Hidden in Plain Sight: Recognizing Catatonia Amidst its Medical Complications

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Marion K Malone
Timothy Lau



Although catatonia is a common syndrome, diagnosis is often delayed or missed altogether. The medical sequelae of catatonia can cloud the diagnostic picture, making it difficult to know what is the primary problem. In this case, a patient presented several times about 1 month apart with recurrent urinary retention, inability to walk, and delirium. This resulted in admissions to Internal Medicine and consultations to Urology with the underlying primary problem being missed until catatonia was later recognized and diagnosed. The elderly are more prone to complications from catatonia and, as a result, it is even more important that catatonia be recognized and treated in a timely manner in this population. In addition to exploring the case, this article reviews the diagnosis, etiology, prognosis, and treatment of catatonia, particularly as these pertain to the elderly.


La catatonie est un syndrome commun, mais son diagnostic est parfois difficile à faire. Les symptômes associés à ce syndrome peuvent rendre le problème médical primaire difficile à déceler. Par exemple, l’association récurrente de symptômes de rétention urinaire, des difficultés à marcher et des signes de syndrome confusionnel qui se présentent chaque mois sont souvent associés à d’autres maladies. Ces manifestations symptomatiques mènent à des admissions en médecine interne et des consultations en urologie. Les cliniciens peuvent perdre de vue le problème primaire, celui de la catatonie. Le diagnostic est alors manqué ou découvert plus tard. Les personnes âgées sont plus susceptibles à des complications liées à la catatonie. Ainsi, il s’avère important que ce désordre soit reconnu et traité dans un délai raisonnable chez cette population. Cet article évalue le diagnostic, l’étiologie, le pronostic et le traitement de la catatonie, particulièrement dans le cadre des personnes âgées.

Article Details

How to Cite
Malone MK, Lau T. Hidden in Plain Sight: Recognizing Catatonia Amidst its Medical Complications. UOJM. Published online November 2, 2015;5(2):22-25. doi:10.18192/uojm.v5i2.1414
Case Report & Elective report
Author Biography

Marion K Malone, University of Ottawa

PGY3 Psychiatry


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