Abnormal posturing - decorticate posture; Traumatic brain injury - decorticate posture
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.
Decorticate posture is a sign of damage to the nerve pathway in the midbrain, which is between the brain and spinal cord. The midbrain controls motor movement and many other important functions. Although decorticate posture 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.
Causes of decorticate posture include:
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.
The person will receive emergency treatment. This includes getting a breathing tube and breathing assistance. The person will be admitted to 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:
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:
Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Neurologic system. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 23.
Bostwick TL. Altered mental status and coma. In: Bakes KM, Buchanan JA, Moreira ME, Byyny R, Pons PT, eds. Emergency Medicine Secrets. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 14.
Hamati AI, Felkar MV. Neurological complications of systemic disease: children. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 59.
Papa L, Goldberg SA. Head trauma. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 33.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 4/29/2023
Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
Health Content Provider
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2023 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.