The metabolic response and problems with nutritional support in acute tetanus

S. J D O'Keefe, A. Wesley, I. Jialal, S. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Thirteen patients with severe tetanus were studied in the first and second week of illness in order to assess metabolic changes and nutritional requirements. Nine required muscular paralysis and subsequent assisted ventilation in order to control spasms. Symptoms and signs of sympathetic overactivity were especially common in the latter groups with a fourfold increase in urinary adrenaline and noradrenaline excretion. Other hormonal and metabolic abnormalities included hyperglycemia, mildly elevated insulin concentrations with no significant rise in cortisol, and glucagon. Evidence of excessive protein catabolism was obtained particularly during the second week of illness, mean urinary nitrogen excretion being 20.5 ± 13.8 g/d. Maintenance of nutrient homeostasis proved impossible with conventional enteral-feeding techniques: high-density feeds exacerbated hyperglycemia and diarrhea; low-density feeds were unable to maintain nitrogen balance (-12.34 g/d in ventilated patients, second week). The results indicate that loss of lean body mass is inevitable in such patients unless the metabolic response can be suppressed or more aggressive forms of nutritional support (eg, total parenteral nutrition including sufficient insulin to maintain normoglycemia) are employed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-487
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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