Jaundice in the Emergency Department: Meeting the Challenges of Diagnosis and Treatment
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Jaundice in the Emergency Department: Meeting the Challenges of Diagnosis and Treatment -
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Jaundice in the Emergency Department: Meeting the Challenges of Diagnosis and Treatment
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Publication Date: April 2018 (Volume 20, Number 4)

Authors

Todd Taylor, MD
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
 
Matthew Wheatley, MD, FACEP
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
 
Peer Reviewers
 
Arlene S. Chung, MD, MACM
Associate Residency Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
 
Corinne Horan, DO
Attending Physician, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Camden, NJ
 
Abstract
 
There are approximately 52,000 visits a year to emergency departments for patients presenting with jaundice. While many of these patients will not have immediately life-threatening pathology, it is essential that the emergency clinician understands the pathophysiology of jaundice, as this will guide the appropriate workup to detect critical diagnoses. Patients who present with jaundice could require intravenous antibiotics, emergent surgery, and, in severe cases, organ transplantation. This issue will focus on the challenge of evaluating and treating the jaundiced patient in the ED using the best available evidence from the literature.
 
Excerpt From This Issue

You are in the middle of a busy Monday afternoon shift in the ED. The chief complaint on the track board simply states, “other complaint,” but one look at the patient tells you why he is here. The patient is a middle-aged man with no prior medical history who states that his family has been telling him for the last 2 to 3 weeks that his eyes are yellow. He also admits to occasional nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss, and diffuse itching. There is no history of fever, abdominal pain, heavy alcohol use, or recent acetaminophen ingestion. Your physical examination is remarkable for icteric sclerae, jaundice of his face and upper chest, and mild, nontender hepatomegaly. You want to order imaging in addition to lab work, but wonder which is the better choice: CT or ultrasound?

A second patient, a young woman, presents via EMS. The EMTs state they were called to the house for altered mental status. There was nobody in the home to provide collateral information, but they did notice numerous empty medication bottles, though they were unsure what kinds of medications they were. The patient is responsive only to painful stimuli. Vital signs are otherwise stable, but you notice scleral icterus, diffuse jaundice, and petechiae on examination. You are obviously concerned about an ingestion, but you wonder whether you should begin N-acetyl-cysteine therapy empirically.

 

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