What is Tetanus?

Tetanus is a neuralgic disorder, characterised by increased muscle tension and spasms (Trismus). The disease is caused by a bacteria called clostridium tetani. This organism is found in soil and in animal feces. This disease is common in rural areas of India where the soil is cultivated.

Tetanus in the unimmunized follows an acute injury, open wound, lacerations and abrasions.

Tetanus injury in most cases is trivial. All age groups are involved. Wounds may get contaminated with the spores of the organism. The spores germinate within the wound and toxin is produced. This toxin binds to the peripheral nerves and is transported thereafter to the spinal cord and the brain.

Clinical Features of Tetanus

1. Time of onset after injury 7 to 14 days.
2. The patient first notices stiffness in the area of the jaw.
3. Soon after there is difficulty in swallowing, stiffness, or pain in the neck, shoulder, and back muscles. This is followed by a rigid abdomen, stiff limb muscles. Contraction of the facial muscles results in a grimace or sneer and contraction of the back muscles produces an arched back. Muscle spasms are very painful, violent and may threaten to breathe. These spasms occur repeatedly, occur spontaneously or provoked by even the slightest stimulation.
4. Fever, profuse sweating, exhaustion.
5. Brain functions are normal.

Complications of Tetanus

1. Pneumonia.
2. Fractures.
3. Muscle rupture.
4. Deep vein thrombosis.
5. Emboli in lungs.
6. Sudden stoppage of breathing and cardiac arrest.

Prevention of Tetanus

1. Whenever a person is wounded, the wound must be immediately washed well in running water.
2. Seek medical advice with regard to immunisation against tetanus.

Management of Tetanus

This is an emergency and a patient must be rushed to the hospital.