Medical clearance of the psychiatric patient in the emergency department

Bruce D. Janiak, Suzanne Atteberry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Background: As part of the emergency department (ED) evaluation of patients with psychiatric complaints, emergency physicians are often asked to perform screening laboratory tests prior to admitting psychiatric patients, the value of which is questionable. Study Objective: To determine if routine screening laboratory studies performed in the ED on patients with a psychiatric chief complaint would alter ED medical clearance (evaluation, management or disposition) of such patients. Methods: In this retrospective chart review, the patient charts were reviewed for triage notes, history and physical examination, laboratory study results, and patient disposition. The study investigators subjectively determined if any of the laboratory abnormalities identified after admission would have changed ED management or disposition of the patient had they been identified in the ED. Results: Subjects were 519 consecutive adult patients (18 years of age and older) admitted to the Medical College of Georgia's inpatient psychiatric ward through the ED. There were 502 patients who met inclusion criteria, and 50 of them had completely normal laboratory studies. Laboratory studies were performed in the ED for 148 patients. The most common abnormalities identified were positive urine drug screen (n = 221), anemia (n = 136), and hyperglycemia (n = 139). There was one case (0.19%) identified in which an abnormal laboratory value would have changed ED management or disposition of the patient had it been found during the patient's ED visit. Conclusions: Patients presenting to the ED with a psychiatric chief complaint can be medically cleared for admission to a psychiatric facility by qualified emergency physicians using an appropriate history and physical examination. There is no need for routine medical screening laboratory tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)866-870
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Emergency department (ED)
  • Medical clearance
  • Psychiatric patients
  • Screening tests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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