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1. sharp.
2. having severe symptoms and a short course. Some serious illnesses that were formerly considered acute (such as myocardial infarction) are now recognized to be acute episodes of chronic conditions.
acute care the level of care in the health care system that consists of emergency treatment and critical care. Called also secondary care.
acute coronary syndrome a classification encompassing clinical presentations ranging from unstable angina through myocardial infarctions not characterized by alterations in Q waves; the classification sometimes also includes myocardial infarctions characterized by altered Q waves.
acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) a group of symptoms accompanying fulminant pulmonary edema and resulting in acute respiratory failure; called also shock lung, wet lung, and many other names descriptive of etiology or clinical manifestations. Many etiologic factors have been associated with ARDS, including shock, fat embolism, fluid overload, oxygen toxicity, fluid aspiration, narcotic overdose, disseminated intravascular coagulation, multiple transfusions, inhalation of toxic gases, diffuse pulmonary infection, and systemic reactions to sepsis, pancreatitis, and massive trauma or burns.

ARDS is characterized clinically by dyspnea, tachypnea, tachycardia, cyanosis, and hypoxemia. PaO2/FIO2 remains low (below 2 cc) even with oxygen therapy at high oxygen concentrations. The lung compliance is decreased so that the lung is stiffer and more difficult to ventilate. Chest radiographs show signs of bilateral interstitial and alveolar edema. Cardiac filling pressures are normal, and the pulmonary capillary wedge pressure is below 18 torr.

Most authorities consider that the syndrome has three phases or stages that characterize its progression: the exudative stage, the fibroproliferative or proliferative stage, and the resolution or recovery stage. The exudative stage comes first, two to four days after onset of lung injury, and is distinguished by the accumulation of excessive fluid in the alveoli with entrance of protein and inflammatory cells from the alveolar capillaries into the air spaces. The fibroproliferative stage comes second and is characterized by an increase in connective tissue and other structural elements in the lungs in response to the initial injury. It begins between the first and third weeks after the initial injury and may last up to ten weeks. Microscopic examination reveals lung tissue that appears densely cellular. The patient is at risk for pneumonia, sepsis, and pneumothorax at this time. The third stage is the resolution or recovery stage. During this stage the lung reorganizes and recovers, although it continues to show signs of fibrosis. Lung function may continue to improve for as long as six to twelve months or even longer, depending on the precipitating condition and severity of the injury. It is important to remember that there are often different levels of pulmonary recovery in patients with ARDS.

Some authorities refer to a fourth phase or stage of ARDS, the period after the resolution or recovery stage. Some patients continue to experience health problems caused by the acute illness, such as coughing, limited exercise tolerance, and fatigue. Anxiety, depression, and flashback memories of the critical illness may also occur and be similar to posttraumatic stress disorder.
Treatment and Patient Care. Mechanical ventilation must be begun at the first signs of hyperventilation and hypoxemia, before obvious signs of respiratory distress develop. A cuffed endotracheal tube or tracheostomy tube is used to maintain an airway. The patient is ventilated at the lowest oxygen concentration that maintains the arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2) at 90 per cent. positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may be used to increase the number of alveoli that remain open at the end of exhalation and thus decrease pulmonary shunt. hemodynamic monitoring, using a swan-ganz catheter, is done to measure cardiac output, pulmonary capillary wedge pressure, and right atrial wedge pressure. An arterial line is placed to continuously monitor blood pressure and measure arterial blood gases. A diuretic such as furosemide (Lasix) may be administered to reduce fluid volume overload and pulmonary edema. If infection develops, antibiotics are administered. Hemodynamic parameters, arterial blood gas levels, intake and output, breath sounds, vital signs, inspiratory pressure, tidal volume, inspired oxygen concentration, and end-expiratory pressure are all continuously monitored.
acute situational reaction a transient, self-limiting acute emotional reaction to severe psychological stress. See acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and brief reactive psychosis.
acute stress disorder an anxiety disorder characterized by development of anxiety, dissociation, and other symptoms within one month following exposure to an extremely traumatic event, the symptoms including reexperiencing the event, avoidance of trauma-related stimuli, anxiety or increased arousal, and some or all of the following: a subjective sense of diminished emotional responsiveness, numbing, or detachment, derealization, depersonalization, and amnesia for aspects of the event. If persistent, it may become posttraumatic stress disorder.
acute stress reaction acute situational reaction.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


(ă-kyūt'), Avoid the jargonistic use of this word to refer to short-term therapy, as in acute sedation.
1. Referring to a health effect, usually of rapid onset, brief, not prolonged; sometimes loosely used to mean severe.
2. Referring to exposure, brief, intense, short-term; sometimes specifically referring to brief exposure of high intensity.
[L. acutus, sharp]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


1. Extremely sharp or severe; intense: acute pain; acute pleasure.
2. Medicine
a. Having a rapid onset and following a short but severe course: an acute disease.
b. Afflicted by a disease exhibiting a rapid onset followed by a short, severe course: acute patients.

a·cute′ly adv.
a·cute′ness n.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


Referring to a condition of rapid onset which is often accompanied by severe symptoms and is of generally brief duration.


