Inpatient emergencies encountered by an infectious disease consultative service

Clin Infect Dis. 1998 Mar;26(3):695-701. doi: 10.1086/514591.


The spectrum of infectious disease (ID) emergencies in hospitalized patients was assessed in a prospective study of 3,626 inpatient ID consultations in a 1,350-bed teaching hospital. ID emergencies, defined by a need or anticipated need for advanced life support or by irreversible organ damage leading to permanent functional loss, were encountered in 175 patients. Infections of the central nervous system (26.3%), cardiovascular system (14.9%), alimentary system (13.1%), and lower respiratory tract (7.4%) and adverse reactions to antimicrobial agents (7.4%) were most common. In 18.9% of the cases, the referring clinicians were unaware of the emergency at the time of referral. Drug reactions (46.1%), severe alimentary and peritoneal infections (32.0%), upper respiratory tract infections (28.6%), and skin and soft-tissue infections (27.3%) were most frequently missed. The emergency ID conditions were not recognized because they had an atypical presentation (51.5%), were not commonly seen in the referring specialty (24.2%), were due to rare organisms (15.2%), or had unusual anatomical sites of involvement (9.1%). A close liaison between clinicians and the ID team is crucial for recognition of ID emergencies at their early stages so that appropriate investigations and management can be instituted expediently, before the occurrence of irreversible damage.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communicable Diseases* / classification
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Inpatients*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation*