/vomiting include SBO, however, the patient reported normal BM’s and has no history of abdominal surgery. Though occurring after a meal, a single episode of emesis without associated abdominal pain lowers suspicion for biliary disease. This patient’s emesis is most likely due to acute gastroenteritis.

Given the evidence of hypovolemia on bedside ultrasound, the patient was bolused with a total of 1.5L NS and noted symptomatic improvement as well recovery of blood pressure.

Differential Diagnosis of Nausea/Vomiting: 1, 2

A System for Nausea/Vomiting

Pathophysiology: 3, 4, 5

  • Nausea: Sensation associated with increased gastrointestinal motility (tachygastria).
  • Vomiting:
    • Chemoreceptor trigger zone (area postrema of 4th ventricle): sensitive to drugs/toxins (emetics, radiation), neurotransmitters. Located outside BBB.
    • Nucleus tractus solitaries (medulla): pattern generator for vomiting, receives vagal input from GI tract and nociceptive stimuli from peripheral nervous system – transmits to hypothalamus, limbic system and cortex. Stimulated by tickling the back of the throat, gastric distention, and vestibular input.

Important history/physical associations: 4

  • Abdominal pain: suggests organic disease, affected organ dependent on location of pain. (See figure)
  • Abdominal distension: suggests bowel obstruction.
  • Heartburn: suggests GERD.
  • Vertigo/nystagmus: suggests vestibular etiology.
  • Positional/projectile: suggests neurogenic etiology.

Differential Diagnosis of Abdominal Pain By Location:

Abdominal Pain by Location

References:

  1. Scorza, K., Williams, A., Phillips, J. D., & Shaw, J. (2007). Evaluation of nausea and vomiting. American family physician, 76(1), 76–84.
  2. Bork S, Ditkoff J, Hang BS. Chapter 75. Nausea and Vomiting. In: Tintinalli JE, Stapczynski JS, Cline DM, Ma OJ, Cydulka RK, Meckler GD, eds. Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=6360091. Accessed June 15, 2013.
  3. Koch, K. L., Stern, R. M., Vasey, M. W., Seaton, J. F., Demers, L. M., & Harrison, T. S. (1990). Neuroendocrine and gastric myoelectrical responses to illusory self-motion in humans. The American journal of physiology, 258(2 Pt 1), E304–10.
  4. Longstreth, G. F. Approach to the adult with nausea and vomiting. In: UpToDate, Basow, DS (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2013.
  5. Costanzo, L. (2011). Physiology. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  6. Patanwala, A. E., Amini, R., Hays, D. P., & Rosen, P. (2010). Antiemetic therapy for nausea and vomiting in the emergency department. The Journal of emergency medicine, 39(3), 330–336. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2009.08.060

Hemoptysis

Source: Mulpuru, S., Touchie, C., Karpinski, J., & Humphrey-Murto, S. (2010). Coexistent Wegener“s granulomatosis and Goodpasture”s disease. The Journal of rheumatology, 37(8), 1786–1787. doi:10.3899/jrheum.091404

Linear IgG deposits consistent with anti-GBM disease.

CC:

“bad cough”

HPI:

61yo African American female w/hx of HTN presenting with 1mo of persistent cough productive of green-yellow sputum, noticed streaks of blood for the past 5 days. She came to the ED today because she has been feeling increasingly fatigued. She reports subjective fevers at the onset of symptoms which has resolved. She denies shortness of breath, chest pain, chills, night sweats. She sought medical care for this problem 2wk ago and was treated with amoxicillin and a cough suppressant. She recalls a coworker was ill one month ago. She is US-born, had a negative PPD in the past and has no known exposures to tuberculosis.

Of note, the patient reports her urine had a foamy appearance and has been darker in color beginning 3 weeks ago, but this had resolved. She denied dysuria, or frank hematuria.

PMH:

  • HTN
  • Asthma – last required medications >30yrs ago

 PSH:

  • None

FH:

  • Non-contributory

 SHx:

  • No t/e/d
  • Works as librarian

Meds:

  • benazepril
  • amlodipine
  • amoxicillin
  • promethazine

Allergies:

  • NKDA

Physical Exam:

VS: T 99.4 HR 97 BP 132/60 RR 20 O2 92%
Gen: Well-appearing, pleasant, speaking in complete sentences
HEENT: PERRL, MMM no lesions, no cervical lymphadenopathy
CV: RRR, normal S1/S2, no murmur appreciated
Lungs: Crackles in posterior: right middle/inferior and left inferior fields, no wheezing, no dullness to percussion
Abd: +BS, soft, non-tender, no CVAT
Ext: Warm, well-perfused, 2+ peripheral pulses, 1+ pitting edema to knee
Skin: No lesions on exposed skin
Neuro: AAO

