Trousseau’s Sign of Latent Tetany

Amanda Thomas Apr 30, 2024
Blood Pressure Cuff and Stethoscope

As a nursing student, understanding clinical signs like Trousseau’s sign of latent tetany is crucial for client assessment and care.

Let’s dive into a comprehensive overview of this important sign.

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  1. What is Trousseau’s Sign of Latent Tetany?
  2. What Causes Trousseau’s Sign of Latent Tetany?
  3. How Do You Check Trousseau’s Sign?
  4. Important Factors to Know About Trousseau’s Sign

What is Trousseau’s Sign of Latent Tetany?

Trousseau’s sign of latent tetany — named after the French physician Armand Trousseau, who first described it — is a clinical indicator of increased neuromuscular irritability related to hypocalcemia.

It’s known as “carpopedal spasm” or main d’accoucheur (French for “obstetrician’s hand”) because it resembles the hand position of an obstetrician delivering a baby. Don’t confuse this with Chvostek’s sign manifested by tapping the facial nerve in front of the ear.

What Causes Trousseau’s Sign of Latent Tetany?

Trousseau’s sign is a classic indicator of hypocalcemia (low calcium levels in the blood).

It can also be associated with conditions that cause an alkalotic state or respiratory alkalosis, such as hyperventilation.

Some causes of hypocalcemia can include:

  • Certain medications like antibiotics, bisphosphonates, and anticonvulsants
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Hypoparathyroidism (decreased production of parathyroid hormone)
  • Inadequate intake of calcium or vitamin D
  • Impaired absorption of calcium in the intestines
  • Renal failure or dysfunction

How Do You Check Trousseau’s Sign?

To check for Trousseau’s sign, inflate a manual blood pressure cuff around the upper arm to a pressure higher than the client’s baseline systolic blood pressure for about three minutes.

The onset of carpal spasm indicates a positive sign, typically seen as flexion and adduction of the fingers and wrist.

Positive Trousseau’s Sign

A positive Trousseau’s sign confirms increased neuromuscular irritability and often indicates hypocalcemia.

It’s an important clinical finding that should prompt more investigation and treatment of the underlying cause.

Negative Trousseau’s Sign

A negative Trousseau’s sign suggests normal neuromuscular irritability.

Clients with normal calcium levels typically show negative results. However, it’s important to note that the absence of Trousseau’s sign doesn’t rule out hypocalcemia entirely, as it may not be present in all cases.

Important Factors to Know About Trousseau’s Sign

  1. Clinical significance: Trousseau’s sign is a valuable indicator of hypocalcemia, prompting further investigation into underlying causes and appropriate management.
  1. Diagnostic tool: It aids health care providers (HCP) in diagnosing conditions related to calcium imbalance and monitoring the client’s response to treatment.
  1. Client assessment: Understanding Trousseau’s sign enhances the overall assessment of clients, especially those at risk of calcium deficiencies.

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