This field of medicine requires much more physiological and pathophysiological knowledge than most people give it credit for. Psychiatric illness DO have physical manifestations of symptoms; in fact those symptoms help form the main criteria for differential diagnoses. For example, key physical symptoms of depression, besides having a low mood for more than two weeks (yes, two weeks is all it takes to be classified as 'depressed'), include fatigue, change in appetite, unexplained aches/pains, changes in menstrual cycle if you're a female, altered bowel habits, abnormal sleep, etc. Aside from this, studies suggest that psychiatric illnesses put you at higher risk for physical conditions including heart disease, osteoarthritis, etc. (the list really does go on) Although some mental health conditions, like cognitive impairments, still do not have very effective treatment options; most psychiatric medications work very well, and are necessary for treating the patient. The stigma surrounding them by the public causes a huge problem for doctors. Many patients are reluctant to comply with medications because they are not as widely accepted as the ones for non-mental health conditions. A psychiatrist holds a huge responsibility for patient education. It can be tough to teach your patients about their medication, when many of them refuse to belief there is anything wrong with them (this is also because of stigma). Contrary to my previous beliefs, psychiatrists DO NOT sit around talking about feelings all day. The stereotypical image of someone lying down on a couch talking about their thoughts/feelings while the doctor holds up ink blots, is done more in 'cognitive behavioural therapy.' While this is a vital healthcare service, it's not really what a psychiatrist does. Taking a psychiatric history is just like taking a regular, structured medical history; except you have to ask further questions about their personal history (their relationships, professional life, significant life events, etc), forensic history, substance misuse history (if applicable), and childhood/developmental history. Taking a psychiatric history for a new patient usually takes at least an hour. The interesting thing about about treating a psychiatric patient is that the best guidelines you have for making them healthy is their personality before the symptoms started (this is called 'pre-morbid personality'). This can be difficult to establish, and can often be an ambiguous goal for a doctor to reach. Of course, there is structure/protocol for each illness, but each patient will be unique. This is a challenge because personalities constantly evolve, healthy or not, and the human mind is perpetual. On top of this, whether mental or physical, a serious illness usually significally impacts a person's personality. Most psychiatric conditions, while being very treatable, will affect the patient will struggle with for their whole life. This leaves the psychiatrist with a large portion of the responsibility for the patient's quality of life and well-being; this can be vey rewarding and challenging. The state of a person's mind is a perpetual thing, choosing the right medication is not enough. Before I had done this rotation, I was quite sure that this was a field I was not interested in. I still don't know if it is something I would pursue, but I'm definitely more open-minded to it now! PS: It has also taught me some valuable life lessons; most of the patients I met were just ordinary people who were pushed a little too far by the unfortunate combination/sequence of circumstances in their life. Even the ones who have committed crimes or were capable of doing awful things.. It could happen to anyone, and just because I have been lucky enough to not experience the things those people have, does not mean I am a better person for not behaving the same way as them.
about 6 years ago
Optic neuritis is swelling and inflammation of the optic nerve which may result in dull pain behind the eye, and cause visual impairments such as blurry and distorted vision as well as “blind spots,” and/or “flashing lights, which may become more apparent over the course of several hours, or days.
over 4 years ago
A mother describes the pain of losing her daughter to asthma, when an ambulance went to the wrong address.
about 6 years ago
"When did the pain start Mr Smith?" "Ah so do you enjoy it?" 'It' of course refers to your five year medical degree. Patients can be nice can't they. Often it seems that all patients want to talk about is you. I thought the public didn't like students, aren't students lazy drunks who wake up at midday, squander their government hand-outs on designer clothes, and whose prevailing role in society was to keep the nation's budget baked bean industry in the black? Apparently the same isn't thought of medical students, well maybe it is, but god patients are polite. The thing is I have found these questions difficult; it is surprising how they can catch you off guard. Asking if I am enjoying 'it' after I have woken up at dawn, sat on a bus for 40 minutes, and hunted down a clinician who had no idea I was meant to be there, could lead on to a very awkward consultation. But of course it doesn't "yes it is really good thank you". "Do you take any medications, either from your GP or over the counter?" "Are you training to be a GP then?" Medicine is a fascinating topic and indeed career, which surely human nature makes us all interested in. As individuals lucky enough to be studying it, maybe we forget how intriguing the medical profession is? This paired with patients sat in a small formal environment with someone they don’t know could bring out the polite ‘Michael Parkinson’ in anybody. Isn't this just good manners, taking an interest. Well yes. Just because I can be faintly aloof doesn't mean the rest of the world has to me. But perhaps there is a little more to it, we ask difficult personal questions, sometimes without even knowing it, we all know when taking a sexual history to expect the consultation to be awkward or embarrassing, but people can be apprehensive talking about anything, be it their cardiovascular disease, medications, even their date of birth. We often then go on to an examination: inspecting from the end of the bed, exposing a patient, palpating. Given a bit context you can see why a patient may want to shift the attention back to someone like us for a bit, and come on, the medical student is fair game, the best target, asking the consultant whether they enjoys their job, rather you than me. If we can oblige, and make a patient feel a bit more at ease we should, and it certainly won't be doing our student patient relationship any harm. Hopefully next time my answers will be a bit more forthcoming. "Any change in your bowels, blood in any motions?" "How many years do you have left?" It is a good thing we are all polite.