Labs:

  • CBC: 12.3/6.7/19.8/52.3 (S: 94, B: 1, L: 4, M: 1, MCV: 92.3); baseline Hb/Hct (1/11/2012) 13.4
  • BMP: 136/3.6/101/25/46/3.43/126; baseline creatinine (1/11/2012) 1.18
  • UA: brown, trace LE, – nitrites, 2+ protein, 81 RBC

Imaging:

CXR PA

  • Right mid-lung zone consolidation is present, suggests pneumonia if acute.
  • Mild asymmetric right parenchymal increased density is seen diffusely as well.

Assessment/Plan:

65AAF w/hx HTN presents with persistent productive cough, recently with hemoptysis.

# Cough: Symptoms and physical findings of abnormal breath sounds (crackles, though no strict consolidation) concerning for community-acquired pneumonia. Addition of hemoptysis raises concern for TB, particularly when taking into consideration the duration of cough and presence of constitutional symptoms. CBC shows leukocytosis with left shift, CXR with right mid/lower lob infiltrates consistent with pneumonia. Recommend admission and isolation to rule out TB, start empiric therapy for community acquired pneumonia with ceftriaxone, azithromycin. Obtain induced sputum samples for culture, AFB smear and culture.

# Abnormal urine: Patient describes changes in urine suggestive of proteinuria and hematuria. Acuity of onset and apparent spontaneous resolution suggests a chronic kidney injury 2/2 hypertension is unlikely. Absence of dysuria, or tenderness (suprapubic, costovertebral) suggests complicated UTI unlikely. Urinalysis notable for 2+ protein and significant RBC’s, possible nephritic syndrome. In the setting of hemoptysis, this raises concern for anti-GBM disease vs. vasculitis.

# Anemia: Normocytic anemia. No evidence of acute, life-threatening hemorrhage as patient is currently hemodynamically stable. Possible sites of blood loss include alveoli, glomeruli. Given that patient sought care today for worsening fatigue, will monitor hemoglobin closely and consider transfusion. Obtain iron studies.

# HTN: BP stable, hold home medications.

Interval History:

The patient was admitted for management of community-acquired pneumonia and isolation to rule out TB. Empiric therapy with CTX + azithromycin was continued. On HOD1, the patient was transfused two units of PRBC’s. On HOD2, the patient underwent CT chest/abdomen/pelvis due to worsening respiratory status despite antimicrobial therapy. On HOD3, the patient went into atrial fibrillation with RVR which was converted to sinus rhythm with metoprolol 5mg IV x3. On HOD5, nephrology consult recommended starting steroid therapy, plasmapheresis and obtaining a renal biopsy, however the biopsy was delayed due to worsening respiratory status.

Interval Labs:

  • Iron studies: Fe 8, TIBC 203, Ferritin 468, haptoglobin 333, retics 2.7
  • Inflammatory markers: ESR 120, CRP 34
  • Micro: BCx NGTD, RCx moderate Candida, sputum AFB smear negative x3
  • LFT: AST 34, ALT 29, ALP 52, protein 6.3, albumin 2.4, T.bil 0.8, D.bil 0.2
  • Quant-gold: negative
  • Anti-GBM 1.2 (nl <1.0)
  • p-ANCA: positive 1:640, [ELISA pending]
  • ANA: positive 1:320, speckled
  • HIV: negative

Interval Imaging:

CT Chest

  • Diffuse right lung, tree and bud opacities, ground-glass opacities and areas of confluence with scattered air bronchograms. Less severe similar pattern in the left lung as well particular at the base.
  • Right paratracheal, subcarinal and perihilar LAD.
  • Findings concerning for primary TB in the right clinical setting. DDx nonspecific bacterial PNA and fungal PNA.

CT Abdomen/Pelvis

  • Mild nonspecific R > L perinephric stranding.

Interval Assessment/Plan:

# Acute respiratory failure: Unlikely simple CA-PNA given worsening status while on appropriate antibiotic therapy. Active tuberculosis possible given history of chronic productive cough with hemoptysis, constitutional symptoms and imaging findings. IGRA’s of limited utility in diagnosis of active disease, further, while three negative sputum AFB smears decreases the likelihood of TB, additional testing with NAAT and culture is required. Another possibility is a vasculitic process given concomitant hematuria and acute renal failure, with respiratory symptoms now 2/2 alveolar hemorrhage. This was evaluated with ANCA assay which was positive for p-ANCA with high titer. This is often suggestive of primary vasculitis (in this case likely microscopic polyangiitis vs. Churg-Strauss), however ELISA for target antigen is of particular importance as p-ANCA with specificity for antigens other than MPO can be associated with another condition on the differential: Goodpasture’s syndrome. This patient was found to have elevated anti-GBM antibodies which are highly suggestive of Goodpasture’s syndrome, and can be associated with ANCA-positivity (often suggesting a poorer prognosis with decreased likelihood of recovery of renal function).1

# Acute kidney injury: The patient had significant elevation of serum creatinine compared to last-recorded baseline. She also described darkening and foamy appearance of urine 3 weeks prior to admission, suggestive of proteinuria/hematuria of relatively acute onset. This was supported by urinalysis findings of protein and RBC’s (with casts). Given presence of anti-GBM antibodies, high specificity of such findings, and correlation with glomerulonephritis with evidence of pulmonary alveolar hemorrhage, this appears to be the most likely cause at this time. Definitive diagnosis with renal biopsy to be obtained following stabilization of respiratory status. Patient will be started on plasmapheresis and immunosuppressive therapy (corticosteroids, cyclophosphamide).

# Normocytic Anemia: Likely combination of acute blood loss (2/2 hematuria, pulmonary alveolar hemorrhage) and chronic disease. Normocytic anemia with some reticulocytosis suggestive of acute blood loss, however iron studies with low Fe, TIBC and elevated ferritin suggest chronic disease as an associated factor.

Differential Diagnosis of Hemoptysis: 2, 3

A System for Hemoptysis

A System for the Diagnosis of Tuberculosis: 4, 5

A System for the Diagnosis of Tuberculosis

 

A System for Vasculitides: 8, 9

A System for Vasculitidies

 

Vasculitis Mimics: 9

Vasculitis Mimics

 

Interpretation of antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ANCA): 10

Pattern Target Associated vasculitis Other diseases
C-ANCA PR3
  • Granulomatosis with polangiitis (Wegener’s)
  • Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Churg-Strauss)
  • Microscopic polyangiitis
  • Pauci-immune glomerulonephritis
C-ANCA (atypical) BPIMPO
  • IBD
  • Cystic fibrosis

 

P-ANCA MPO
  • Microscopic polyangiitis
  • Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Churg-Strauss)
  • Pauci-immune glomerulonephritis
Non-MPO
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • IBD, PSC
  • SLE, RA
  • Drugs
  • Infection (HIV, fungal)

Differential Diagnosis of Anemias: 11

A System for Anemias

References:

  1. Levy, J. B., Hammad, T., Coulthart, A., Dougan, T., & Pusey, C. D. (2004). Clinical features and outcome of patients with both ANCA and anti-GBM antibodies. Kidney international, 66(4), 1535–1540. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1755.2004.00917.x
  2. Bidwell, J. L., & Pachner, R. W. (2005). Hemoptysis: diagnosis and management. American family physician, 72(7), 1253–1260.
  3. Hirshberg, B., Biran, I., Glazer, M., & Kramer, M. R. (1997). Hemoptysis: etiology, evaluation, and outcome in a tertiary referral hospital. Chest, 112(2), 440–444. doi:10.1378/chest.112.2.440
  4. Campbell, I. A., & Bah-Sow, O. (2006). Pulmonary tuberculosis: diagnosis and treatment. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 332(7551), 1194–1197. doi:10.1136/bmj.332.7551.1194
  5. Zumla, A., Raviglione, M., Hafner, R., & Reyn, von, C. F. (2013). Tuberculosis. The New England journal of medicine, 368(8), 745–755. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1200894
  6. Diagnostic Standards and Classification of Tuberculosis in Adults and Children. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine. doi:10.1164/ajrccm.161.4.16141
  7. Laraque, F., Griggs, A., Slopen, M., & Munsiff, S. S. (2009). Performance of nucleic acid amplification tests for diagnosis of tuberculosis in a large urban setting. Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 49(1), 46–54. doi:10.1086/599037
  8. Gross, W. L., Trabandt, A., & Reinhold-Keller, E. (2000). Diagnosis and evaluation of vasculitis. Rheumatology (Oxford, England), 39(3), 245–252.
  9. Suresh, E. (2006). Diagnostic approach to patients with suspected vasculitis. Postgraduate medical journal, 82(970), 483–488. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2005.042648
  10. Rus, V., & Handwerger, B. S. (2000). Clinical value of antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies. Current rheumatology reports, 2(5), 383–389.
  11. Goljan, E. (2011). Pathology. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby/Elsevier.

