Monday, 12 November 2007

Absence of Fever

The elderly are a unique subset of the patient population. When the elderly get sick, it is time to throw the book out of the window for adult medicine because there are not firm & fast rules.

When I say this I mean for example about sepsis. In sepsis, elderly patients do not always have a fever, they do not always mount a white count or even a rise in C-reactive protein.

Patients do not always get headache, Kernigs or Brudzinski sign in meningitis and alot of elderly patients have a stiff neck just from age related osteoarthritis rather than from meningism.

Hence, relying on the patient not having a fever, a normal WCC and CRP does not exclude sepsis.

Patients can present with confusion and low blood pressure and a tachycardia. The observations of the patient and looking at the patient from the bedside can sometimes be more revealing than the blood results.

Therefore, don't be mislead by seemingly normal blood results. Remember to always take cultures of blood, sputum and urine, and if warranted, CSF to check for meningitis / encephalitis or even stool culture / toxins.

A good example was of a recent case from another hospital of a male patient with a 3 week history of worsening cough. The patient had otherwise been remarkably well despite having severe aortic stenosis. However, the patient lost his appetite and the cough worsened precipitating a hospital admission. All the observations were normal. No fever, normal blood pressure and pulse and SpO2 was 96% on room air.

Even the white cell count was normal. CRP was only slightly raised at just above 1.

Examination was most revealing as the patient appeared weak and tired and slightly confused. Chest examination revealed dullness to percussion and crackles with the addition of increased tactile vocal fremitus. JVP was not raised but peripheral edema was evident.

The concern was of rather than just a straight forward pneumonia, it was considered that there could be heart failure plus pneumonia.

The patient's sputum examination revealed gram positive diplococci consistent with streptococcus pneumoniae.

Echocardiogram and BNP exams were also ordered.

In this case, the patient had a pneumonia plus suspected heart failure from severe AS. Despite these problems he only manifested loss of appetite, weakness and mild confusion. No obvious problem with his vital signs and no fever.

Please remember that patients do not write the textbooks---doctors do. A typical case is a typical case, but patients sometimes do not fit the mould and do not obey by the rules of illness as defined by doctors.

Hence, when it comes to the elderly don't just label them as demented when they turn up to your hospitals with confusion, it could be due to overwhelming sepsis!

Please consider.... :)

Back In The Saddle

Dear Bloggers

It has been almost 2 weeks since my last blog for which I apologise. Unfortunately, I was unwell and I underwent various and extensive medical tests. I am now getting better and I hope to be back to writing my regular blog articles from now on.

I have been extremely impressed with the speed of the medical services here at my hospital. The process of undergoing tests is streamlined and well practised. I have only ever been used to the British hospital national service which is also very good. However, when you become a patient in another country it can sometimes be daunting about what tests will be done and how quickly and particularly the communication. However, I can understand many Japanese medical terms these days plus usual communication, so I did not find that too taxing.

I have had no complaints at all. In fact, I was very, very impressed. I also noticed that people showed concern and were caring. Hence, the Caring Profession.

Although I have no wishes at all to be a patient, I did feel I was in good hands.

I am now Back in the Saddle..... :) It is sure good to be back!!!