Acute Clinical Care for Transgender Patients: A Review

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Abstract

Importance

Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe individuals whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from assigned sex at birth. There are an estimated 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States, and this number is increasing. Clinicians will increasingly be caring for transgender patients. Topics considered in this narrative review include terminology, how to address transgender patients, obtaining an inclusive history that takes into account gender-affirming surgery, managing hormone therapy and other clinical issues, consideration for hospitalized patients, interpreting laboratory values in the setting of hormone use, legal issues, and considerations for health systems.

Observations

Best practices in caring for a transgender patient include using a patient-identified name and pronoun, using gender-neutral terminology until the appropriate term is identified by the patient, and obtaining a surgical history inclusive of an anatomic inventory. Gender-affirming hormones can modify disease-specific risk factors or confer risk for in-hospital complications. They can also cause changes in laboratory values; however, studies are limited to observational studies and case series. Some data are derived and extrapolated from cisgender populations. There are also unique systems-based concerns, including lack of procedures for standardized collection of gender identity and lack of sufficiently comprehensive electronic health record platforms. Vulnerabilities exist for hospitalized transgender patients in the transition from the inpatient to outpatient care that require dedicated institutional efforts to address.

Conclusions and Relevance

Clinicians should learn how to engage with transgender patients, appreciate that unique anatomy or the use of gender-affirming hormones may affect the prevalence of certain disease (eg, cardiovascular disease, venous thromboembolism, and osteoporosis), and be prepared to manage specific issues, including those related to hormone therapy. Health care facilities should work toward providing inclusive systems of care that correctly identify and integrate information about transgender patients into the electronic health record, account for the unique needs of these patients within the facility, and through education and policy create a welcoming environment for their care.

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