Cases That Test Your Skills

Suicidality in an older patient with chronic kidney disease

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Mr. J, age 72, has chronic kidney disease and major depressive disorder. He is brought to the ED with suicidal ideation. Is his depression to blame, or could it be something else?



CASE Depressed, anxious, and suicidal

Mr. J, age 72, is brought to the emergency department by law enforcement at his wife’s request due to worsening suicidal thoughts and anxiety. He has a history of major depressive disorder (MDD) and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Mr. J has been compliant with his medications, but they seem to no longer be effective. He is admitted to the geriatric psychiatry unit.

HISTORY Increased debilitation

Over the past several years, Mr. J has experienced increasing debilitation at home, including difficulty walking and an inability to perform activities of daily life. Recently, he has begun to ask for multiple pills in an attempt to take his own life.

Mr. J has been previously treated in a psychiatric clinic with duloxetine 60 mg/d, mirtazapine 30 mg/d at bedtime, buspirone 15 mg 3 times a day, and trazodone 50 mg/d at bedtime. He is also taking amlodipine 5 mg twice daily for hypertension, lisinopril 2.5 mg/d for hypertension, furosemide 20 mg/d orally for CKD, and potassium chloride 10 mEq/d for hypokalemia secondary to CKD and furosemide use. Over the past year, his psychiatric medications have been steadily increased to target his MDD and anxiety.

EVALUATION Disorientation and Stage 3A CKD

In the psychiatric unit, Mr. J describes panic, feelings of impending doom, and profound anxiety. He states he has increasing anxiety related to “being a burden” on his family and wife. Additionally, he describes decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, low energy, difficulty concentrating, no interest in outside activities, and feelings of hopelessness.

Mr. J’s temperature is 39.2o C; heart rate is 109 beats per minute; respiratory rate is 18 breaths per minute; blood pressure is 157/83 mm Hg; and pulse oximetry is 97%. Laboratory screening indicates a red blood cell count of 3.57, hemoglobin 11.2, hematocrit 33.8, red blood cell distribution width 17.5, blood urea nitrogen 45, creatinine 1.5 with no known baseline, and an estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of 46 mL/min, indicating Stage 3A CKD (Table 11). Additional testing rules out other potential causes of delirium and psychosis.

Stages of chronic kidney disease

A physical exam reveals Mr. J has a fine tremor, myoclonus, muscle rigidity, and hyperreflexia. He is oriented to name, but not to date, place, or situation, and is easily confused. Mr. J uses a walker but has significant tremors while walking and immediately asks for assistance due to profound anxiety related to a fear of falling. Mr. J’s mood and affect are labile with tearful and anxious episodes. His anxiety focuses on overvalued thoughts of minor or irrelevant concerns. Additionally, he has poor insight and judgment. When asked about the cause of his anxiety, Mr. J says, “I don’t know why I’m anxious; I’m just a worrywart.” His memory is impaired, and he does not know why he is in the hospital. Mr. J scores 24 on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which indicates mild impairment.

Mr. J continues to endorse suicidal ideation but denies homicidal thoughts. Based on these symptoms, the differential diagnosis includes serotonin syndrome, MDD with suicidal ideation, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

Continue to: The authors' observations


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