(1) Analysis of Coronary Ultrasound Thrombolysis Endpoints in Acute Myocardial Infarction. A trial that studied the feasibility of ultrasound thrombolysis (UT) in patients with coronary artery occlusion.
Primary endpoints
MACE at 6 months; 39 patients.
1 death, 1 re-infarction at a new lesion; the left ventricular ejection fraction at follow-up increased by 29%, from 45 to 74%; primary coronary UT in high clot-burden lesions induces re-perfusion and highly significant myocardial salvage.

(2) Assessment of Cardioversion Utilizing Transesophageal Echocardiography. A trial comparing the feasibility and safety of TEE-guided early cardioversion to conventional cardioversion in atrial fibrillation.
Mortality slightly higher with TEE, but more patients restored to sinus rhythm with TEE; neither statistically significant.
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


adjective Of abrupt onset, or short duration, usually of hrs or days in duration, used in reference to a disease or symptoms. Cf Chronic, Subacute.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. Referring to a disease of sudden onset and brief course, not chronic, sometimes loosely used to mean severe.
2. Referring to treatment or exposure: brief, intense, short-term; sometimes specifically referring to brief exposure of high intensity.
[L. acutus, sharp]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


Short, sharp and quickly over. Acute conditions usually start abruptly, last for a few days and then either settle or become persistent and long-lasting (CHRONIC). >From the Latin acutus , sharp.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


  1. (of plant structures such as leaves) sharply pointed.
  2. (of a disease) coming quickly to a crisis.
  3. (of a radiation dose) applied at a high level in a short space of time. Compare CHRONIC.
Collins Dictionary of Biology, 3rd ed. © W. G. Hale, V. A. Saunders, J. P. Margham 2005


Of short and sharp course. Illnesses that are acute appear quickly and can be serious or life-threatening. The illness ends and the patient usually recovers fully.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. Referring to a health effect, usually of rapid onset, brief, not prolonged; sometimes loosely used to mean severe.
2. Referring to exposure, brief, intense, short-term; sometimes specifically referring to brief exposure of high intensity.
[L. acutus, sharp]
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012

Patient discussion about acute

Q. What is Acute Appendictis? My husband had to go to the emergency room last night because of sudden severe stomach aches. The doctors said he had acute appendictis and needed urgent operation. What is acute appendicitis?

A. The term 'Appendictis' refers to an inflammed appendix, an organ that is located in the right lower part of the abdomen, attached to the cecum, which is a part of the intestine. The appendix is often infected with intestinal bacteria, and such an infection can cause severe symptoms, that require receiving emergent medical care. If indeed acute appendicitis is diagnosed, the treatment involves immediate surgery, for the removal of the infected appendix.

Q. I had an acute neck pain and now hand pain. I had an acute neck pain which is now gone with some self medication but now i have pain in my left hand muscles. Help

A. can be caused by number of things. but you have to be more specific, what kind of pain? when is it ? mornings? evenings? does it last or is it transient? maybe you play the guitar too much and your muscles ache? :)

Q. What Causes Acute Appendicitis? I've heard that appendicitis is a very common situation. What causes it to happen? Is there a way to avoid it?

A. Appendicitis is caused by an infection of the appendix, usually from bacterias that are already located in the abdomen. It is not a situation that can be avoided and can occur in a high prevalence in the population.

More discussions about acute
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References in periodicals archive ?
Acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis--St Croix, US Virgin Islands, September-October.
In one study, ascending to an altitude of 11,500 feet over four days reduced the incidence and severity of acute mountain sickness by 41% compared with rapid ascent.
At the 8th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in early 2001, several presentations looked at STIs or treatment discontinuation in patients treated during acute or early infection.
Acute supraglottitis had been diagnosed by the attending otolaryngologist by visualizing the inflamed supra-glottic structures with a flexible fiberoptic laryngoscope.
Acute sinusitis is much more common in certain patients than in the general population.
Unless complications occur, acute pancreatitis usually gets better on its own, so treatment is supportive in most cases.
The FDA approval applies to use of the antibody in an initial acute rejection.
We defined a clinical case of acute histoplasmosis as an influenza-like illness (i.e., self-reported fever or chills plus one of the following symptoms: headache, chest pain, or shortness of breath) in workers employed at the landfill in Macon County with onset of symptoms during May 2001 or at the Iroquois County bridge reconstruction site with onset of symptoms during August 2003.
Our assay detected neutralizing antibodies generated during both the acute and convalescent phases of SARS infection.
The widespread use of broad-spectrum antibiotics has led to a significant decline in the incidence of acute mastoiditis.
Examples of research topics that are of interest include the following: 1) investigating mechanisms of chemical injury (including minimal threshold levels to establish injury) and subsequent effects at a cellular and molecular level causing airway inflammation or hypersensitivity; 2) identifying host responses to initial or immediate effects, and to long-term low-level exposure effects; 3) assessing systematic amount or dose of chemical absorbed from the airways; 4) developing preexposure preventive treatment or early use of antidotes; and 5) devising therapeutic strategies, especially if acute alveolar lung injury occurs and pulmonary edema ensues; specific therapies to prevent onset of pulmonary edema are sought.
This case fits well in the spectrum of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous systems of children and young adults, which occur in close temporal relationship with several infectious illnesses and immunizations (2-6).