Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 6 Jan 2022

Apoplexy is a term that has been part of medical terminology since antiquity and now means a sudden and catastrophic clinical presentation restricted to a few intracranial events, namely pituitary apoplexy and the far less common pineal apoplexy. Importantly, it remains a term that denotes a clinical presentation rather than merely the presence of hemorrhage into a pituitary and pineal lesion. 

History and etymology

The term apoplexy comes from the classical Greek "apoplexia" meaning “struck down with violence” or “to strike suddenly” 1. As such, it was used to encompass a wide variety of clinical events that manifested suddenly, such as strokes and subarachnoid hemorrhage but also any systemic event that resulted in similar sudden and dramatic clinical presentations 1

It was only from the 17th century onwards that the term apoplexy began to be restricted to intracranial vascular causes encompassing both hemorrhagic and ischemic events 1. Only in the 5th revision of the International List of Causes of Death (ILCD-5) was the term dropped for what we would now call strokes 1.

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