Psychiatric consultations and the management of associated comorbid medical conditions in a regional referral hospital
Background. Psychiatrists are often called upon to evaluate patients with a medical condition and psychiatric symptoms, either as a complication thereof or initial presenting symptoms. There are often grey areas with regard to neuropsychiatric disorders in which psychiatrists and specialists from other clinical disciplines would need to co-manage or share ideas on the comprehensive treatment of a presenting patient.
Objectives. This study was undertaken to provide a demographic and clinical profile of all patients consulted by the consultation-liaison psychiatry (CLP) service at the Helen Joseph Hospital (HJH) in Johannesburg, and to describe the clinical management of patients admitted with a diagnosis of a mental disorder associated with a comorbid medical condition, including delirium, dementia and a mood or psychotic disorder due to a general medical condition.
Methods. A retrospective record review of all patients referred to the HJH CLP team over a 6-month period.
Results. A total of 884 routine and emergency consultations were done for 662 patients (males n=305; females n=357) between the ages of 13 and 90 years who were referred from various other clinical departments. The most common documented reason for referral was a request for assessment (n=182; 27.5%), which consisted of mental state assessment, reconsultation and assessing capacity. A total of 63 patients (10.0% of cases consulted) were admitted to either the medical or psychiatric wards with a confirmed diagnosis of delirium, dementia and/or a mood or psychotic disorder due to a general medical condition (although admission wards were identified in 55 files only). The medical wards admitted the majority (n=37; 67.3%) mostly for delirium (n=28; 50.9%). HIV was identified as the most common systemic aetiological factor (n=23; 67.7%).
Conclusion. In this study, a female patient between 31 and 45 years of age was slightly more likely to be referred to the HJH CLP service for assessment, and was more likely to be managed in the medical wards for delirium, which was most often associated with HIV/AIDS. The study highlighted the need for development of guidelines to facilitate adequate and effective use of this service for the local practice of CLP in a general specialist referral hospital like HJH, which would cover the following: clinical management; training needs; and administrative procedures.
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