Acquired mutism: physiopathy and assessment.
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The speechless patient presents a unique challenge to the clinician working with neurologically impaired adults. Acquired speechlessness, or mutism, has been associated with a variety of clinical states and syndromes after damage to central and peripheral nervous system structures. The intent of this paper is to summarize the reported states and syndromes associated with acquired mutism (eg, persistent vegetative state, akinesia), and to organize this information in a framework for clinical assessment of the speechless patient. For the purpose of discussion, speech production is divided into five interrelated processes: arousal; cognitive processing; affect and drive; motor initiation, planning, programming, and coordination; and execution of movement. Disorders characterized by mutism are classified according to the process or processes of speech production that primarily are affected. Each subtype of acquired mutism is characterized by a cluster of neurologic signs, which has been incorporated into a decision-making framework for use in a clinical setting.
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