Trick of the Trade: Don’t have a mirror in the ED?

Nov 11, 09
Trick of the Trade: Don’t have a mirror in the ED?

mirrorSeveral times in the ED, I have needed a mirror for patient care.

Example 1

A moderately intoxicated patient presents with a facial or scalp laceration. S/he adamantly refuses to have it repaired in the ED, because of the disbelief of that there is indeed a laceration. You want to show the patient, using a mirror, but you don’t have one.

Example 2

A patient presents without a family member or friend with a possible new facial droop. The patient hasn’t noticed it, but you want to ask if his/her face appears differently. Alas– no mirror.

Tricks of the Trade


1. Take a picture. Use your cell phone or iPhone to take a picture of the patient. You can show the patient his/her laceration. Or you can show the patient how his/her face currently looks. I did this when a Neurology resident was trying to ask if a patient’s face had a subtle facial droop, which accompanied her arm and leg weakness. The resident had spent 5 minutes trying to find a small compact mirror and was shocked at how easy the solution was. 

2. Use a photo ID: For asymmetric facial weakness, you can also ask to see the patient’s Driver’s license or any photo ID card. This can help you evaluate if the patient has a new deficit.

Author information

Michelle Lin, MD

ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco

The post Trick of the Trade: Don’t have a mirror in the ED? appeared first on ALiEM.

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