J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 42:19-28 doi:10.1136/jnnp.42.1.19
  • Research Article

Brain damage complicating septic shock: acute haemorrhagic leucoencephalitis as a complication of the generalised Shwartzman reaction.


The neuropathological findings in six patients who developed neurological signs after the onset of "septic shock" caused by Gram-negative septicaemia are described. The changes in the brains were characteristic of acute haemorrhagic leucoencephalitis, and there was evidence, particularly in the kidneys, of disseminated intravascular coagulation with tubular necrosis and, in some, appearances indistinguishable from membrano-proliferative glomerulonephritis. It is agreed that acute haemorrhagic leucoencephalitis is another manifestation of a generalised Shwartzman reaction, and it is suggested that activation of complement is the final common pathway that produces tissue damage in the brain and kidney.