Tetanus Differential Diagnoses

Updated: Sep 01, 2023
  • Author: Patrick B Hinfey, MD; Chief Editor: John L Brusch, MD, FACP  more...
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Diagnostic Considerations

Strychnine poisoning is the only condition that truly mimics tetanus. However, a number of conditions (eg, dental or other local infections, hysteria, neoplasms, and encephalitis) may cause trismus, and these must be differentiated from tetanus. The following conditions listed do not cause manifestations of tetanus other than trismus:

  • Strychnine poisoning

  • Dental infections

  • Local infections

  • Hysteria

  • Neoplasms

  • Malignant hyperthermia

  • Stimulant use

  • Intraoral disease

  • Odontogenic infections

  • Globus hystericus

  • Hepatic encephalopathy

  • Acute abdomen

  • Intracranial hemorrhage

  • Dystonic drug reactions (eg, phenothiazines, metoclopramide)

  • Acute abdominal emergencies

  • Seizure disorder (partial or generalized)

  • Serotonin syndrome

  • Stroke, ischemic (cephalic tetanus)

Differential Diagnoses