Quick Case: Pleuritic Chest Pain

Image from: Maeng, C. H., Chin, S. O., Yang, B. H., Kim, S.-Y., Youn, H.-J., Cho, K. S., Baek, S. K., et al. (2007). A case of organizing pneumonia associated with rituximab. Cancer research and treatment : official journal of Korean Cancer Association, 39(2), 88–91. doi:10.4143/crt.2007.39.2.88

30yo male presenting with forearm cellulitis, also complaining of right-sided sharp chest pain worse with deep inspiration and some movements of the ipsilateral shoulder. Found to have multiple pulmonary nodules (suggestive of metastasis) with the largest being a subpleural nodule in the superior/anterior portion of the RUL (roughly the location of the patient’s pain).

 

Differential Diagnosis of Pleuritic Chest Pain

Causes of Pleuritic CP

Location of Referred Pain

Referred Pain

 

Pediatric Fever

CXR with infiltrates

ID:

5yo girl brought to the pediatric emergency department by her mother due to 3 days of fever.

HPI:

The patient’s fever was first noted 3 days ago, measured at home to 103°F. It is associated with a moist cough, vomiting, and decreased PO intake. Her mother reports that she appears lethargic and has been urinating less frequently. The patient denies headache, changes in vision, burning with urination, or ear pain. No known sick contacts, attends day care.

PMH (Birth History):

No significant medical/surgical history. Ex-term born NSVD with no complications.

PE:

  • VS: 95/65mmHg, 100bpm, 102.6°, 22/min
  • General: Well-appearing, mildly irritated but consolable
  • HEENT: NC/AT, PERRL, oropharynx without erythema, no cervical LAD
  • CV: RRR, no M/G/R
  • Lungs: No evidence of respiratory distress (retractions, flaring), faint crackles over right inferior lung fields
  • Abd: +BS, soft, non-distended, TTP RLQ > LLQ, no rebound/guarding
  • Back: No CVAT

Labs/Imaging:

  • CXR PA/Lateral: RML/RLL infiltrate

Assessment:

5yo with 3 days persistent high fever and cough. These symptoms along with examination findings of crackles warranted further imaging (CXR) which revealed infiltrate in the right inferior lung field. The patient appeared clinically stable and was tolerating PO intake in the ED and was discharged home with azithromycin 5mg/kg/dose (with loading dose), clinic follow-up and strict return precautions.

Evaluation and Management of Pediatric Fever

Algorithm for the Evaluation of Pediatric Fever

A System for Pediatric Fever:

Pathophysiology:

Pathophysiology

Diagnosis:

  • <3mo: 38.0°C, 100.4°F
  • 3-36mo: 39.0°C, 102.2°F
  • Rectal > oral > axillary

Differential Diagnosis of Pediatric Fever:

Causes Of Fever

Serious Bacterial Illness (SBI):

1) UTI and pyelonephritis

  • Most common cause of SBI
  • Accounts for 3-8% of uncharacterized fevers
  • Female > male, uncircumcised > circumcised
  • Consider BCx, CSF evaluation as 5-10% bacteremic at presentation
  • Urinalysis: LE 75% specificity, Nitrites 97% specificity

2) Pneumonia and sinusitis

  • Sinusitis uncommon <3yo (sinuses unformed)
  • PNA diagnosed with CXR, obtain if findings of respiratory distress (grunting, tachypnea, hypoxemia) or rales on exam

3) Meningitis

  • Diagnose with LP
  • Meningitis suggested if:
    • ANC > 1,000
    • Protein > 80
    • Seizure (particularly complex febrile seizure)

Diagnosis by Age Group:

<3mo

  • Physical exam findings:
    • Tachypnea, hypoxemia → LRT infection
    • Irritability, inconsolability, bulging anterior fontanelle → meningitis
    • Vomiting/diarrhea → non-specific, GE, AOM, UTI, meningitis
  • History
    • Recent immunization: increased risk of SBI (usually UTI) 24-72h after immunization
    • Confirmed bronchiolitis (viral): enterovirus/parainfluenza associated with SBI

3-36mo

  • Physical exam findings:
    • Viral (URTI, GE) → vomiting, diarrhea, rhinorrhea, cough, rash; still playful and responsive
    • UTI → fever, foul-smelling urine, crying when urinating
    • Meningitis → irritability with handling, vomiting, bulging anterior fontanelle, complex febrile seizures

>36mo

  • Physical exam findings: presentation more adult-like
  • Watch for:
    • Group A Streptococcal pharyngitis
    • Infectious mononulceosis
    • Kawasaki: high fever (>5d), strawberry tongue, conjunctivitis, desquamating rash on palms/soles

External Links

Syncope

ID:

A 50 year-old male with a reported two-year history of infrequent spells, presenting with two spells in the past two days.

