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Charcot in the ICU: functional tetraplegia after surgery


Functional neurological disorder is a condition in which a patient has physical findings that are not compatible with anatomical boundaries, have no structural substrate and are not representable of an established disease. General anaesthesia and surgery have been previously reported as precipitating factors for functional disorders and mostly involve dissociative (non-epileptic) seizures. We report a patient with no psychiatric history or prior abnormal examination who developed sudden onset functional tetraplegia and sensory disturbances immediately after elective surgery, and who was subsequently discharged home several days later after nearly complete resolution of neurologic deficits. We highlight the features of this syndrome, including its unique postoperative presentation, unusual resolution and absence of any identifiable psycho-dynamic mechanism. We also introduce the tripod sign as a useful clinical tool in identifying functional tetraplegia.

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