Trousseau's sign

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia.
Related to Trousseau's sign: Homans sign, Pulsus paradoxus, Chvostek sign

Trousseau's sign

1. spontaneous peripheral venous thrombosis, suggestive of visceral carcinoma, especially carcinoma of the lung or gastrointestinal tract.
2. a sign for tetany in which carpal spasm can be elicited by compressing the upper arm and causing ischemia to the nerves distally.
Trousseau's sign. From Polaski and Tatro, 2000.
See illustration.

Trousseau's sign

Etymology: Armand Trousseau, French physician, 1801-1867; L, signum, mark
1 a test for latent tetany in which carpal spasm is induced by inflating a sphygmomanometer cuff on the upper arm to a pressure exceeding systolic blood pressure for 3 minutes. A positive test may be seen in hypocalcemia and hypomagnesemia.
2 a reddened streak, the result of drawing a finger across the skin. It is seen with a variety of nervous system disorders.
enlarge picture
Trousseau's sign

Trousseau's sign

A sign of latent TETANY. A SPHYGMOMANOMETER cuff is applied to the upper arm and inflated. Within 4 minutes the forearm muscles go into spasm. (Armand Trousseau, 1801–67, French physician).


objective features of disease, and noted by examining clinician (contrast with symptoms); note: eponymous signs are denoted as ‘positive’ when their characteristics are present
  • Babinski's sign characteristics of an upper motor neurone lesion (UMNL; e.g. cerebrovascular accident; cerebral palsy), i.e. hip, knee, elbow and wrist flexion, ankle plantar flexions, forearm pronation, and an extensor plantar response on contralateral side to UMNL (see response, extensor plantar)

  • Chaddock's sign stimulation of lateral malleolar skin causes hallux extension at first metatarsophalangeal joint; diagnostic of corticospinal (motor tract) reflex path pathology

  • Chvostek's sign hemifacial tic, induced by tapping the facial nerve just below cheek bone; indicative of hypercalcaemia

  • clenched-fist sign pressing the clenched fist against anterior central chest wall; characteristic of angina pectoris

  • daylight sign see sign, Sullivan's

  • Erb–Westphal sign loss of knee jerk reflex; characteristic of spinal cord motor tract pathology

  • Gower's sign attaining upright posture from sitting by pushing with the hands against anterior thighs (‘climbing up the legs’); characteristic of Duchenne muscular dystrophy

  • Homan's sign calf pain on ankle dorsiflexion; characteristic of calf deep-vein thrombosis

  • Hutchinson's sign pigment ‘overspill’/ ‘washout’ into surrounding tissues from a melanoma; denotes local spread of lesion

  • Leser–Trelat sign rapid development of multiple seborrhoeic keratotic skin lesions; associated with underlying malignancy

  • Lhermitte's sign sudden ‘electrical’ pains that extend down the spine when head is flexed on neck; characteristic of multiple sclerosis and cervical cord compression

  • oil drop sign small area of yellowish onycholysis, caused by elevation of nail plate from bed; characteristic of psoriasis

  • Remak's sign pain in response to innocuous stimuli; characteristic of polyneuritis and painful neuropathies, e.g. diabetic neuropathy and complex regional pain syndromes

  • Romberg's sign loss of/poor balance when standing with eyes closed; characteristic of proprioception loss or cerebellar dysfunction

  • Sever's sign exacerbation of heel pain when standing on tiptoe on affected side; characteristic of calcaneal apophysitis (Sever's disease)

  • Stewart–Holmes sign; rebound phenomenon inability to control limb movement when passive limb resistance is suddenly released; characteristic of cerebellar dysfunction

  • suction sign increased ankle joint movement, with formation of a depression between lateral malleolus and talus (demonstrated by positive anterior drawer test); diagnostic of anterior talofibular ligament dysfunction

  • Sullivan's sign; sunray sign; daylight sign separation/divergence of two adjacent toes; characteristic of forefoot rheumatoid disease (i.e. metatarsophalangeal joint synovitis, intermetatarsal oedema, bursitis) or plantar digital neuroma

  • sunray sign see sign, Sullivan's

  • Tinel's sign dermatomal tingling/paraesthesia on percussion of subserving nerve trunk; characteristic of nerve trunk compression, nerve injury or early nerve repair subsequent to nerve lesion; e.g. paraesthesia in sole of a foot with tarsal tunnel syndrome, when tibial nerve is percussed posterior to medial malleolus; or in palm of a hand with carpal tunnel syndrome, when radial nerve is percussed at volar aspect of wrist

  • ‘too many toes’ sign visualization of fifth, fourth, third, second and even first toes when patient is viewed from behind when standing in relaxed calcaneal stance; characteristic of excess foot pronation/forefoot abduction

  • Trendelenburg's sign anterior tilt of upper pelvis on flexion of hip and knee of non-weight-bearing limb (i.e. during swing phase of gait) whilst weight-bearing on other leg (e.g. observed as patient climbs stairs); characteristic of congenital hip joint dislocation or hip adductor weakness (normally non-weight-bearing pelvis tilts upward during swing phase of gait)

  • Trousseau's sign sharp flexion movements of the wrist and metacarpophalangeal joints and extension of the fingers when a blood pressure cuff, inflated to above systolic pressure, is left in situ for 3 mins; characteristic of latent tetany and indicative of hypocalcaemia

  • Valleix' sign proximal tingling and plantar paraesthesia when tibial nerve is percussed posterior to medial malleolus (see sign, Tinel's)

  • vital signs signs of life (breathing, heart beat and sustained blood pressure)

  • Ward's sign distended/engorged superficial dorsal foot and lower-leg veins due to venous hypertension and secondary to arteriovenous shunting; characteristic of diabetic autonomic neuropathy