Article by Andrew Francis, PhD, MD, in Current Psychiatry Reports

An article titled “Catatonia: Diagnosis, Classification, and Treatment,” by Andrew Francis, PhD, MD, was published in the June, 2010 issue of Current Psychiatry Reports.

In the article, Dr. Francis provides an overview of current knowledge about catatonia, including discussions of the definition of catatonia, its place in the diagnostic scheme, techniques for diagnosing catatonia, its possible causes, and approaches to treatment.

Dr. Francis is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University. He is co-developer of the Bush-Francis Catatonia Rating Scale, the standard tool used by researchers and clinicians for diagnosing the syndrome, and he is the co-editor of Catatonia: From Psychopathology to Neurobiology published in 2004 by the American Psychiatric Association.

In the article, Dr. Francis describes catatonia as a distinct neuropsychiatric syndrome of motor signs that is associated with a variety of medical and psychiatric conditions. It may occur in 7% to 17% of patients admitted for inpatient psychiatric treatment and has been observed in children, people with autism, geriatric populations, and medical patients who receive psychiatric consultations.

About two-thirds of cases of catatonia resolve completely within hours or days after the patient is given lorazepam. For patients whose catatonia does not resolve with medication, electroconvulsive therapy is often an option. Dr. Francis points out the importance of identifying catatonia quickly and accurately so that patients who are affected may be treated before they develop additional complications.