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Open access

Jonathan Brown and Luqman Sardar

Summary

A 68-year-old previously independent woman presented multiple times to hospital over the course of 3 months with a history of intermittent weakness, vacant episodes, word finding difficulty and reduced cognition. She was initially diagnosed with a TIA, and later with a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage following a fall; however, despite resolution of the haemorrhage, symptoms were ongoing and continued to worsen. Confusion screen blood tests showed no cause for the ongoing symptoms. More specialised investigations, such as brain imaging, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, electroencephalogram and serology also gave no clear diagnosis. The patient had a background of hypothyroidism, with plasma thyroid function tests throughout showing normal free thyroxine and a mildly raised thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). However plasma anti-thyroid peroxidise (TPO) antibody titres were very high. After discussion with specialists, it was felt she may have a rare and poorly understood condition known as Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE). After a trial with steroids, her symptoms dramatically improved and she was able to live independently again, something which would have been impossible at presentation.

Learning points:

  • In cases of subacute onset confusion where most other diagnoses have already been excluded, testing for anti-thyroid antibodies can identify patients potentially suffering from HE.
  • In these patients, and under the guidance of specialists, a trial of steroids can dramatically improve patient’s symptoms.
  • The majority of patients are euthyroid at the time of presentation, and so normal thyroid function tests should not prevent anti-thyroid antibodies being tested for.
  • Due to high titres of anti-thyroid antibodies being found in a small percentage of the healthy population, HE should be treated as a diagnosis of exclusion, particularly as treatment with steroids may potentially worsen the outcome in other causes of confusion, such as infection.
Open access

Joseph Cerasuolo and Anthony Izzo

Summary

Acute hyperglycemia has been shown to cause cognitive impairments in animal models. There is growing appreciation of the numerous effects of hyperglycemia on neuronal function as well as blood–brain barrier function. In humans, hypoglycemia is well known to cause cognitive deficits acutely, but hyperglycemia has been less well studied. We present a case of selective neurocognitive deficits in the setting of acute hyperglycemia. A 60-year-old man was admitted to the hospital for an episode of acute hyperglycemia in the setting of newly diagnosed diabetes mellitus precipitated by steroid use. He was managed with insulin therapy and discharged home, and later, presented with complaints of memory impairment. Deficits included impairment in his declarative and working memory, to the point of significant impairment in his overall functioning. The patient had no structural lesions on MRI imaging of the brain or other systemic illnesses to explain his specific deficits. We suggest that his acute hyperglycemia may have caused neurological injury, and may be responsible for our patient’s memory complaints.

Learning points:

  • Acute hyperglycemia has been associated with poor outcomes in several different central nervous system injuries including cerebrovascular accident and hypoxic injury.
  • Hyperglycemia is responsible for accumulation of reactive oxygen species in the brain, resulting in advanced glycosylated end products and a proinflammatory response that may lead to cellular injury.
  • Further research is needed to define the impact of both acute and chronic hyperglycemia on cognitive impairment and memory.
Open access

Swapna Talluri, Raghu Charumathi, Muhammad Khan and Kerri Kissell

Summary

Central pontine myelinolysis (CPM) usually occurs with rapid correction of severe chronic hyponatremia. Despite the pronounced fluctuations in serum osmolality, CPM is rarely seen in diabetics. This is a case report of CPM associated with hyperglycemia. A 45-year-old non-smoking and non-alcoholic African American male with past medical history of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stage V chronic kidney disease and hypothyroidism presented with a two-week history of intermittent episodes of gait imbalance, slurred speech and inappropriate laughter. Physical examination including complete neurological assessment and fundoscopic examination were unremarkable. Laboratory evaluation was significant for serum sodium: 140 mmol/L, potassium: 3.9 mmol/L, serum glucose: 178 mg/dL and serum osmolality: 317 mosmol/kg. His ambulatory blood sugars fluctuated between 100 and 600 mg/dL in the six weeks prior to presentation, without any significant or rapid changes in his corrected serum sodium or other electrolyte levels. MRI brain demonstrated a symmetric lesion in the central pons with increased signal intensity on T2- and diffusion-weighted images. After neurological consultation and MRI confirmation, the patient was diagnosed with CPM secondary to hyperosmolar hyperglycemia. Eight-week follow-up with neurology was notable for near-complete resolution of symptoms. This case report highlights the importance of adequate blood glucose control in diabetics. Physicians should be aware of complications like CPM, which can present atypically in diabetics and is only diagnosed in the presence of a high index of clinical suspicion.

