What you need to know about the abnormal body posturing & the Decerebrate body Posture


Did you ever see a person with an abnormal body posture, with the arms and legs being held straight out, and pinpoint toes?  You must have seen a person in such condition in a hospital only. This particular abnormal body posture is known as a Decerebrate body posture. Let us understand about the abnormal body posturing especially Decerebrate body posture.

What is Decerebrate body posture?

It is an abnormal body posture with the head arched back, the legs are extended, elbows are extended and the arms are extended by the sides. This covers a major group of abnormal body posturing clinically. It indicates a serious condition related to our central nervous system.

What is the cause of abnormal body posture- Decerebrate posture?

Abnormal body posture is a result of a large increase in the intracranial pressure. It is usually seen in the traumatic brain injury, brain hemorrhage, brain tumor, poisoning, toxic substance-drug abuse or any cause that increase the intracranial pressure.

What is to be done in the case of abnormal posturing – Decerebrate posture?

Since abnormal body posture- Decerebrate posture is a medical emergency, the person must be treated in an emergency section. The doctor may look and evaluate the signs of brain injury like inability to communicate, Decorticate posture – Decerebrate posture (Decorticate posture- posture with rigidity flexion of the arms, clenched fists, and extended legs), episodes in past and presence of Opisthotonos (a severe muscle spasm of the neck and back that occurs in severe cases).

Such cases must be treated by a qualified neurologist.


Tests performed in the case of abnormal body posture- Decerebrate posture

The aim is to calculate the status of brain functions and the extent of the injury. Usually, the following tests are done in abnormal body posturing-

  • Cerebral angiography (dye and x-ray study of blood vessels in the brain)
  • CT or MRI of the head EEG (brain wave testing),
  • Intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring
  • Blood & urine tests in order to check blood counts & screen for drugs and toxic substances
  • EEG


Treatment & management of abnormal body posturing

As it is a serious condition indicating a severe brain damage, the treatment highly depends upon the extent of the injury, the harm to the central nervous system & the overall condition of a patient. Normally, a person with Opisthotonos – Decerebrate posture or decorticate posturing is in a coma and have poor prognosis they are at a risk of cardiac arrhythmia/arrest and respiratory failure.




Facts about abnormal body posture-

  • Anything beyond the normal posture is an abnormal body posture, it includes Decerebrate body posture- Decorticate body posture (flexion or extension of the extremities)
  • It happens because of increased Intracranial pressure
  • It is an emergency condition that needs immediate medical attention
  • Tests like MRI brain, cerebral angiography, EEG etc are performed
  • The persons are usually reported under emergency and coma, the prognosis is often poor.






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