A 60-year-old woman comes to the emergency room in a coma. The patient’s temperature is 32.2°C (90°F). She is bradycardic. Her thyroid gland is enlarged. There is diffuse hyporeflexia. BP is 100/60. Which of the following is the best next step in management?A. Await results of T4 and TSH
The clinical picture strongly suggests myxedema coma. Unprovoked hypothermia is a particularly important sign. Myxedema coma constitutes a medical emergency; treatment should be started immediately. Should laboratory results fail to support the diagnosis, treatment can be stopped. An intravenous bolus of levothyroxine is given (500 μg loading dose), followed by daily intravenous doses (50-100 μg). Impaired adrenal reserve may accompany myxedema coma, so parenteral hydrocortisone is given concomitantly. Intravenous fluids are also needed but are less important than thyroxine and glucocorticoids; rewarming should be accomplished slowly, so as not to precipitate cardiac arrhythmias. If alveolar ventilation is compromised, then intubation may also be necessary. Hyponatremia and an elevated PCO2 are laboratory markers of severe myxedema. CT of the head would not be the first choice, since a structural brain lesion would not explain the hypothermia, diffuse goiter, or hyporeflexia seen in this case.