Health Questions and Answers

Question: Which diagnostic tests should be obtained in the patient with a significantly altered level of consciousness?

Answer:

Obtain a rapid blood glucose (Dextrostix), and correct hypoglycemia if it is found. If alcohol intoxication is suspected, determine the alcohol level with either a Breathalyzer or serum blood alcohol. If the pupils are constricted or if narcotic ingestion is suspected, intravenous naloxone should be given. If hypoglycemia or alcohol intoxication is not found to be the cause of the patient’s confusion, further tests are warranted. A complete blood count, electrolytes, blood urea nitrogen, glucose, and oxygen saturation should be obtained. Toxicologic screens may be done in a patient with a suspected ingestion, but they are expensive and do not detect routinely every possible ingested substance. Liver function tests, ammonia level, calcium level, carboxyhemoglobin level, and thyroid function studies may be helpful in selected patients.

Leave a Reply