Endocrine emergency

The endocrine system is responsible for most of the long-term processes of the human body such as sexual development and growth, and regulating the body’s internal balance of fluid, electrolytes and other chemicals to maintain homeostasis. There are several glands and other organs that secrete a variety of hormones, which are transported in the bloodstream throughout the body. Receptors in tissues detect the circulating hormones and either stimulate or block a specific action. The receptors and hormones act as a lock and key; specific hormones engage with specific receptors to elicit the appropriate response.

Endocrine emergencies are not commonly seen, yet can be one of the suspected underlying causes in many urgent presentations that EMS providers see in the field. Here are the four endocrine emergencies to know: 

1. Thyroid storm
2. Myxedema coma
3. Diabetic ketoacidosis
4. Acute adrenal crisis

In many of situations, the field care is mostly supportive, focused on maintaining the patient’s airway, ventilatory ability and perfusion status. In some situations, medications and/or intravenous fluids can begin to reverse the signs and symptoms caused by the endocrine emergency.