Organic brain syndrome
Organic brain syndrome (OBS) is a general term used to describe decreased mental function due to a medical disease, other than a psychiatric illness. It is often used synonymously (but incorrectly) with dementia.
OBS; Organic mental disorder (OMS); Chronic organic brain syndrome
Disorders associated with OBS include:
- Brain injury caused by trauma
- Breathing conditions
- Low oxygen in the body (hypoxia)
- High carbon dioxide levels in the body (hypercapnia)
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Degenerative disorders
- Dementia due to metabolic causes
- Drug and alcohol-related conditions
- Any sudden onset (acute) or long-term (chronic) infection
- Blood poisoning (septicemia)
- Brain infection (encephalitis)
- Meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)
- Prion infections such as mad cow disease
- Late-stage syphillis
- Other medical disorders
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Thyroid disease (high or low)
- Vitamin deficiency (B1, B12, or folate)
Other conditions that may mimic organic brain syndrome include:
Symptoms can differ based on the disease. In general, organic brain syndromes cause:
Exams and Tests
Tests depend on the disorder, but may include:
Treatment depends on the disorder. Many of the disorders are treated mainly with rehabilitation and supportive care to assist the person in areas where brain function is lost.
Medications may be needed to reduce aggressive behaviors that can occur with some of the conditions.
See the specific disorder. Some disorders are short-term and treatable, but many are long-term or get worse over time.
People with OBS often lose the ability to interact with others or function on their own.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
- You have been diagnosed with organic brain syndrome and you are uncertain about the exact disorder.
- You have symptoms of this condition.
- You have been diagnosed with OBS and your symptoms become worse.
Knopman DS. Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 425.
Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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