Loss of Appetite: A Fifth Vital Sign

My mother was discharged from the hospital yesterday. She was treated for a serious urine infection. Now she won’t eat. She says she’s not hungry. I’ve checked her vital signs. They all seem ok. Should I be worried? Yes, this is something to be concerned about. In previous posts we discussed the four classic vital signs. They are heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respiratory rate. However, normal vital signs do not tell the whole story. Appetite is an important “fifth vital sign” in frail older adults. If this patient doesn’t eat, she will become […]

What is Causing this Person’s Weight Loss?

In my last post I talked about a patient who had some bleeding in her brain. That was the obvious diagnosis. However, I'm frustrated because an important diagnosis was missed. It was immediately obvious that she was severely underweight. I looked through her chart carefully. Her weight had gone from 89 pounds to 74 pounds in a little bit over a year. No one had mentioned this.

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