Joe de Silva
about 6 years ago
Introduction The use of smartphones amongst health care professionals is now estimated to be in excess of 85%, with Apple's iPhone currently being the most popular platform. There is a wealth of information (from popular blogs, to formal journals) that demonstrate the potential of smartphone apps (and technology in general) to improve healthcare. However, despite widespread use of smartphones, proper application of the software at our disposal has been arguably poor. The latest mobile Apple operating system 'iOS 8', may be the start of a long-awaited overhaul of the current health apps available. The App Store - as it stands The Apple app store boasts many hundreds of what it describes as 'medical' apps. A review of the 'Top 200' medical apps conducted in 2012 by this author revealed that 49% were in fact general health or lifestyle applications aimed at the general public. The same process was repeated this year (2014) and demonstrated that this percentage has increased to 54%. This increase in apps aimed at the general public suggests that Apple do not differentiate between 'medical apps' and 'health and lifestyle' apps. This could negatively affect health care professionals' perception of the otherwise high-quality medical apps that are available. In addition, of the remaining percentage of apps aimed at healthcare professionals, only 5.56% were deemed to be of clinical benefit (an increased from 3% in 2012). The overwhelming majority of 'medical' apps aimed at medical professionals are actually educational in content and usually focus on the learning of anatomy. Current health apps Much like the 'medical' apps, only a limited selection of the health apps that are aimed at the public/patient are deemed to be high-quality. Prominent examples include the blood glucose monitors that record data in to a smartphone and similarly, the blood pressure and pain diaries. These examples focus on people with medical conditions, but it is important to note the potential of apps in preventative medicine too (i.e. promoting general health). Typical high-quality apps in this category include RunKeeper and Map My Ride. These apps allow everyone to become their own personal trainer and keep an accurate record of their physical activity. Smartphones will even send reminders to the user that a workout is due, and the option is present to share your stats and 'compete' with friends/family via social media. These features highlight the absolute vanguard of what could potentially come in terms of technology influencing healthy living. A current criticism of health apps is that most (if not all) are individual enterprises with very little information shared between them. The metaphor of 'silos' is used to represent these large vessels of information that sit adjacent to one another whilst never benefiting from the contents of one another. The iOS 8 operating system hopes to ameliorate this current issue with its new Health app and HealthKit, which will enable developers and their apps to pull data from several health related apps into one streamlined app. It is envisaged that this app will be able to feed (with the appropriate permissions of course) health related information to your family physician for health monitoring purposes. This could have impressive effects in community blood pressure management and blood glucose management (just to name the obvious ones). Problems Ahead There are scattered anecdotal reports of users being wary of centralised health information and as always Data Protection is a major concern (whether it is warranted or not). In addition, whilst a large percentage of the population may have a smartphone many may still opt not to use health related apps. Poor uptake will obviously limit the perception of this medium as a method of health monitoring. Summary Smartphone usage is high and many healthcare related apps are already available either to serve as medical tools to healthcare professionals or health monitoring devices for the public. Currently, Apple does not seem to differentiate between medical and lifestyle apps on its app store and many lower quality apps seem to appear in 'medical' searches. Also, Current apps do not share information. However, with iOS 8 it seems that Apple seems to be addressing several key issues surrounding the use of the iPhone as a health monitoring device. For the moment it seems that healthcare professionals will have to harness this patient-held approach. Perhaps direct improvements to the medical aspect of the Apple app store and the quality and originality of apps aimed at doctors is still a little way off.
