Decorticate posturing is when the patient’s back arches backwards and flexes the arms, where as decerbrate posturing is where the patietn arches the back (like in decorticate posturing) but then extends the arms out parallel to the body.
Both decorticate posturing and decerebrate posturing are indicative of serious head injuries with significant damage to the brain. Decerebrate posturing is slightly worse and indicates significant brain stem damages.
How to remember the difference between decorticate and decerebrate?
There are a number of stories or systems in which medical students, nursing students and paramedics can remember the difference between decorticate and decerebrate posturing. These include:
1. If a person is flexing their arms upwards like they are praying that they are going to get let off by the judge, then it is decorticate (like going to court), and therefore if they are not doing this, then they must be decerebrate.
2. If a person is flexing their arms upwards towards their brain then it is decorticate (as in towards the cortex of the brain), again, if not, it is decerebrate.