Chronic organic brain syndrome
Organic brain syndrome (OBS) is a general term, referring to physical disorders (usually not psychiatric disorders) that cause decreased mental function.
Alternative NamesOBS; Organic mental disorder (OMS); Chronic organic brain syndrome
OBS is a common diagnosis in the elderly. It is not an inevitable part of aging, however. OBS is not a separate disease, but is a general term used to categorize physical conditions that can cause mental changes.
Disorders associated with OBS include, but are not limited to:
Other conditions that may be related to organic brain syndrome include: depression, neuroses, and psychoses of various types, which may occur at the same time as the OBS.
- Degenerative disorders:
- Trauma-induced brain injury:
Dementia due to metabolic causes
- Respiratory conditions -- may cause or aggravate OBS
- Hypoxia (decreased oxygen in the body)
- Hypercapnia (increased carbon dioxide levels in the body)
- Drug and alcohol related conditions
- Other medical disorders
- Thyroid disease (high or low)
- Vitamin deficiency (B12 and others)
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Symptoms vary with the specific disease. In general, organic brain syndromes cause varying degrees of confusion, delirium (severe, short-term loss of brain function), agitation, and dementia (long-term, often progressive, loss of brain function).
Exams and Tests
Testing and physical examination vary, depending on the specific disorder. Head CT scan, head MRI, EEG, and blood tests, to evaluate for medical conditions, are done frequently.
Treatment varies with the specific disorder. Many of the disorders have nonspecific treatments -- primarily supportive care to assist the person in areas where brain function is lost.
Medications may be needed to reduce aggressive behaviors typical of some of the conditions in this category.
See the specific disorder. Some disorders are acute and treatable, but many are chronic or progressive.
Loss of ability to interact with others or function independently is common.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
- Organic brain syndrome has been diagnosed and you are uncertain of the actual, specific diagnosis
- You have symptoms which suggest this problem
- You have been diagnosed with OBS and symptoms become worse