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Tetanus-induced rhythmic seizures mimicking the clinical and electroencephalographic presentation of status epilepticus
  1. Hippolyte Lequain1,
  2. Aurelie Richard-Mornas2,
  3. Laurent Argaud3,4 and
  4. Auguste Dargent3,5
  1. 1Internal Medicine, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, France
  2. 2Department of Functional Neurology and Epileptology, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Bron, France
  3. 3Intensive Care, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, France
  4. 4Université Lyon I, Lyon, France
  5. 5APCSe, UPSP 2016.A101, VetAgro Sup, Marcy-l'Etoile, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Auguste Dargent; auguste.dargent{at}


We describe the case of a woman in her 60s admitted to the intensive care unit after a first generalised tonic-clonic seizure in the context of alcohol withdrawal. She was placed under invasive mechanical ventilation due to persistence of coma despite antiepileptic treatment. Despite continuous sedation with propofol, the frequency and intensity of seizure increased. Seizures were very similar to epileptic tonic-clonic seizures and were recorded with video and electroencephalogram (EEG). A diagnosis of tetanus was considered after a scalp wound was discovered. The patient’s husband revealed that a trismus had appeared a few days before hospital admission after a head trauma. EEG showed a pattern of diffuse spikes, which disappeared after a cisatracurium bolus. The diagnosis of tetanus was later confirmed by cultures from wound samples. Therefore, severe tetanus can mimic both the clinical and EEG features of status epilepticus and could be added to the differential diagnosis of epilepsy.

  • Emergency medicine
  • Infectious diseases
  • Adult intensive care
  • Epilepsy and seizures

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  • Contributors HL and AD contributed to patient care and to drafting and review of the manuscript. AR-M contributed to the EEG analysis, electrophysiological aspect of the case review and review of the final draft. LA reviewed and supervised drafting of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Case reports provide a valuable learning resource for the scientific community and can indicate areas of interest for future research. They should not be used in isolation to guide treatment choices or public health policy.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.