Definition of "Tetanus"

Last modified: 8 hours

Tetanus (aka lockjaw) is an infection characterized by muscle spasms.

Patient information

Tetanus. That sounds a little bit like tabble tennis?
It's an infection, which involves muscle spasms.

  • In the most common type, the spasms begin in the jaw and then progress to the rest of the body. These spasms usually last a few minutes each time, and occur frequently for 3-4 weeks. Spasms may be so severe that bone fractures may occur
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Trouble swallowing
  • HTN
  • Tachycardia
  • Onset of Sx is typically 3-21 days following infection

Patient information

What happens in an infection involving muscle spasms?
So most commonly, the spasms start in the jaw, and progress to the rest of the body. They go for a few minutes, each time they happen. It can be so severe, that bone fractures can happen. There are also flu-like symptoms, like a temperature, headache. Difficulty swallowing can also occur.

  • Caused by infection w/ bacterium Clostridium tetani
  • Bacteria generally enters through a break in skin (e.g. cut, puncture wound by a contaminated object)
  • Bacteria commonly found in soil, dust and manure
  • Bacteria produces toxins that interfere with muscle contractions, resulting in the typical Sx
  • Clinical Dx based on Sx
  • Prevention, w/ proper immunization w/ the tetanus vaccine
  • In those w/ a significant wound and <3 doses of the vaccine, both the immunization and tetanus immune globulin are recommended
  • In a confirmed infectino, tetanus immune globulin, or if not available, IV IG is used
  • Wound should be cleaned and any dead tissue removed
  • Muscle relaxants, to control spasms
  • Mechanical ventilation, if a Pt's breathing is affected
  • It may take months to recover
  • About 10% of those infected die
  • Doesn't spread between people
  • Occurs in all parts of the world, but is most frequent in hot and wet climates, where the soil contains a lot of organic matter
  • Caused 59k deaths in 2013, down from 356k in 1990
See also
  • Trismus (another meaning of lockjaw)

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Definition of Tetanus | Autoprac

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