[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
[Skip to Content Landing]
December 1972

Catatonic Behavior, Viral Encephalopathy, and Death: The Problem of Fatal Catatonia

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1972;27(6):758-761. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1972.01750300030005

The etiology of fatal catatonia, characterized by an agitated psychosis of acute onset which frequently ends in hyperthermia and death, has puzzled clinicians for many years. Controversy has centered around its relationship to schizophrenia. A case report is presented of a man who seemed to have acute schizophrenia, later developing catatonic features; he became hyperthermic and died after nine days despite electroconvulsive therapy and medical support. Postmortem examination revealed microscopic changes in the central nervous system consistent with viral encephalitis. We suggest fatal catatonia may on occasion be the result of a virus acting on the limbic area in particular. Psychiatric presentation and rapid deterioration would create difficulties in diagnosis and management.