Synonyms in a broader sense

Tetanus, Clostridium tetani

English: tetanus


Of the Tetanus (Tetanus) is an infectious disease caused by bacteria is caused. It is a serious disease of the Nervous system. The disease resolves a rigidity of the Musculature which starts on the face and spreads over the entire body.


Tetanus is an infectious disease. The bacteria responsible live anywhere in the earth or in dust. They get into wounds and multiply. A blockage leads to uncontrollable ones Muscle spasms. Tetanus is treated with Antibiotics in the hospital to kill the causative agent of the poison. A Tetanus vaccination is possible and in children it is one of the Standard vaccinations. After 10 years a refreshment of the vaccination protection is due.

Occurrence / epidemiology

In Germany there are only about 10 cases a year. This is due to the high vaccination rate. However, 25% of the cases are fatal.


tetanus is caused by infection with certain bacteria. These bacteria (Clostridium tetani) come anywhere in the earth and in dust in front. They are resistant (insensitive) to drought and heat, so they survive outside the body for a long time and remain infectious for years.

Infection occurs through soiled wounds. The main danger is with small foreign bodies that remain in the wound. The bacteria multiply and release a poison. This poison gets along the annoy or about that blood to the brain transported.

The effect of the Tetanus poison lies in the blockade of processes in muscle contraction.To contract, the muscles receive a signal from Neurons. This is where the tetanus poison attacks. It blocks the channels that are supposed to transmit the information about the contraction by placing itself in the channels instead of the body's own substances. This leads to uncontrollable muscle contractions and muscle cramps.

Symptoms / complaints

The most common symptom of tetanus is that Mouth stop. By cramping the Facial muscles the typical facial expression that appears on a devilish laugh reminds (med .: risus sardonicus).

The typical symptoms appear after 3 to 20 days:

  • a headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Stiff in Temporomandibular joint
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Muscle spasms
  • Facial muscle spasm
  • Risk of aspiration (inhalation of food and beverages) and breathing difficulties

The further the disease progresses, the more threatening the patient's complaints become. The disease spreads from the head downwards. At first only the face is affected by the cramps. This is followed by cramps in the abdominal and back muscles, and intestinal and bladder muscles also cramp. Ultimately, the cramping of the leads to death Respiratory musclesso that the patient is unable to breathe.


The diagnosis is usually made clinically, i.e. by the symptoms mentioned above. A possible entry port, an open wound, can be a clue. The toxin can be detected in the blood.


Because of the high mortality rate, patients have to be hospitalized. If the tetanus toxin has already spread, there is no longer any treatment option. The doctor tries to get adequate breathing.

The wound should be carefully cut out to remove dead tissue and debris.

The poison can be neutralized. However, it only works against the poison that has not yet reached the brain. Any damage that the brain tissue has already taken is unfortunately irreversible (not reversible).


Vaccination can be given to prevent infection. The tetanus vaccination is one of the standard vaccinations for children. It should also be refreshed every 10 years in adults. It is the only protection against this disease.

Even if a tetanus infection is suspected and the vaccination protection is insufficient or unknown, the patient is vaccinated immediately. If the patient cannot remember the last vaccination, if there is no vaccination certificate or if the patient is unconscious, vaccination is usually suspected.

It is also possible after contact with the pathogen to take a measure to protect the body and thus to escape the outbreak of the disease. For detailed information, read our article: Post exposure prophylaxis - the salvation?


The mortality the tetanus infection in intensive care treatment is around 20 percent. Without care, mortality is much higher as patients eventually suffocate.

Thanks to the high vaccination rate, the number of cases of illness in Europe continues to decline. Other countries, however, still have high infection rates. If the tetanus infection is survived, permanent damage to the nervous system with muscle weakness or paralysis remains.