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NBME 24 Answers

nbme24/Block 3/Question#13

An 83-year-old woman is brought to the physician by ...

Discussion of the diagnosis with the patient privately

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Can anybody explain this one? I put repeated tests because I assumed an 83-year-old woman is an unusual demographic for syphilis.

m-ice  83 might seem an uncommon age, but we don't know for sure her sexual history. She only recently (8 months ago) started showing some signs of mild cognitive impairment. She has all these results implying that she has syphilis, so the most likely answer is that she has syphilis, so we should speak to her privately about her sexual history. The tests don't necessarily means she got syphilis very recently, it's possible she's had syphilis for a while and never got treated. +2  
mousie  I understand that she could possibly have syphilis but I also put repeat tests because I know there are a few things that can cause false positive VRDLs but if she also has a + RPR does this make a FP less likely? And also if she has mild cognitive impairment you still discuss with her not her daughter correct ...? +2  
m-ice  This definitely could be a false positive, but before we want to consider it to be a false positive, we should talk to the patient about it privately. Assuming that it's a false positive before asking the patient about it could delay treatment of her syphilis. There's a chance she didn't want to disclose her sexual history in front of her daughter or maybe she was embarrassed or didn't think it was important to mention. And you're absolutely right, she only has mild cognitive impairment, so we most definitely should talk to the patient alone without her daughter first. +1  
seagull  She has dementia. She doesn't have the capacity to determine her own care (23/20 MME). I feel the daughter should have the word on the care since Grandma likely doesn't have the capacity to understand her actions. +1  
sajaqua1  From what I remember, dementia is typically a combination of impaired memory *and* impaired thought processes. There is nothing to indicate that the patient has impaired thought processes, and the memory impairment is only mild. The patient can still reasonably said to be competent, and so her private information should be discussed with her alone. +6  
yotsubato  Elder care homes or elderly communities actually have a high rate of STDs. Turns out, when you put a bunch of divorced/widowed adults together in a community they have sex. +3  
yotsubato  Additionally, you should respect the privacy of a competent adult with "Mild memory" impairment. I know I could have mild memory impairment considering the crap I forget studying for step 1 +5  
drdoom  @seagull dementia ≠ absence of competence -- the two are separate concepts and have to be evaluated independently. see https://meshb.nlm.nih.gov/record/ui?ui=D003704 and https://meshb.nlm.nih.gov/record/ui?ui=D016743 +1  
wowo  also important to note, d) repeated tests is also incorrect as the microhemagglutination assay is a confirmatory treponemal test (along the same lines as FTA-ABS) https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw5839 +1  
sunshinesweetheart  also.... I think we can assume that "repeated tests" means repeat VRDL, not "additional tests to rule out false positives" +  

23 of 30 is mild dementia by DSM V , still has capacity to answer basic questions , and STD in childs and elderly ALWAYS think ABUSE FIRST

+1/- usmlecrasherss(-1),

option B) (the correct option as per nbme) :the patient has a mini mental state of 23/30, so that should mean that she isn't capable of making her own decisions! so whats the point in talking to her privately without her daughter?

option A) is wrong because you cant just hide the diagnosis from the patient and share it with the family

option C & D)you cannot disregard the test or repeat the test as both the test are positive, RPR is a screening test with less specificity but microhemagglutination is a highly specific test so she definetly has syphillis!

option E) doesnt make sense because why would you do lumbar puncture for syphillis?!

i think they forgot to give an option F) just freakin treat her for syphillis!!!

 +0  upvote downvote
submitted by ahd_ve(0),

the main goal for this question is avoid discussing issues with relatives without the patient’s permission. but some people were deeply shocked to see that a grandmother has syphilis. Btw I leave a link of a research about Clinical Utility of the Mini-Mental Status Examination When Assessing Decision-Making Capacity. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0891988709342727