Opisthotonos is a condition in which the body is held in an abnormal position. The person is usually rigid and arches the back, with the head thrown backward. If a person with opisthotonos lies on his or her back, only the back of the head and the heels touch the supporting surface.
See: Abnormal posturing
Opisthotonos is much more common in infants and children than in adults. It is also more exaggerated in infants and children because of their less mature nervous systems.
Opisthotonos may occur in infants with
Other causes may include:
Arnold-Chiari syndrome (a problem with the structure of the brain)
Brain tumor Gaucher disease Growth hormone deficiency(occasionally)
- Glutaric aciduria and organic acidemias (forms of chemical poisoning)
- Stiff-person syndrome (a condition that makes a person rigid and have spasms)
Subarachnoid hemorrhage(bleeding in the brain) Tetanus
Drugs such as phenothiazines and other antipsychotic medications, can cause a side effect called
In rare cases, infants born to women who drink large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy may have opisthotonus due to alcohol withdrawal.
A person who develops opisthotonos will need to be cared for in a hospital.
Call your health care provider if
Go to the emergency room or call your local emergency number (such as 911) if this symptom occurs. Typically opisthotonos is a symptom of other conditions that are serious enough for a person to seek medical attention.
What to expect at your health care provider’s office
This condition will be evaluated in a hospital, and emergency measures may be taken.
The health care provider will take a medical history and perform a
Medical history questions may include:
- When did this behavior start?
- Is it always the same type of posturing?
- What other symptoms came before or with the abnormal posturing (such as fever, stiff neck, or headache)?
- Is there any recent history of illness?
The physical examination will include a complete check of the nervous system.
Tests may include:
- Blood and urine tests
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cultureand cell counts CT scan of the head Electrolyteanalysis Lumbar puncture(spinal tap) MRI of the brain