Dr. Luke Farmery
almost 6 years ago
Although used less commonly than knee or hip replacement, shoulder replacement surgery removes diseased or damaged bone in the shoulder and replaces it with an artificial joint. If arthritis pain is unrelieved by other methods, you may need replacement surgery.
about 4 years ago
<p>This episode covers an approach to children with acute abdominal pain. The podcast covers an approach to history, an approach to physical examination, discusses investigations and lists indications for a surgical consult. This episode was written by Peter MacPherson and Dr. Melanie Lewis. Peter is a medical student at the University of Alberta. Dr. Lewis is a general pediatrician and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta and Stollery Children's Hospital. She is also the Clerkship Director. </p>
over 9 years ago
This month’s case is by David R Bell PhD, co-author of Medical Physiology: Principles for Clinical Medicine, 3e (ISBN: 9781451110395) For more information, or to purchase your copy, visit: http://tiny.cc/Rhoades4e, with 15% off using the discount code: MEDUCATION. The case below is followed by a quiz question, allowing you a choice of diagnoses. Select the one letter section that best describes the patient’s condition. The Case A 28-year old woman has an unremarkable pregnancy through her first 28 weeks of gestation, with normal weight gain and no serious complications. She has no previous history of diabetes, hypertension of other systemic disease before or during her current pregnancy. During her 30-week checkup, her blood pressure measures 128/85, and she complains about feeling slightly more “bloated” than usual with swelling in her legs that seems to get more uncomfortable as the day goes on. Her obsterician recommends that she get more bed rest, stay off her feet as much as possible and return for evaluation in one week. At the one-week follow-up, the patient presents with noticable”puffiness” in her face, and a blood pressure of 145/95. She complains she has been developing headaches, sporadic blurred vision, right-sided discomfort and some shortness of breath. She has gained more than 10 lb (4.5kg) in the past week. A urinalysis on the patient revelas no glucose but a 3+ reading for protein. Her obstetrician decides to admit her immediately to a local tertiary care hospital for further evaluation. Over the next 24 hours, the patient’s urine output is recorded as 500mL and contains 6.8 grams of protein. Her plasma albumin level is 3.1 g/dl, hemacrit 48%, indirect bilirubin 1.5mg/dl and blood platelets=77000/uL, respectively. Her blood pressure is now 190/100. It is decided to try to deliver the foetus. The expelled placenta is small and shows signs of widespread ischmic damage. Within a week of delivery, the mother’s blood pressure returns to normal, and her oedema subsides. One month later, the mother shows no ill effects of thos later-term syndrome. Question What is the clinical diagnosis of this patient’s condition and its underlying pathophysiology? A. Gestational Hypertension B. Preeclampsia C. Gestational Diabetes D. Compression of the Inferior Vena Cava Answer The correct answer is "B. Preeclampsia". The patient’s symptoms and laboratory findings are consistent with a diagnosis of Preeclampsia, which is a condition occurring in some pregnancies that causes life-threatening organ and whole body regulatory malfunctions. The patient’s negative urine glucose is inconsistent with gestational diabetes. Gestational hypertension or vena caval compression cannot explain all of the patient findings. The patient has three major abnormal findings- generalised oedema, hypertension and proteinuria which are all common in preeclampsia. Although sequalae of a normal pregnancy can include water and salt retention, bloating, modest hypertension and leg swelling (secondary to capillary fluid loss from increased lower limb capillary hydrostatic pressure due to compression of the inferior vena cava by the growing foetus/uterus), oedema in the head and upper extremities, a rapid 10 pound weight gain and shortness of breath suggests a generalized and serious oedematous state. The patient did not have hypertension before or within 20 weeks gestation (primary hypertension) and did not develop hypertension after the 20th week of pregnancy with no other abnormal findings (gestational hypertension). Hypertension with proteinuria occurring beyond the 20th week of pregnancy however is a hallmark of preeclampsia. In addition, the patient has hemolysis (elevated bilirubin and LDH levels), elevated liver enzyme levels and thrombocytopenia. This is called the HELLP syndrome (HELLP = Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelets.), and is considered evidence of serious patient deterioration in preeclampsia. A urine output of 500 ml in 24 hours is 1/2 to 1/4 of normal output in a hydrated female and indicates renal insufficiency. Protein should never be found in the urine and indicates loss of capillaries integrity in glomeruli which normally are not permeable to proteins. The patient has substantial 24 urine protein loss and hypoalbuminemia. However, generally plasma albumin levels must drop below 2.5 gm/dl to decrease plasma oncotic pressure enough to cause general oedema. The patient’s total urinary protein loss was insufficient in this regard. Capillary hyperpermeability occurs with preeclampsia and, along with hypertension, could facilitate