Severe tetanus following ulcerated skin cancer: Case report

Skin Cancer

Medicine (Baltimore). 2020 Jul 31;99(31):e21529. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000021529.


RATIONALE: Tetanus is usually caused by wound infection with Clostridium tetani after acute injuries. Skin cancer wound is a rarely reported cause of tetani infection. It is difficult to be diagnosed and mistaken for other brain lesions.

PATIENT CONCERNS: A 49-year-old man presenting with the only symptom of repeated convulsions was admitted to our department. He had an ulcerated skin cancer on the right buttock that had been excised in another hospital 1 month before admission, leaving the wound unhealed. He was suspected of having a metastatic brain tumor early, but exhibited a negative cranial CT-scan.

DIAGNOSIS: Tetanus was diagnosed when he was observed to have sudden convulsions after sensory stimulation such as noise, light, or touch.

INTERVENTIONS: Despite administration of a high dose of diazepam and phenobarbitone, continuous generalized rigidity with laryngospasm still occurred. Instead, when propofol was intravenously infused, the spastic convulsion completely stopped. Tracheotomy and mechanical ventilation were performed.

OUTCOMES: The patient gradually recovered in 2 weeks.

LESSONS: Tetanus is rarely infected through the wound of an ulcerated skin cancer. Early diagnosis can only be based on accurate assessment of clinical manifestations, and propofol infusion appears to be more effective in anti-convulsion management for patients with tetanus. Routine vaccination to prevent tetanus in patients with ulcerated skin cancer should be considered in the future clinical work.