Papers And Originals

Achilles Tendon Reflex in Accidental Hypothermia and Hypothermic Myxoedema

Br Med J 1973; 2 doi: (Published 14 April 1973) Cite this as: Br Med J 1973;2:87
  1. D. Maclean,
  2. D. R. Taig,
  3. D. Emslie-Smith


    The photomotogram (P.M.G.) of the Achilles tendon reflex was studied in 26 patients with hypothermia (rectal temperature 33·3°C or less), 10 of whom also had myxoedema (serum protein bound iodine 2·8 μg/100 ml or less). No reflex could be elicited in eight (31%) of these patients, including three of those with myxoedema. Hypothermia increases both the contraction and the relaxation times of the reflex, the relaxation phase being particularly prolonged in those with myxoedema. In those patients from whom the reflex was elicited the ratio of the contraction time to the “half-relaxation time” in the P.M.G. was less than unity in six of the seven with myxoedema, and considerably greater than unity in eight of the 11 (73%) who were euthyroid. Thus, analysis of the Achilles tendon reflex P.M.G. correctly predicted the thyroid status in 14 of the 18 hypothermic patients in whom the Achilles tendon reflex was present (78%). The wider use of this rapid test of thyroid function would allow a more rational use of thyroid hormones in hypothermic patients and so lead to a better assessment of their value.