Altered mental status (AMS) is a nonspecific term that describes disorders of mental awareness ranging from confusion to coma. Implicit in its vagueness is a wide breath of differential diagnosis that must be considered by medical providers. Some patients may have congenital or acquired causes of baseline change of mental status from an expected "normal" range of human experience. This pathway does not include these patients, but rather patients who have an acute change in their baseline mental awareness.
Altered mental status in older emergency department patients.
Emerg. Med. Clin. North Am. 2006 May;24(2):299-316, vi.
Altered states of consciousness.
Pediatr Rev 2006 Sep;27(9):331-8.