What is decorticate posturing?

Decorticate posturing — a sign of severe damage to the brain — is a specific type of involuntary abnormal posturing of a person. Decorticate posture is stiff with legs held out straight, fists clenched, and arms bent to hold the hands on the chest.

Decorticate posturing is a type of abnormal or pathologic posturing, not to be mistaken with poor posture or slouching. Abnormal posturing is often an indication of certain types of injury to the brain or spinal cord. Types of posturing include:

  • decorticate posturing
  • decerebrate posturing, where arms and legs are straight and rigid, toes are pointed downward, and head is arched backward
  • opisthotonic posturing, where the back is arched and rigid and the head is thrown backward

Decorticate posture can be caused by a number of conditions, including:

Abnormal posturing is a condition that should be examined and treated right away by a doctor. A person with decorticate posturing will be unconscious, often in a coma. In many cases, the doctor will set up breathing assistance for the person and admit them into the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU). Thorough examination of the brain and nervous system typically follows and may include some or all of the following:

The expected outcome depends on the cause. Decorticate posturing could indicate nervous system injury and permanent brain damage, which could result in:

Decorticate posturing is a sign of severe damage to the central nervous system, more specifically to the brain. If a family member or friend is involuntarily displaying this posturing, get them immediate medical attention at a hospital emergency room.