Catatonia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome: two disorders on a same spectrum? Four case reports

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2013 Jan;201(1):36-42. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31827ab24b.


We present the history of four bipolar patients who developed neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) after antipsychotic treatment, focusing on the relationship between NMS and catatonia. In all cases, the administration of antipsychotics has been suspended as soon as fever and autonomic disturbances occurred. A supportive therapy was initiated to stabilize general conditions, then every patient started electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in combination with benzodiazepines (BDZ). The risk of complications was reduced by the quick adoption of supportive care, whereas the combination of ECT and BDZ was effective in resolving the clinical picture. These cases may provide further support to the hypothesis that catatonia and NMS are disorders pertaining to the same spectrum of illness because the onset or exacerbation of catatonic symptoms coincided with the administration of antipsychotics. Our experience confirms the efficacy and safety of ECT in combination with BDZ as treatment of NMS and residual catatonia.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Catatonia / classification
  • Catatonia / drug therapy
  • Catatonia / etiology*
  • Catatonia / therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome / classification
  • Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome / etiology*
  • Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome / therapy


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Benzodiazepines