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Myxedema Coma: Diagnosis and Treatment - Article
ABSTRACT: Myxedema coma, the extreme manifestation of hypothyroidism, is an uncommon but potentially lethal condition. Patients with hypothyroidism may exhibit a number of physiologic alterations to compensate for the lack of thyroid hormone. If these homeostatic mechanisms are overwhelmed by factors such as infection, the patient may decompensate into myxedema coma. Patients with hypothyroidism typically have a history of fatigue, weight gain, constipation and cold intolerance. Physicians should include hypothyroidism in the differential diagnosis of every patient with hyponatremia. Patients with suspected myxedema coma should be admitted to an intensive care unit for vigorous pulmonary and cardiovascular support. Most authorities recommend treatment with intravenous levothyroxine (T4) as opposed to intravenous liothyronine (T3). Hydrocortisone should be administered until coexisting adrenal insufficiency is ruled out. Family physicians are in an important position to prevent myxedema coma by maintaining a high level of suspicion for hypothyroidism.