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Apoplexy is an old-fashioned medical term, which can be used to mean 'neurological impairment' or 'hemorrhage'. It can be used non-medically to mean a state of extreme rage. The word derives from the Greek word for 'seizure', apoplexia (ἀποπληξία), in the sense of being struck down.


Neurological impairment

Apoplexy has been used as a synonym for "stroke" because many stroke patients lose consciousness during the acute stage of the vascular compromise (either through bleeding or ischemia).

Historical meaning of the word

Historically, the word "apoplexy" was also used to describe any sudden death that began with a sudden loss of consciousness, especially one where the victim died within a matter of seconds after losing consciousness. Those reading historical documents should take into consideration the possibility that the word "apoplexy" may be used to describe the symptom of sudden loss of consciousness immediately preceding death and not an actual verified disease process. Sudden cardiac deaths, ruptured cerebral aneurysms, certain ruptured aortic aneurysms, and even heart attacks may have been misdiagnosed as apoplexy in the distant past.


The term 'apoplexy' is used to describe bleeding within internal organs. In such usage it is coupled with an adjective describing the site of the bleeding. For example, bleeding within the pituitary gland is called pituitary apoplexy, and bleeding within the adrenal glands can be called adrenal apoplexy.

In both pituitary and adrenal apoplexy, the word apoplexy refers to both hemorrhage with the gland and to accompanying neurological problems such as confusion, headache, and impairment of consciousness.

Deaths attributed to apoplexy

Pope Martin V
Jean de La Bruyère
Empress Dowager Cixi [1]
Petrarch [2]
Moses Mendelssohn [3]
Robert Louis Stevenson [4]

Non-medical usage

Colloquially, particularly in the adjective form apoplectic, apoplexy means furious, enraged, or upset to the point of being unable to deal with a situation rationally or diplomatically.

See also


  1. ^ The New York Times, November 20, 1908: "DOWAGER EMPRESS DIED OF APOPLEXY".
  2. ^ The Insanity of Genius and the General Inequality of Human Faculty, ISBN 1421272997
  3. ^ The Insanity of Genius and the General Inequality of Human Faculty, ISBN 1421272997
  4. ^ The New York Times, December 18, 1894: "Death of R. L. Stevenson".
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Apoplexy". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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