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[Catatonia de novo, report on a case: immediate vital prognosis and psychiatric prognosis in longer term]

Author(s): Patry L, Guillem E, Pontonnier F, Ferreri M

Affiliation(s): Pedo-Psychiatre, CMP, Villa Compoint, Paris 17e.

Publication date & source: 2003-01, Encephale., 29(1):72-9.

Publication type: Case Reports

We report on the case of a 20 year old woman with no previous psychiatric history, who displayed a first episode of catatonia with acute onset. Symptoms started plainly with sudden general impairment, intense asthenia, headache, abdominal pain and confusion. After 48 hours, the patient was first admitted to an emergency unit and transferred to an internal medicine ward afterwards. She kept confused. Her behaviour was bizarre with permanent swinging of pelvis, mannerism, answers off the point and increasingly poor. The general clinical examination was normal, except for the presence of a regular tachycardia (120 bpm). The paraclinical investigations also showed normal: biology, EEG, CT Scan, lumbar puncture. Confusion persisted. The patient remained stuporous, with fixed gazing and listening-like attitudes. She managed to eat and move with the help of nurses but remained bedridden. The neurological examination showed hypokinaesia, extended hypotonia, sweating, urinary incontinence, bilateral sharp reflexes with no Babinski's sign and an inexhaustible nasoorbicular reflex. The patient was mute and contrary, actively closed her eyes, but responded occasionally to simple instructions. For short moments, she suddenly engaged in inappropriate behaviors (wandering around) while connecting back to her environment answering the telephone and talking to her parents. The patient's temperature rose twice in the first days but with no specific etiology found. During the first 8 days of hospitalization, an antipsychotic treatment was administered: haloperidol 10 mg per os daily and cyamemazine 37.5 mg i.m. daily. Despite these medications, the patient worsened and was transferred to our psychiatric unit in order to manage this catatonic picture with rapid onset for which no organic etiology was found. On admission, the patient was stuporous, immobile, unresponsive to any instruction, with catalepsy, maintenance of postures, severe negativism and refusal to eat. A first treatment by benzodiazepine (clorazepate 20 mg i.v.) did not lead to any improvement. The organic investigations were completed with cerebral MRI and the ruling out of a Wilson's disease. Convulsive therapy was then decided. It proved dramatically effective from the first attempt; 4 shocks were carried out before the patient's relatives ask for her discharge from hospital. The patient revealed she had experienced low delirium during her catatonic state. The clinical picture that followed showed retardation with anxiety. She was scared with fear both for the other patients and the nursing team. She kept distant and expressed few affects. The treatment at the time of discharge was olanzapine 10 mg per os. She was discharged with a diagnosis of catatonia but with no specific psychiatric etiological diagnosis associated. She discontinued her follow-up a few weeks later. After one year, we had no information about her. Catatonia has now become rare but remains a problem for clinicians. We reviewed data concerning short term vital prognosis and psychiatric long term prognosis in catatonia. Lethal catatonia is associated with acute onset, both marked psychomotor and neurovegetative symptoms. In the light of literature, there is no proband clinical criterion during the episode that is of relevant diagnostic value to ascertain the psychiatric etiology.

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