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Recognising serious physical illness in the acutely unwell psychiatric patient

  • Karthik Thangavelu (a1), Vakkat Muraleedharan (a2) and Michele Hampson (a3)


Psychiatric patients suffer high rates of mortality and morbidity. One of the major reasons for this is the high prevalence of physical health problems in psychiatric patients. Psychiatrists have tended to pay less attention to, and receive less training in, the management of the physical health of their patients with this role largely being left to general practitioners. Though there is an increasing awareness of long term physical morbidities in psychiatric patients, the literature on acute physical morbidity is sparse. In this article we aim to emphasise the importance of recognising serious physical illnesses that could arise in the acutely unwell psychiatric patient.

The scope of this article is not to provide a comprehensive list of physical complications and management strategies but to provide the psychiatrist with a conceptual framework to assist with the management of co-morbid physical and psychiatric illness.


Corresponding author

Correspondence to: Dr Karthik Thangavelu, Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, Highbury Hospital, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Mandala Centre, Nottingham NG7 6LB. Tel: 01159 606082; Fax: 01159 245627; E-mail:


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