Thumbs up sign in brain death

Manoj K. Mittal, Grace M. Arteaga, Eelco F.M. Wijdicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Introduction Spinal reflexes can be seen in the setting of brain death. We present a new spinal reflex. We also review spinal movements in pediatric brain death and provide suggestions to distinguish them from movements generated by the brain. Case Report We report a five-year old girl admitted after an asystolic cardiac arrest and was soon declared brain death as a result of bilateral cerebellar hematoma. She had spinal movements including a "Thumbs up sign". These findings delayed organ procurement. Conclusion "Thumbs up sign" should be added to the list of spinal reflexes seen with brain death. Spinal reflexes in brain death can be clinically recognized and should explained to all involved parties to avoid unnecessary testing, confusion for family members, and delay or refusal of organ donation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-267
Number of pages3
JournalNeurocritical care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Brain death
  • Child
  • Organ donation
  • Spinal reflexes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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