capillary water efflux and generalized oedema. However myogenic constriction of pre-capillary arterioles could reduce the effect of high blood pressure on capillary water efflux. An early increase in hematocrit in this patient suggests hemoconcentration which could be caused by capillary fluid loss but the patient’s value of 48 is unremarkable and of little diagnostic value because increased hematocrit occurs in both preeclampsia and normal pregnancy. PGI2, PGE2 and NO, produced during normal pregnancy, cause vasorelaxation and luminal expansion of uterine arteries, which supports placental blood flow and development. Current theory suggests that over production of endothelin, thromboxane and oxygen radicals in preeclampsia antagonize vasorelaxation while stimulating platelet aggregation, microthrombi formation and endothelial destruction. These could cause oedema, hypertension, renal/hepatic deterioration and placental ischemia with release of vasotoxic factors. The patient’s right-sided pain is consistent with liver pathology (secondary to hepatic DIC or oedematous distention). Severe hypertension in preeclampsia can lead to maternal end organ damage, stroke, and death. Oedematous distension of the liver can cause hepatic rupture and internal hemorrhagic shock. Having this patient carry the baby to term markedly risks the life of the mother and is not considered current acceptable clinical practice. Delivery of the foetus and termination of the pregnancy is the only certain way to end preeclampsia. Read more This case is by David R Bell PhD, co-author of Medical Physiology: Principles for Clinical Medicine, 3e (ISBN: 9781451110395) For more information, or to purchase your copy, visit: http://tiny.cc/Rhoades4e. Save 15% (and get free P&P) on this, and a whole host of other LWW titles at (lww.co.uk)[http://lww.co.uk] when you use the code MEDUCATION when you check out! About LWW/ Wolters Kluwer Health Lippincott Williams and Wilkins (LWW) is a leading publisher of high-quality content for students and practitioners in medical and related fields. Their text and review products, eBooks, mobile apps and online solutions support students, educators, and instiutions throughout the professional’s career. LWW are proud to partner with Meducation.
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
about 7 years ago
It was a Saturday, about tea-time in the quaint village of Athelstaneford, East Lothian. Mrs Alexandria Agutter sat in her cottage, enjoying the delights of the late-summer evening with a glass of gin and tonic. She listlessly sipped from the rather generous pick-me up, no doubt chewing over the happenings of the day. Blast! The taste was much too bitter to her liking. She stood up. And promptly crumpled to the floor in a dizzied heap. It had not been five minutes when a fiery pain gripped her parched throat and in her frenzied turn she watched the bleary room become draped in a gossamery silk. How Dame Agatha would approve. But this is no crime novel, on that fateful day, 24th August 1994, poor Mrs Agutter immortalised herself in the history books of forensic medicine; she was the victim of a revered toxin and a vintage one it was too. She had unwittingly imbibed a G&T laced with a classic poison of antiquity. A clue from the 21st century: do you recall the first Hunger Games film adaption? Those inviting purple-black berries or as Suzanne Collins coined them ‘Nightlock’; a portmanteau of hemlock and Deadly Nightshade. True to the laters’ real life appearance those onscreen fictional fruits played a recurring cameo role. Deadly Nightshade is a perennial shrub of the family Solanaceae and a relative of the humble potato (a member of the Solanus genus). It is a resident of our native woodland and may be found as far afield as Europe, Africa and Western Asia. The 18th century taxonomist, Carl Linnaeus gave the plant an intriguing name in his great Species Plantarum. The genus Atropa is aptly named after one of the three Greek Fates, Atropos. She is portrayed shearing the thread of a mortal’s life so determining the time and manner of its inevitable end. The Italian species name belladona (beautiful woman) refers to the striking mydriatic effect of the plant on the eye. The name pays homage to Pietro Andre Mattioli, a 16th century physician from Sienna, who was allegedly the first to describe the plant’s use among the Venetian glitterati - ladies of fashion favoured the seductive, doe-eyed look. Belladona is poisonous in its entirety. It was from the plant’s roots in 1831, the German apothecary Heinrich F. G. Mein isolated a white, odourless, crystalline powder: it was (surprise, surprise) atropine. Atropine is a chiral molecule. From its natural plant source it exists as a single stereoisomer L-atropine, which also happens to display a chiral potency 50-100 times that of its D-enantiomer. As with many other anaesthetic agents it is administered as a racemic mixture. How strange that atropine now sits among the anaesthetist’s armamentarium, its action as a competitive antimuscarinic to counter vagal stimulation belies its dark history. It was a favourite of Roman housewives seeking retribution against their less than faithful husbands and a staple of the witch’s potion cupboard. Little wonder how belladona became known as the Devil’s plant. Curiouser still it’s also the antidote for other poisons, most notably the organophosphates or nerve gases. On account of its non-selective