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Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome


Definition:

Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome is failure of the adrenal gland due to bleeding into the gland.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

This condition is caused by severe infection with meningococcus bacteria or other severe infection from bacteria, such as:

  • Group B streptococcus
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • S. pneumoniae
  • Staphylococcus aureus

Rarely, Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome can be caused by the use of medications that promote blood clotting. Other causes include:

Complications:

Complications include:

It is deadly if not treated right away.

References:

Meurer WJ, Lavoie FW. Central nervous system infections. In: Marx JA, Hockberger Rs, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009: chap 107.

Maitra A. The endocrine system. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Fausto N, Aster JC, eds. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 24.

White PC. Adrenocortical insufficiency. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 569.


Review Date: 1/26/2012
Reviewed By: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (8/24/2011).

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