Thursday, August 14, 2008

Google to the rescue!

Okay, I'll admit it: I use google to find medical information. I know I'm not the only one. Use of Google, Wikipedia, Emedicine, and other web sites is very common in the hospital among med students, residents, and attendings. I've seen you all using it! Usually I use google to confirm information I'm pretty sure I already know, but once in a while, I'm really not sure what's going on and give it a try.

Recently in the emergency room, I was pretty sure my patient had a viral gastroenteritis, but she had a black tongue. I had actually woken up with a black tongue last week, and it went away within a day. I didn't think any of it, but understandably, my patient really wanted to know why her tongue was black. So, I turned to google, and I found a wiki that linked to this:

The active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol contains bismuth. When a small amount of bismuth combines with trace amounts of sulfur in your saliva and gastrointestinal tract, a black-colored substance (bismuth sulfide) is formed. This discoloration is temporary and harmless. It can last several days after you stop taking Pepto-Bismol. Individual bowel habits, your age (the intestinal tract slows down with age), and the amount of the product taken all help to determine how long Pepto-Bismol is in your system.

I went back to the room and asked if she had any Pepto-Bismol recently, and she had! And I had some Pepto last week the night before my tongue turned black. Thanks, Google!

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