UMEM Educational Pearls - Geriatrics

Elderly patients (mean age of 84 years) living in the community who are seen and discharged from the Emergency Department due to illness or injury are at increased risk for further disability and functional decline for at least six months after their visit.  This is associated with increased mortality, cost and need for long term care in previously self-functioning individuals. *   When appropriate to discharge from the ED, we should consider discharge planning that includes coordination with care management services to be sure these individuals have adequate home support systems in place and access to close outpatient follow-up. 

*It should be noted that the risk is even greater after inpatient hospitalization.

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Yes.

Serum creatinine decreases with age with the decrease in lean body mass. However, the number of functioning glemeruli and kidney function decrease with age as well, making the creatinine an unreliable indicator of renal function in older adults.

The solution? Calculate the creatinine clearance (CrCl) (or GFR) for a more accurate assessment of the renal function. You can use simple equations such as the Cockroft-Gault equation which incorporate the body weight and age.

CrCl (mL/min) =      (140-age) x lean body weight (kg)   x (0.85 if female) 

                                      serum creatinine (mg/dL) x 72

 

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Many elderly patients have thin skin making suture repair of lacerations difficult. Consider using Steri-Strips™ in combination with sutures to close fragile skin tears.

1. Apply Steri-Strips™ perpendicular to the wound in order to approximate skin edges.

2. Place sutures through both the applied Steri-Strips™ and skin and knot the suture.

This technique will help prevent the suture from tearing the skin as the tension of the suture will be distributed across the surface area of the Steri-Strips™.

 

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Category: Geriatrics

Title: Where Can I Find a Hearing Amplifier in my ED? (By Dr. Lauren Southerland)

Keywords: HoH, stethoscope, trick of the trade (PubMed Search)

Posted: 8/5/2018 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS (Updated: 10/21/2021)
Click here to contact Danya Khoujah, MBBS

Is your older patient hard of hearing (HoH)? Instead of shouting, get a stethoscope. Put the ear buds in your patient's ears and talk into the bell. It is a hearing amplifier you carry with you.

Bonus pearl: If you use the disposable stethoscopes, then the patient can keep it in their room and use it whenever anyone wants to talk to them.


Based in part upon Geriatric Emergency Department Guidelines, the American College of Emergency Physicians has initiated a Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation Program. Emergency departments (EDs) can be accredited at one of three levels- Gold (Level 1), Silver (Level 2) and Bronze (Level 3). There are various aspects upon which and EDs’ level is determined, including nurse and physician staffing and education, appropriate policies and protocols, quality improvement activities, outcome measures, equipment and the physical environment.


Category: Geriatrics

Title: What is a fever, really?

Keywords: fever, infection, physiology (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/3/2018 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS (Updated: 10/21/2021)
Click here to contact Danya Khoujah, MBBS

Older patients are less likely than their younger counterparts to mount a fever in response to an infection. One explanation is that their basal temperature is lower. Some experts suggest redefining fever in older patients to match this decrease of 0.15C per decade. Therefore, your 80 year old patient would be considered “febrile” if their temperature is above 37.3C, rather than the traditional 38C.

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Category: Geriatrics

Title: Pneumonia in the Elderly (Submitted by Dr. Amal Mattu)

Keywords: pneumonia, infection, delirium, atypical (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/6/2018 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS
Click here to contact Danya Khoujah, MBBS

- Half of elderly patients presenting with pneumonia will manifest signs of delirium

- Tachypnea is the most reliable and earliest vital sign abnormality

- Classic symptoms are not often helpful at predicting severity of illness

- Symptoms are unreliable

- Cough (63-84%)

- Dyspnea (58-74%)

- Fever by history (53-60%)

- Fever at arrival (12-32%)

- Pleuritic chest pain (8-32%)

- Sputum (30-65%)

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Category: Geriatrics

Title: Do POLSTs Really Change What We Do? (Submitted by Dr Liz Clayborne)

Keywords: palliative, advance directive, end-of-life (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/1/2018 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS (Updated: 10/21/2021)
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25% of U.S. health care spending goes to the 6% of people who die every year. ICUs account for 20% of all health care costs. A new study has shown that patients with POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments) forms are less likely to receive unwanted life sustaining treatments when compared to patients with traditional Do-Not-Resuscitate orders (http://www.ohsu.edu/polst/). Using the POLST did not impact the degree of comfort care received for symptom management and helped individuals make more informed choices about the type and level of end-of-life care they wish to receive.

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Contrary to a popularly held belief that one can estimate the age of a bruise by its color, present day research found that the color of a bruise at the time of its initial appearance is unpredictable. It is also affected by medications.
Take Home: Do not assumptions about the age of the bruise based on the color.

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Category: Geriatrics

Title: Geriatric Dizziness (Submitted by: Dr. Katherine Grundmann)

Keywords: dizziness, CT, MRI, Cerebellar (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/5/2018 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS (Updated: 10/21/2021)
Click here to contact Danya Khoujah, MBBS

15% of older adults presenting to ED for dizziness have serious etiologies; 4-6% are stroke-related and sensitivity of CT for identifying stroke or intracranial lesion in dizziness is poor (16%), so if CNS etiology suspected, seek neuro consult or MRI (83% sensitivity)

 

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Takeaways

A recent study was undertaken to validate the 4A's Test for the assessment of delirium in the elderly, with particular focus on inpatient geriatric patients; it revealed that the tool had high sensitivity in detecting delirium, particularly in those with dementia or language barriers, in whom this diagnosis can often be difficult to make.  Further studies would be useful in a similar demographic of emergency department geriatric patients to confirm that this straightforward test is generalizable to the emergency department geriatric patient population.

