Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome

Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome is failure of the adrenal gland to function as as result of bleeding into the gland.

Causes of Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome

This condition is caused by severe infection with meningococcus bacteria or other severe infection from bacteria, such as:

  • Group B streptococcus
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • S. pneumoniae
  • Staphylococcus aureus

Rarely, Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome can be caused by the use of medications that promote blood clotting. Other causes include:

Potential Complications

Complications include:

It is deadly if the underlying cause of this syndrome is not treated right away.

References

Meurer WJ, Lavoie FW. Central nervous system infections. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 107.

Maitra A. The endocrine system. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Fausto N, Aster JC, eds. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 24.

White PC. Adrenocortical insufficiency. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 569.

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Review Date: 9/1/2013
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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