Treatment for Tetanus

Once the diagnosis of tetanus is made, treatment starts immediately. The infected wound is cleaned, drained and antibiotics are started to fight the infection and kick start the recovery process. Dead and infected tissue around the wound is removed surgically in a process called debridement. The focus of the treatment is on arresting the production of the toxin, combating the effects of the toxin already in the body and controlling the severity of the muscle spasms. Sedatives help relax the muscles, ease the pain and reduce anxiety levels. Ventilator support may be needed in cases where the muscles used in breathing are affected. Intubation or inserting a tube into the windpipe may be required. In other cases doctors may decide to do a tracheostomy, that is, make an artificial opening in the trachea to help with the breathing. Treatments for tetanus may include anti-convulsants to control seizures.

In the case of severe muscle spasms, a high calorie high protein liquid diet may be administered to meet the demands of a higher rate of metabolism initiated by the activity of the muscles. Passive immunization, using tetanus immunoglobulin is vital. For those with early symptoms of tetanus or even for those who do not know their immunization history, passive immunization with a tetanus immunoglobulin injection at the site of the wound is given, followed by the rest of the dose in the buttocks. Tetanus toxoid vaccine and Immunoglobulin must be given as two separate injections at two different sites.After stabilizing the patient and ensuring that the symptoms are dealt with using the tetanus anti toxin and the immunoglobulin, healthcare professionals administer antibiotics and provide nutritional support or the breathing support as required. Once the patient recovers, doctors insist on a booster vaccination shot as suffering from a tetanus infection once does not provide immunity against future infections. Luckily, the tetanus toxin does not cause any irreversible damage to the nervous system and the patient can recover fully with adequate care and nutrition, in a couple of weeks.

Frequently asked questions
  1. Amy Million, Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of tetanus, Primary Care Update for OB/GYNS, Volume 4, Issue 3, May–June 1997, Pages 75-79, ISSN 1068-607X, 10.1016/S1068-607X(97)00006-1.
  2. Warfield M. Firor, The prevention and treatment of tetanus, The American Journal of Surgery, Volume 46, Issue 3, December 1939, Pages 450-453, ISSN 0002-9610, 10.1016/S0002-9610(39)90303-X.