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Asymptomatic bacteriuria is common and increases with age, with an incidence of up to 50% in women over the age of 70.  Asymptomatic bacteriuria does not carry an associated high morbidity or mortality if left untreated; it is usually transient and resolves spontaneously.  In order to decrease polypharmacy and possible drug interactions in our elderly patients, they should only be diagnosed with and treated for a UTI if they have laboratory evidence of a UTI (bacteriuria and pyuria) and have two of the following:

·      Fever

·      Worsened urinary urgency or frequency

·      Acute dysuria

·      Suprapubic tenderness

·      Costovertebral angle tenderness

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Category: Geriatrics

Title: Suicidal Risk in Older Adults

Keywords: elderly, psychiatry, mental health, screening (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/5/2017 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS
Click here to contact Danya Khoujah, MBBS

A potential area of care improvement was identified in this recent study; how we address a positive suicide screening test in older adults. Although completed suicide is higher in this age group, older patients are less likely than their younger counterparts to receive mental health evaluation prior to ED discharge for suicidal ideation within the past 2 weeks or a suicidal attempt within the past 6 months, especially if their chief complaint was not of a psychiatric nature.

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Takeaways

Providing consistent, quality emergency care to the elderly is critically important. The Geriatric Emergency Department (GED) guidelines, developed collaboratively, provide a standardized set of guidelines to help improve care of the geriatric population in the emergency department.

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Category: Geriatrics

Title: Falls in the Elderly (Submitted by Amal Mattu, MD)

Keywords: arrhythmia, syncope, fall (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/4/2017 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS (Updated: 10/21/2021)
Click here to contact Danya Khoujah, MBBS

20% of unexplained falls in the elderly can be attributed to an arrhythmia.

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When you are working up an elderly patient for trauma  look for patterns such as circumferential bruising on the wrists that have the pattern of fingers the same way you would look at the injuries of a child. Remember that the person who is sitting next to them is frequently the person that is abusing them. Therefore, it is important to interview the patient alone. 

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Category: Geriatrics

Title: ACS in Elderly Patients (Submitted by Dr Katherine Grundmann)

Keywords: Geriatric, cardiology, symptoms, atypical, angina (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/4/2017 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS
Click here to contact Danya Khoujah, MBBS

Older patients with acute coronoary syndrome (ACS) are less likely to present with typical ischemic chest pain (pressure-like quality, substernal location, radiating to jaw, neck, left arm/shoulder and exertional component) compared with younger counterparts.

Typical angina symptoms predictive of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in younger patients were less helpful in predicting AMI in the elderly population.

Autonomic symptoms such as dyspnea, diaphoresis, nausea and vomiting, pre-syncope or syncope are more common accompaniments to chest discomfort in elderly ACS patients.

Symptoms may also be less likely to be induced by physical exertion; instead, they are often precipitated by hemodynamic stressors such as infection or dehydration

Bottom Line: Keep a high index of suspicion for ACS in older patients as they present atypically.

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·       In the elderly, falling is the most common mechanism of injury
·       Unavoidable Risk factors: age 85 or older, male, Caucasian, history of falls
·       Other factors: alcohol consumption, polypharmacy
·       Mechanisms of fall:  slipping, tripping, stumbling
·       Physical exam to include: gait, balance, proprioception, vision, strength and cognitive function testing
·       Must consider neglect/abuse, affects 10% of seniors per year
·       Evaluate for anticoagulant use due to increased risk of intracranial injury
·       Use advanced imaging to identify occult hip fractures when clinically suspected and plain radiographs are negative

 

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Category: Geriatrics

Title: Inappropriate Medications - Submitted by Jill Logan, PharmD, BCPS

Keywords: Beers list, iatrogenic, medications, pharmacology (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/5/2017 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS
Click here to contact Danya Khoujah, MBBS

The Beers' Criteria lists 34 classes of medications that may be potentially inappropriate for geriatric patients due to a high risk of complications including increased risk for falls. When prescribing medications from the emergency department in geriatric patients, try to avoid these categories if other options are available.

http://www.americangeriatrics.org/files/documents/beers/BeersCriteriaPublicTranslation.pdf

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Category: Geriatrics

Title: Elder Abuse - How Much Are We Missing?

Keywords: physical abuse, neglect, identification (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/5/2017 by Danya Khoujah, MBBS
Click here to contact Danya Khoujah, MBBS

A recent study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society aimed to estimate the proportion of visits to US Emergency Departments (EDs) in which a diagnosis of elder abuse is reached.
Results: Elder abuse was diagnosed in 0.013% of the 6.7 million geriatric ED visits that were examined. This is well below the estimated prevalence in the population (which is anywhere from 5-10%).

What That Really Means: There’s a dire need of better identification of elder abuse in the ED, especially neglect, which is the most common and most difficult to identify.

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