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J Emerg Med. 1993 Nov-Dec;11(6):737-42.

The management and prevention of tetanus.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201.


Tetanus is a rare disease in the United States, but it has a high mortality rate and is preventable through immunization. Using a computerized literature search, we reviewed English language articles on tetanus in the United States. We found that despite the availability of an effective vaccine, tetanus still causes considerable morbidity. The elderly are at great risk of tetanus, because they have never been immunized or their immunity has waned. Emergency physicians can reduce the likelihood of tetanus by ensuring appropriate wound care, including tetanus immunization and use of tetanus immune globulin, as appropriate. Treatment consists of neutralization of circulating toxin, surgical excision to eliminate the source of toxin, control of muscle spasms, and prevention of respiratory and metabolic complications. A case-finding approach for all persons who receive care in emergency departments will reduce the size of the susceptible population.

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