Automatic movements of extremities induced in primary massive brain lesion with apneic coma

Kazuya Nokura, Hiroko Yamamoto, Masao Uchida, Yoshio Hashizume, Toshiaki Inagaki

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Abstract

In three cases of primary massive brain lesion with apneic coma, various automatic movements of the extremities were elicited by physical or sensory stimulation. In each case, these movements appeared after a period of cessation of spontaneous respiration followed by flaccid tetraplegia. Brainstem reflexes were absent throughout in all cases. The movements were induced mainly by ventruflexion of the neck, and each case showed movements as described below: in the first case, the patient flexed her elbows and raised both arms slowly, a typical Lazarus sign; in the second case, the patient raised both arms and showed myoclonic movements: and the third case showed abduction of both legs and extension in the upper extremities. Pathology in the first case showed ischemic changes in the entire brain and brainstem. Although ischemic change was also found in the anterior horn cells and white matter of the spinal cord of C1 C4 and of T4 and below, the spinal cord of C5-T3 was relatively well-preserved. These movements appear to have essentially originated in spinal neurons; however, it is assumed that they must have recovered from spinal shock which occurred due to tipper level transection. These movements were induced by ventrofexion of the neck, so mechanical extension of the spinal roots, mechanical compression of the spinal cord, and various modalities of the sensation afferent might have some relation to those movements. As tonic neck reflex might also be a cause of these movements, association with the lower medulla could not be ruled out completely. These movements appeared nearing or after brain death. Although in each case of brain death the spinal cord may have been affected by specific conditions, such as impaired circulation of whole central nervous system, it might have been transversed at upper level, which then causes spinal automatism. These movements might appear even in the state of brainstem death. In each case, the distribution and severity of hypoxic changes in the spinal cord may have resulted in variations in the type and characteristics of these movements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-207
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Neurology
Volume37
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 03-1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology

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    Nokura, K., Yamamoto, H., Uchida, M., Hashizume, Y., & Inagaki, T. (1997). Automatic movements of extremities induced in primary massive brain lesion with apneic coma. Clinical Neurology, 37(3), 198-207.