Multidisciplinary approach of organic catatonia in children and adolescents may improve treatment decision making

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Aug 1;32(6):1393-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2008.02.015. Epub 2008 Mar 7.


Catatonia is an infrequent but severe condition in young people. Organic diseases may be associated and need to be investigated though no specific recommendations and guidelines are available. We extensively reviewed the literature of all the cases of organic catatonia in children and adolescents from January 1969 to June 2007. We screened socio-demographic characteristics, organic diagnosis, clinical characteristics and treatment. We found 38 cases of children and adolescents with catatonia due to an organic condition. The catatonic syndrome occurred in 21 (57%) females and 16 (43%) males. The mean age of patients was 14.5 years (+/-3.39) [range=7-18 years], and three died from their condition. The organic conditions included infectious diseases (N=10), neurological conditions (N=10), toxic induced states (N=12) and genetic conditions including inborn errors of metabolism (N=6). The onset was dominantly acute, and the clinical presentation most frequently stuporous. Although benzodiazepines were recommended as primary symptomatic treatment, they were rarely prescribed. In several cases, therapeutic approach was related to organic cause (e.g., plasma exchange in lupus erythematosus; copper chelators in Wilson's disease). Based on this review and on our own experience of catatonia in youth, we proposed a consensual and multidisciplinary diagnostic strategy to help practitioners to identify underlying organic diseases.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Catatonia / etiology
  • Catatonia / psychology*
  • Catatonia / therapy*
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Humans
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / complications
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / psychology*
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / therapy*


  • Benzodiazepines