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Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacterial infection. The bacteria are usually found in soil, dust, and the bowel movements of some animals and humans. The bacteria produce a toxin that damages nerves. This causes severe muscle spasms.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Intake and output:

Healthcare providers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask healthcare providers if they need to measure or collect your urine.


  • Antitoxin is used to prevent the toxin from attacking nerves.
  • Sedatives are used to help you sleep. Rest will help your body heal from the infection.
  • Antibiotics treat a bacterial infection.
  • Muscle relaxers help control muscle spasms.
  • Seizure medicine helps stop or prevent seizures.
  • Pain medicine may be given. Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for more medicine.

Blood tests

may be used to check your calcium levels. High calcium levels can cause muscle spasms. Your magnesium or sodium levels may also be checked.


You will be kept in a dark, quiet room to prevent muscle spasms.

  • A nasogastric (NG) tube may be used if you have trouble swallowing. An NG tube is put into your nose, and passes down your throat until it reaches your stomach. Liquid food and medicine may be given through the NG tube.
  • A tracheotomy may be needed to prevent or treat severe breathing problems. An opening is made through the front of your neck. A tube is connected to the opening. You will breathe through the tube.
  • Surgery may be used to remove tissue affected by tetanus. Debridement is a type of surgery used to clean a wound and remove dead tissue. Objects such as dirt or glass will also be removed.


Muscle spasms may be so severe that they tear muscles or break bones. You may develop aspiration pneumonia or severe breathing problems. You may develop a serious condition called rhabdomyolysis. This condition causes your body to break down muscle. Rhabdomyolysis can lead to kidney failure. You may have a life-threatening irregular heartbeat or heart attack. Tetanus that affects nerves in your skull can lead to bleeding in your brain. Left untreated, tetanus can be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.