After seeing your fifth young patient of the day with chronic pelvic pain, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome, it is easy to be lulled into the mindset that abdominal pain is nothing to worry about. Not so with the elderly. These 10 tips will help focus your approach to atraumatic abdominal pain in older adults and explain why presentations are frequently subtle and diagnoses challenging.
The complications of alcohol use can be subtle in older adults, and the effects of alcohol are often incorrectly attributed to aging. Because of its under-recognition, the barriers to screening, and the many subtle ways in which it can present, some have suggested that alcohol misuse has replaced syphilis as the “great masquerader”. If you don’t think alcohol misuse is a problem among older adults in your ED, it may be because it has been hidden in plain sight.
It’s 7 am on a Monday. Your first patient is an 82 year-old woman who was brought in by EMS from an assisted living facility. All EMS can tell you is that she was not acting herself. You enter her room and introduce yourself. “Hello Mrs. Jones. How are you today?” The woman startles, “Well, you see, I went to put my dog out, and then I was just walking, and couldn’t remember. So it’s all coming full circle, and then I ate a sandwich.” Just then EMS rolls in with another patient, a 75 year-old male coming from home, who was found by his wife in his recliner minimally responsive, with a GCS of 6. He is followed by a 76 year-old female who had a fall from standing three days ago, and has been increasingly confused today, and is currently oriented only to person.
Meet Norma Nuance (NN), a 70-year-old woman with CAD, HTN, HLD, DM, and mild dementia. She was involved in an MVC as the restrained driver with questionable LOC. She arrives in your ED and appears confused, but has a history of dementia. There are no family members to tell you her baseline. Her BP is 120/80, and her HR is 90. She is not calling out in pain, but does mumble about her left arm when you ask if she is hurting. You think she may have sprained her wrist.
Now meet Frankie Obvious (FO), a 22-year-old male, who was the helmeted driver of a motorcycle that hit a car. He was thrown from the motorcycle, and arrives combative and yelling with a HR of 130 and a BP of 100/70.
Based on their vital signs, which patient is going to receive more immediate attention? Your lactate level is pending… (more…)