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Decorticate posture

Abnormal posturing - decorticate posture; Traumatic brain injury - decorticate posture

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Causes

Causes of decorticate posture include:

Considerations

Decorticate posture is a sign of damage to the nerve pathway between the brain and spinal cord. Although it is serious, it is usually not as serious as a type of abnormal posture called decerebrate posture.

The posturing may occur on one or both sides of the body.

Definition

Decorticate posture is an abnormal posturing in which a person is stiff with bent arms, clenched fists, and legs held out straight. The arms are bent in toward the body and the wrists and fingers are bent and held on the chest.

This type of posturing is a sign of severe damage in the brain. People who have this condition should get medical attention right away.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The person will receive emergency treatment. This includes getting a breathing tube and breathing assistance. The person will likely be admitted to the hospital and placed in the intensive care unit.

After the condition is stable, the provider will get a medical history from family members or friends and a more detailed physical examination will be done. This will include a careful examination of the brain and nervous system.

Medical history questions may include:

  • When did the symptoms start?
  • Is there a pattern to the episodes?
  • Is the body posture always the same?
  • Is there any history of a head injury or drug use?
  • What other symptoms occurred before or with the abnormal posturing?

Tests that may be done include:

The outlook depends on the cause. There may be brain and nervous system injury and permanent brain damage, which can lead to:

  • Coma
  • Inability to communicate
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Abnormal posturing of any kind usually occurs with a reduced level of alertness. Anyone who has an abnormal posture should be examined right away by a health care provider and treated right away in a hospital.

Review Date: 5/15/2017
Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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