Rheumatology Emergencies

Rheumatological conditions can sometimes present as emergencies. These can occur due to the disease process or may be iatrogenic. Some of the important articular emergencies are septic arthritis, acute polyarthritis, scleroderma renal crisis, erythema nodosum, acute gout and atlanto-axial dislocation. lassical polyarteritis nodosa may present with massive gastro-intestinal bleeding, intestinal perforation or acute pancreatitis. Adult respiratory distress syndrome, bilateral pneumonitis and diffuse alveolar haemorrhage due to systemic lupus erythematosus or systemic necrotising vasculitis and ventilatory failure due to polymyositis are some of the respiratory emergencies. Scleroderma is well known to cause renal crisis which can be fatal if not diagnosed and managed promptly. Microscopic polyangiitis and Wegener's granulomatosis may cause rapidly progressive renal failure. Cerebrovascular accident, cortical vein thrombosis, seizures and acute psychosis are important neurological complications of rheumatic disease. Cardiac emergencies include tamponade, acute myocarditis and acute myocardial infarction. Vision can be threatened in Behcet's disease, temporal arteritis and seronegative spondylarthritis. Catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome is a devastating emergency. The management of above emergencies includes critical care, immunosuppression when indicated and withdrawal of the offending drug. Anticoagulants have to be used in the management of antiphospholipid syndrome. A good understanding of these conditions is of paramount importance for proper management.

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