Rupert Waterhouse and Carl Friderichsen: adrenal apoplexy

J Emerg Med. Jul-Aug 1998;16(4):643-7. doi: 10.1016/s0736-4679(98)00061-4.


The Waterhouse-Friderichsen (WFS) syndrome, also known as purpura fulminans, is described as acute hemorrhagic necrosis of the adrenal glands and is most often caused by meningococcal infection. This clinical entity is more frequently seen in the pediatric than the adult population and is associated with a high morbidity and mortality. The initial presenting complaints for patients with the WFS usually include a diversity of nonspecific, vague symptoms such as cough, dizziness, headache, sore throat, chills, rigors, weakness, malaise, restlessness, apprehension, myalgias, arthralgias, and fever. These symptoms are usually abrupt in their onset. Petechiae are present in approximately 50-60% of patients. The clinical diagnosis of WFS may be relatively straightforward or extremely challenging. Patients who appear in the initial and nontoxic-appearing stage without any skin lesions may be difficult to distinguish from a benign viral illness. When a patient presents with fever and petechiae, WFS must be considered, even when the patient has a non-toxic appearance. Due to the rapid progression and often devastating consequences, therapy should be instituted as soon as the diagnosis is suspected.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Denmark
  • England
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome / history*
  • Waterhouse-Friderichsen Syndrome / therapy

Personal name as subject

  • R Waterhouse
  • C Friderichsen