Locked-in syndrome

What is Locked-in Syndrome?

Locked-in syndrome is an uncommon neurological problem described as full paralysis of voluntary muscles in the entire area of the body with the exception of eye movement that the individual can still control. It may possibly the consequence of brain injury, circulatory system diseases, diseases that tear down the myelin sheath covering the nerve cells, or drug overdose. Patients with locked-in syndrome are aware and are still capable of thinking and reasoning, but incapable of speaking or moving. The problem will lead individuals to turn out to be absolutely mute and paralyzed. Communication may be doable with blinking and eye movements.

Having a locked-in syndrome is really difficult for the individual and with his or her family. Especially that the patient will become bed ridden and will be incapable of speaking. Despite the problem the family should just have to take into consideration that the individual is still aware of his or her surrounding and can still think and reason. He or she may communicate using blinking and eye movements. In some cases, numerous therapies shows that function can still be slowly regained.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of locked-in syndrome include the following:

Locked-in syndrome pictures

Picture of voluntary muscle dysfunction in Locked-in syndrome

  1. Full incapability for voluntary muscle control except eye movements and blinking
  2. The patient can still think, reason and remain conscious and aware
  3. Usual sleep and wake cycles are preserved
  4. Not capable of speaking
  5. Paralysis of lower extremities, lower cranial nerves and voluntary muscles

Due to the following symptoms of locked-in syndrome the patient required full care in a hospital or in a home setting.


The common causes of locked-in syndrome are the following:

  1. Traumatic brain injuries caused by stroke, severe head injury or ruptured aneurysm
  2. Diseases that tear down the myelin sheath surrounding the nerves, drug toxicity
  3. Any neurologic problem that can involve the ventral pons in the brain, which is the one responsible for voluntary muscle control


As of now there is no known cure or surgery for locked-in syndrome. The management for the problem is only supportive care. They are taken care of critical care specialists, doctors of neurology, and physiatrists. They can also be supported by

  1. physical therapists
  2. occupational therapists
  3. speech and language therapists and
  4. psychotherapists.


The prognosis for locked-in syndrome is poor because there is no known cure and no standard treatment. In some cases therapy can help patients to regain their function. Despite the general poor prognosis there are still cases of locked-in syndrome who have regained impressive improvement of function with the help of new technologies like augmentative communication technology.

Now that there are new hopes for locked-in syndrome, families of the patients should not give up and maybe sometime in the future therapy could really help majority of the patients for their improvement and slowly return to their productive life.

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Posted in Syndromes
5 comments on “Locked-in syndrome
  1. eve bennett says:

    Can you get a type of Locked-in Syndrome after surgery or proceedures. After six stays in hospital (over the past 10/12years) When in recovery i can not move or speak, but i can hear everything and feel everything. And each time it takes longer to come round, last time in 2006 i went for investigations in my voice box, and it was four and half hours before i could move or speak.
    No one has told me why this happens when i ask.
    Now i don’t want to have sedation anymore. any help.

  2. Nellie says:

    I just finished Tuesays with Morrie in my English class and I loved the book! I think more people should read it and it should be required in schools. Its sad to see stuff like this happen and I would love to help anybody with this disease.

  3. NoNonsense11 says:

    Does anyone know if the patient can control the force or rate of exhaling?

  4. Thomas Agnew says:

    I was diagnosed with lock in syndrome on 4 January 2914. It has ruined my life as I am unable to drive, unable to go on holidays,and unable to go out. I am bed bound due to going in lock standing up on my walking frame 3 times, the OT are unable to get any adaptations for me.

    I found out in October 2015 that I had had previous strokes on my front left frontal, up until then I had never been told by neurologists, psychiatrists, doctors that I had had strokes, as well as the mini stroke I had.

    For the past 2 years I have been told I had functional disorder, which was caused by the brain as they could not find any reasons for my inability to speak for 6years, and unable to eat, drink or swallow for 5.5 years.

    My new GP has told me he wants to see a Psychiatrist and also.have a swallowing test what good this will do after 5.5 with a peg feed in, he said he has read all my notes and that at no point is there any diagnosis so he wants to start the ball rolling again

    Any advice

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