What are the central nervous system (CNS) findings indicative of heat stroke?

Updated: Aug 02, 2019
  • Author: Robert S Helman, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Symptoms of CNS dysfunction are present universally in persons with heat stroke. Symptoms may range from irritability to coma.

Patients may present with delirium, confusion, delusions, convulsions, hallucinations, ataxia, tremors, dysarthria, and other cerebellar findings, as well as cranial nerve abnormalities and tonic and dystonic contractions of the muscles. Seizures may occur. Patients also may exhibit decerebrate posturing, decorticate posturing, or they may be limp.

Coma also may be caused by electrolyte abnormalities, hypoglycemia, hepatic encephalopathy, uremic encephalopathy, and acute structural abnormalities, such as intracerebral hemorrhage due to trauma or coagulation disorders.

Cerebral edema and herniation also may occur during the course of heat stroke.

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