– In a braindead patient, a 42-year-old woman who went into a coma after a cervical foraminotomy, spinal automatisms were seen which cast doubt on the diagnosis of brain death. The procedure which was to lead to organ transplantation was seriously disturbed.
In brain-dead patients spinal automatisms appear earlier and are more often present than deep tendon reflexes. Due to the developing hyperreflexia spinal automatisms can be elicited more easily and from a larger skin area as the period of brain death lasts longer. Spinal automatisms can also appear spontaneously and can be generated by hypercapnia. If criteria for brain death are met, these movements are no reason to reconsider the diagnosis of brain death.