Lyme Disease: Emergency Department Considerations

Nathan D Applegren, Chadd K Kraus
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2017, 52 (6): 815-824

BACKGROUND: Lyme disease (LD) is the most common vector-borne illness in North America. Reported cases of LD have increased from approximately 10,000 cases annually in 1991 to >25,000 cases in 2014. Greater recognition, enhanced surveillance, and public education have contributed to the increased prevalence, as have geographic expansion and the number of infected ticks. Cases are reported primarily in the Northeastern United States, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, with children having the highest incidence of LD among all age groups. The increased incidence and prevalence of LD in the United States makes it increasingly more common for patients to present to the emergency department (ED) for tick bites and LD-related chief complaints, such as the characteristic erythema migrans skin manifestation.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to review the etiology of LD, describe its clinical presentations and sequela, and provide a practical classification and approach to ED management of patients with LD-related presentations.

DISCUSSION: In this review, ED considerations for LD are presented and clinical presentations and management of the disease at different stages is discussed. Delayed sequelae that have significant morbidity, including Lyme carditis and Lyme neuroborreliosis, are discussed. Diagnostic tests and management are described in detail.

CONCLUSION: The increasing prevalence and growing geographic reach of Lyme disease makes it critically important for emergency physicians to consider the diagnosis in patients presenting with symptoms suggestive of LD and to initiate appropriate treatment to minimize the potential of delayed sequelae. Special consideration should be made for the epidemiology of LD and a high clinical suspicion should be present for patients in endemic areas or with known exposures to ticks. Emergency physicians can play a critical role in the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of LD.


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