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Altered Mental Status

Resources to Review Prior to Conference


Goals and Objectives

  • Trainee will demonstrate competence in the initial evaluation and basic management of patients with altered mental status


Trainee will be able to:

  • Define and describe the differences between delirium, dementia and psychosis

  • Outline steps in the initial assessment to the patient with altered mental status

  • Produce a differential diagnosis for altered mental status

  • List rapidly reversible causes of altered mental status and appropriate interventions for each diagnosis

    • Alcohol withdrawal –> GABA agonists

    • Hypoglycemia –> Dextrose

    • Hypoxia –> Supplemental oxygen

    • Hypercarbia –> Ventilation

    • Hyper/hypothermia –> Cooling/warming measures

    • Hypertensive encephalopathy –> Antihypertensives

    • Opioid intoxication –> Naloxone

  • Describe common exam findings and diagnostic studies used to determine the etiology of altered mental status

  • Describe basic treatments for each disease category included in the differential diagnosis of altered mental status

  • List and describe non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic strategies to treat patients at risk of harming themselves or others


Additional Resources


Alcohol Withdrawal

Hypertensive Encephalopathy
Opioid intoxication

Psychiatric Disease
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