When to use the ER – Change in Mental Status
The brain is the control center for the entire body. It is in charge of controlling all the organs and systems in the body to ensure that everything functions the way they should. But what if the brain fails to perform its work as it should? Change in mental status refers to the general change in the functioning of the brain resulting in a state of confusion, memory loss (amnesia), defects in thoughts and judgment, disorientation by not being cognizant of place, times ad self, poor emotional regulation and disruption in psychomotor skills and behavior.
Bellaire ER advices that if you notice any of the symptoms highlighted, you should rush to the emergency room for immediate treatment. This is because a change in mental status can cause a threat to oneself and those around them.
Cause of change in mental status
Change in mental status is not a disease in itself but the result of an underlying condition. Some of the most common factors include high or low blood sugar levels, low oxygen levels, dehydration or high or low sodium levels in the body, heart attack, adrenal or thyroid gland disease, renal failure, seizures, head traumas, strokes, encephalopathy, high altitude cerebral edema, burns, hyperthermia, hypothermia, consumption of toxic plants, inhalation of large volumes of carbon monoxide, psychiatric problems and alcohol and drug withdrawal.
Things like changes in medicine, hip fractures, pneumonia and heart attacks can increase the chance of an older adult experiencing a change in their mental status. Having a medical history of such diseases, also, has the same effect on a person.
Diagnosis and treatment of Change in mental status in the Emergency room
The treatment of the change in mental status usually begins by examining of a person’s normal mental status. The healthcare provider will want to determine whether the change has occurred gradually over a long period of time or if it was sudden. The cause of the change in mental status is what will dictate the treatment to be administered. These are the main diagnostic tests often used.
Gathering of patient’s medical history
This is the first and most important step in the treatment process. Gathering of past medical history will help the health specialists to determine the cause of the change in mental status thus help in the making of proper judgment as to which treatment is the most suitable to administer. The review of one’s medical history usually involves a look at the mental conditions the patient has experienced in the past, recent surgeries, the medication they have been taking and whether they have a history of alcohol and drug abuse. The knowledge of when the patient was last in a normal state is also important in examining the situation.
Checking the vital signs
This is the stage where the real test begins. The basic vital signs for change in mental status are examined. The health specialist will measure the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and their respiratory rate. There are the basic non-invasive tests that that can give an idea of what is going on within your body. If the vital signs are abnormal, that would direct the healthcare specialist to conduct further tests.
The specialist will perform a focused neurological exam on the patient to determine the extent of the change in mental status. Here, the patient’s alertness, their memory, reflexes, orientation and their ability to follow basic commands are assessed.
Blood tests are pretty simple to perform. A blood sample is drawn from the patient and taken to the lab for testing. The testing usually involves determining the patient’s blood count, blood cultures, glucose levels, electrolytes, thyroid function and screening for drugs. The specialist may, also, perform an arterial blood test to determine if there are any acid or base imbalances present. The results of the blood tests usually shed light on how well the lungs, the liver, and the kidneys are functioning. They, also, can reveal any potential infections present.
This procedure involves a needle being inserted into your spinal cord column to get a specimen of your cerebral spinal fluid to be used for lab tests. It is often performed when it is suspected that the patient has meningitis.
Radiology tests may, also, be performed to determine the extent if the altered mental status.
Ones the results of the tests are out, the physician will determine the best cause of action which usually involves treating the cause of the problem. The specialist may recommend that the patient be put under special care treatment. A patient has the right to take part in the planning of their health care and hence you can discuss the best treatment option to undertake with the physician.
The brain is the most important organ in the body as it controls all the other organs. As such, any change in the state of your mental status should not be taken lightly. If you notice that you or your loved one is experiencing a change in their mental status, rush to the emergency room for treatment.