Myxedema Coma (cont.)
Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)
Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is myxedema coma?
- Who is affected by myxedema coma?
- What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
- What causes myxedema coma?
- What are triggers of myxedema coma?
- What are the symptoms of myxedema coma?
- How is myxedema coma diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for myxedema coma?
- How can myxedema coma be prevented?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
How is myxedema coma diagnosed?
Initial laboratory evaluation usually includes a test for thyroid function (TSH, T3 and T4 levels). Other blood tests, as well as heart and lung function testing, may also be needed.
What is the treatment for myxedema coma?
Treatment may include assisting the patient to breathe and warming them to raise the body temperature to normal. Often, antibiotics are started until it is certain that an infection is not present.
The method of replacing thyroid hormone in patients with myxedema coma is controversial. Many different approaches are used. In general, initial replacement is done by intravenous infusion, since the intestinal system may not be absorbing properly.
While common hypothyroidism without myxedema is usually treated with T4 replacement (the hormone produced in greatest quantity by the thyroid gland), in the case of myxedema coma, management is different. The thyroid gland also produces a small amount of another hormone, T3. This is the more metabolically active of the two hormones. In patients who are well, T4 is converted into T3 in the bloodstream. However, patients with myxedema coma are often so sick that this conversion is impaired. As a result, many doctors choose to treat these patients with T3 initially and start T4 therapy as well. Since T4 therapy can take a month or so to work, there is usually an overlap of these two hormones. Care is taken to avoid heart rhythm abnormalities (arrhythmias) and stress on the heart, which can be caused by replacing thyroid hormone too quickly, particularly in elderly patients.
While mild thyroid disorders can be managed by primary care physicians, myxedema coma is generally managed by a thyroid specialist (endocrinologist) because treatment can be complicated and critical.
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