antagonism, atropine produces a constellation of effects: the inhibition of salivary, lacrimal and sweat glands occurs at low doses; dry mouth and skin are early markers. Pyrexia is a central effect exacerbated by the inability to sweat. Flushing of the face due to skin vessel vasodilatation. Low parasympathetic tone causes a moderate sinus tachycardia. Vision is blurred as the eye becomes dilated, unresponsive to light and accommodation is impaired. Mental disorientation, agitation and ataxia give the impression of drunkedness or a delirium tremens like syndrome. Visual hallucinations, often of butterflies or silk blowing in the wind, are a late feature. It was then that Mr Agutter, seemingly untroubled by the sight of his wife’s problematic situation, proceeded to leave a message with the local practitioner. How fortunate they were to have the vigilant locum check the answering machine and come round to the Agutter’s lodge accompanied by an ambulance crew. The attending paramedic had the presence of mind to pour the remainder of Mrs Agutter’s beverage into a nearby jam jar, while Mr Agutter handed over what he suspected to be the offending ingredient: the bottle of Indian tonic water. As it soon transpired there were seven other casualties in the surrounding countryside of East Lothian – all involving an encounter with tonic water. In fact by some ironic twist of fate, two of the victims were the wife and son of Dr Geoffry Sharwood-Smith, a consultant aneasthetist. Obviously very familiar with the typical toxidrome of anticholinergic agents, he was quick to suspect atropine poisoning. Although for a man of his position with daily access to a sweetshop of drugs, it was not something to draw attention to. Through no small amount of cunning had the poisoner(s) devised the plan. It was elegant; atropine is very bitter. So much so that it can be detected at concentrations of 100 parts per million (0.001%). Those foolish enough to try the berries of belladonna during walks in the woods are often saved by the berry’s sour taste. They are soon spat out. But the quinine in the tonic water was a worthy disguise. The lethal dose for an adult is approximately 90-130mg, however atropine sensitivity is highy variable. In its salt form, atropine sulfate, it is many times more soluble: >100g can be dissolved in 100ml of water. So 1ml may contain roughly tenfold the lethal dose. There ensued a nationwide scare; 50 000 bottles of Safeway branded Indian tonic water were sacrificed. Only six bottles had been contaminated. They had all been purchased, tops unsealed, from the local Safeway in Hunter’s Tryst. Superficially this looked like the handiwork of a psychopath with a certain distaste for the supermarket brand, and amidst the media furore, it did have some verisimilitude: one of the local papers received a letter from 25 year old, Wayne Smith admitting himself as the sole perpetrator. The forensic scientist, Dr Howard Oakley analysed the contents of the bottles. They all contained a non-lethal dose, 11-74mg/litre of atropine except for the Agutter’s, it contained 103mg/litre. The jam jar holding Mrs Agutter’s drink bore even more sinister results, the atropine concentration was 292mg/L. It would appear Mrs Agutter had in some way outstayed her welcome. But she lived. A miscalculation on the part of the person who had added an extra seasoning of atropine to her drink. According to the numbers she would have had to swallow a can’s worth (330ml) to reach the lethal dose. Thankfully she had taken no more than 50mg. The spotlight suddenly fell on Dr Paul Agutter. He was a lecturer of biochemistry at the nearby University of Napier, which housed a research syndicate specialising in toxicology. CCTV footage had revealed his presence at the Safeway in Hunter’s Tryst and there was eye witness evidence of him having placed bottles onto the shelves. Atropine was also detected by the forensic investigators on a cassete case in his car. Within a matter of two weeks he would be arrested for the attempted murder of his wife. Despite the calculated scheme to delay emergency services and to pass the blame onto a non-existent mass poisoner, he had not accomplished the perfect murder. Was there a motive? Allegedly his best laid plans were for the sake of a mistress, a mature student from Napier. He served seven years of a twelve year sentence. Astonishingly, upon his release from Glenochil prison in 2002, he contacted his then former wife proclaiming his innocence and desire to rejoin her in their Scottish home. A proposition she was not very keen on. Dr Agutter was employed by Manchester University as a lecturer of philosophy and medical ethics. He is currently an associate editor of the online journal Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling. We will never know the true modus operandi as Dr Agutter never confessed to the crime. Perhaps all this story can afford is weak recompense for the brave followers of the Dry January Campaign. Oddly these sort of incidents never appear in their motivational testimonials. Acknowledgements Emsley J. Molecules of Murder. 2008, Cambridge, RSC Publishing, p.46-67. Lee MR. Solanaceae IV: Atropa belladona, deadly nightshade. J R Coll Physicians Edinb. March 2007; 37: 77-84. Illustrator Edward Wong This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the The Medical Student Newspaper January issue, 2014 http://www.themedicalstudent.co.uk/
over 6 years ago