Every day in the Emergency Department we see older adults with dementia who have developed delirium and are brought in because of worsening agitation, combativeness, or confusion. In order to care for them, we have to consider what the underlying cause of their agitation may be, but we also have to protect the patient and staff in case of violent outbursts. Older adults experience a phenomenon termed ‘homeostenosis’ in which their physiologic reserve and the degree to which they can compensate for stressors is narrowed, putting them at risk for delirium. This post will outline ways to prevent and de-escalate agitation in a patient with delirium, and how to treat it pharmacologically in a cautious manner to minimize side effects.
Excited delirium syndrome is defined as “a syndrome of uncertain etiology characterized by delirium, agitation, and hyperadrenergic autonomic dysfunction”.1 You may have encountered a patient like this in the ED or prehospital setting. Although the etiology is impossible to determine in many cases, stimulant abuse and other drugs are involved in a majority of cases. An 8% mortality has been ascribed to Excited Delirium Syndrome, resulting from hyperthermia, severe metabolic acidosis, and cardiovascular collapse.
Traditionally in medical school, it is taught that lower extremity deep tendon reflexes for L4 and S1 nerve root levels can be elicited by tapping on the patella and Achilles tendons. It was just taught that L5 didn’t have a reflex to check. Knowing if an L5 radiculopathy existed would be especially helpful when assessing a patient for a potential lumbar disc herniation where a careful lower extremity neurologic exam is important. It turns out one can actually check for a L5 reflex.
Anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis is a severe and treatable immune-mediated disorder which presents with a rapid progression of psychiatric and neuropsychiatric symptoms. Although only first reported as a diagnosis in 2007, an exponential number of cases have since been described, suggesting that the disease is not rare but rather under-diagnosed. Emergency physicians play an important role in recognizing this disorder, as prognosis is largely dependent on early treatment with immunotherapy.
“Looking back at this time, I see that I’d begun to surrender to the disease, allowing all the aspects of my personality that I value – patience, kindness, and courteousness – to evaporate. I was a slave to the machinations of my aberrant brain. We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it.” – Brain on Fire, Susannah Cahalan
We are very excited this month to bring you our second Global Journal Club, co-hosted by the team here at ALiEM and the editorial board at the Annals of Emergency Medicine. This month, we are changing things up! We will be providing you, our readers, with a clinical vignette and related journal club questions today at the beginning of the week.The discussion will be held asynchronously starting today through Thursday (for 4 days). Respond by blog comment below or tweet (#ALiEMJC).
On Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 11 am PST (2 pm EST), we will be hosting a 30-minute live Google Hangout with Drs. Jeff Perry and Ian Stiell. The video will be embedded on this page. During this period, you will be able to tweet by using the #ALiEMJC hashtag and post comment in the blog comment section below.
To provide a resource for evidence-based Emergency Medical education, this list of must-read landmark articles was created to supplement the Emergency Medicine (EM) internship year of training. There are 52 articles so that one article can be read at leisure each week of the year. I searched national databases and polled faculty at the University of Washington to identify articles that faculty would expect any EM resident to be familiar with or that they felt were practice-changing in EM. Articles were selected for the final list based on the quality of study design, sample size, and relevance for EM residents.