Altered LOC

This case was written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University and is also one of the Editors-in-Chief here at EMSimCases.

Why it Matters

It’s easy as a simulation case writer to get excited about complex cases with rare presentations. But it’s also important to remember to teach to the level of the resident. This case highlights some very important lessons for junior learners:

  • The importance of a broad differential diagnosis in the altered patient
  • How to prioritize and coordinate an extensive work-up for a relatively ill patient
  • Recognizing when an altered patient needs to be intubated

We take these skills for granted as experienced clinicians. But it’s amazing how many excellent teaching conversations come from running this very simple case.

Case Summary

An 82 year old man arrives to the ED by EMS with a GCS of 7. He smells of urine and feces, and apparently has not been seen in 4 days. He is hypotensive and tachycardic. With simple fluid resuscitation (1-2L), the BP will improve. Learners are to organize a broad diagnostic work-up and coverage with broad-spectrum antibiotics. They must also recognize the need to intubate. If they do not, the patient will vomit and have a resultant desaturation. The case ends after successful workup and intubation.

Clinical Vignette

You are working in a community ED. Mr. Alito Bizzaro is brought in by EMS into a resuscitation room with altered LOC. He is known to be reclusive, but always picks up his paper at 10am. His neighbours had not seen him pick up his paper in 4 days, and so they called. The patient was found on the floor in his apartment near the doorway to the bathroom. He is 82 years old and lives alone. His apartment was unkempt. The patient is covered in urine and feces.

Download the case here: aLOC Case

ECG for the case found here:

Sinus tachycardia

(ECG source:

CXR for the case found here:

Post Intubation
Post Intubation

(CXR source:

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