HPI:

The patient’s spells began two years ago, he recounts that he was watching television when he lost consciousness and a friend noted he started shaking; he does not recall the event, and awoke in the hospital. The next spell occurred one year later, though the patient is unable to recall much about this episode. The patient remained spell-free until yesterday when he was on a bus, lost consciousness and awoke in a hospital. He notes that he had bit his tongue and lost control of his bladder. He was discharged hours later with a prescription for an AED which he was unable to fill. This morning, the patient had another spell while in the bathroom. His roommate heard him fall, found him on the ground, and noted that his mouth was moving but did not see any other movements.

The patient’s episodes are all associated with loss of consciousness and are followed by 5-10 minutes of disorientation after which he recovers fully. The episodes are sometimes preceded by a feeling of “euphoria”, though this feeling sometimes occurs without subsequent LOC.

The patient denies any associated palpitations, dizziness/LH, chest pain or muscle pain.  He has not had any recent fevers/chills, dysuria, cough, headache, changes in vision, numbness/tingling, weakness, difficulty speaking or swallowing or weight loss. He also denies any history of head trauma.

Physical Examination:

  • VS: Stable and WNL
  • General: Well-appearing, pleasant, and in NAD.
  • HEENT: NC/AT. MMM. Small lesion on tongue.
  • Lungs: CTAB.
  • CV: RRR with occasional ectopic beats, no M/R/G.
  • Abdomen: S/NT/ND. Bowel sounds present.
  • Neurological exam: AAOx4, CN II-XII intact, motor/sensation/reflexes/coordination/gait WNL

Imaging/Studies:

  • EKG: Occasional PAC/PVC
  • CT Brain: Unremarkable except for mild age-related cerebral atrophy

Assessment & Plan:

50 year-old male with a history of HTN and a reported two-year history of infrequent spells presenting with two spells in the past two days. The description of the patient’s episodes could be consistent with seizures. Aspects supporting this notion include loss of consciousness and period of confusion following each episode. One of the recent episodes was also associated with tongue-biting and loss of bladder control. Additionally, some episodes are associated with a sensation of euphoria rising from the abdomen to the head which could be indicative of an aura. Characteristics that suggest other causes include the absence of noted convulsions and non-stereotyped nature of each episode which could be due to the patient’s poor recollection of these events and absence of reliable witnesses. In the case of true seizures, the possible etiologies in this patient include a mass, metabolic abnormalities, substance use, or concomitant infection exacerbating an existing propensity for seizure activity. Other, non-seizure causes warranting evaluation include cardiogenic syncope particularly given the evidence of ectopic beats on examination and electrocardiogram.

Differential Diagnosis of Syncope

First, is it syncope? History is very important for distinguishing syncope from other causes (seizure, dizziness, vertigo, presyncope). Ask about precipitating events, prodromal symptoms, post-ictal confusion. Common causes of syncope and their associated symptoms are detailed in the figure below.

References:

  1. Kapoor, W. N. (2000). Syncope. The New England journal of medicine, 343(25), 1856–1862. doi:10.1056/NEJM200012213432507

Delirium

ID:

A 70 year-old female with a PMH of HTN, DM, hyperlipidemia and stage I breast cancer s/p lumpectomy with sentinel LN biopsy several years ago presented for elective surgery complicated by post-operative bleeding. She is now 4 days post-op and was found to be confused, somnolent and occasionally agitated.

HPI:

The patient could not be interviewed.

PE:

  • VS: Stable and within normal limits
  • General: unremarkable except for crackles in bilateral lung bases
  • MSE: only arouses to sternal rub and becomes agitated, moving all four extremities spontaneously and symmetrically.
  • Reflexes: corneal and gag reflexes present, suppresses eye movements with head turn, deep tendon reflexes 3+ throughout UE/LE bilaterally.

Assessment:

70 year-old woman with a history of HTN, DM, hyperlipidemia and breast cancer presents with worsening confusion, somnolence and occasional agitation four days after surgery. The combination of significantly altered consciousness and absence of focal neurological findings, all in the setting of a complicated surgical course suggest delirium.

Differential Diagnosis of Altered Mental Status:

Levels of consciousness

There are different levels of consciousness, they are named in the diagram below but are better described by the characteristics observed.

Initial assessment

Differential Diagnosis for Altered Mental Status

References:

  1. Inouye, S. K. (2006). Delirium in Older Persons. The New England journal of medicine, 354(11), 1157–1165. doi:10.1056/NEJMra052321
  2. Blueprints neurology. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins, 2009.
  3. Tindall SC. Level of Consciousness. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 57. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK380/