Papers And Originals

Hypotension in Tetanus

Br Med J 1973; 3 doi: (Published 25 August 1973) Cite this as: Br Med J 1973;3:423
  1. J. L. Corbett,
  2. J. M. K. Spalding,
  3. P. J. Harris


    Three patients with severe tetanus had episodes of profound arterial hypotension lasting from minutes to hours. The blood pressure was recorded continuously for 13, 19, and six days respectively by an intra-arterial catheter, and other measurements included heart rate, central venous pressure, cardiac output, and blood gases.

    The hypotension was distinguished from that of “shock”, for there was no clinical evidence of peripheral vasoconstriction and no tachycardia. It could not be attributed to disturbances of salt and water balance. During episodes of hypotension the blood pressure fell as low as 32/16 mm Hg, the heart rate fell from a mild tachycardia to normal values or a mild bradycardia, and the central venous pressure did not rise. The onset and the end of such episodes was often abrupt and the hypotension was often produced in response to a stimulus. In one patient extreme hypotension followed the aspiration of secretions from the trachea. These changes may represent another effect of tetanus on autonomic nervous activity, including impairment of baroreceptor reflexes.