Learning points:

  • Despite the pronounced fluctuations in serum osmolality, central pontine myelinolysis (CPM) is rarely seen in diabetics. This case report of CPM associated with hyperglycemia highlights the importance of adequate blood glucose control in diabetics.
  • Physicians should be aware of complications like CPM in diabetics.
  • CPM can present atypically in diabetics and is only diagnosed in the presence of a high index of clinical suspicion.
Open access

Victoria John, Philip Evans and Atul Kalhan

Summary

A 65-year-old woman was admitted to the emergency unit with a 48 h history of generalised weakness and confusion. On examination, she had mild slurring of speech although there was no other focal neurological deficit. She had profound hyponatraemia (serum sodium level of 100 mmol/L) on admission with the rest of her metabolic parameters being within normal range. Subsequent investigations confirmed the diagnosis of small-cell lung cancer with paraneoplastic syndrome of inappropriate antidiuresis (SIAD). She was monitored closely in high-dependency unit with an attempt to cautiously correct her hyponatraemia to prevent sequelae associated with rapid correction. The patient developed prolonged psychosis (lasting over 2 weeks) and displayed delayed dyskinetic movements, even after a gradual increase in serum sodium levels close to 130 mmol/L. To our knowledge, delayed neurological recovery from profound hyponatraemia (without long-term neurological sequelae) has previously not been reported. This case should alert a clinician regarding the possibility of prolonged although reversible psychosis and dyskinetic movements in a patient presenting with profound symptomatic hyponatraemia.

Learning points:

  • Patients with profound hyponatraemia may develop altered sensorium, dyskinesia and psychotic behaviour.
  • Full recovery from psychotic symptoms and dyskinesia may be delayed despite cautious correction of serum sodium levels.
  • Careful and close monitoring of such patients can help avoid long-term neurological sequelae.
Open access

Niki Margari, Jonathan Pollock and Nemanja Stojanovic

Summary

Prolactinomas constitute the largest subsection of all secretory pituitary adenomas. Most are microprolactinomas and are satisfactorily treated by medical management alone. Giant prolactinomas, measuring more than 4 cm in diameter, are rare and usually occur more commonly in men. Macroprolatinomas tend to present with symptoms of mass effect rather than those of hyperprolactinaemia. Dopamine agonists (DA) are the treatment of choice for all prolactinomas. Surgery is usually reserved for DA resistance or if vision is threatened by the mass effects of the tumour. We describe the case of a 52 year-old woman with a giant invasive prolactinoma who required multiple surgical procedures as well as medical management with DA. One of the surgical interventions required a posterior approach via the trans cranial sub occipital transtentorial approach, a surgical technique that has not been previously described in the medical literature for this indication. The giant prolactinoma was reduced significantly with the above approach and patient symptoms from the compressing effects of the tumour were resolved. This case highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to the management of such patients who present with florid neurological sequelae secondary to pressure effects. Although this presentation is uncommon, surgery via a sub occipital transtentorial approach may be considered the treatment of choice in suitable patients with giant invasive prolactinomas compressing the brainstem.

Learning points

  • Giant prolactinomas present with symptoms of mass effect or those of hyperprolactinaemia.
  • Interpretation of the pituitary profile is crucial to guide further investigations and management.
  • Treatment of giant invasive prolactinomas may involve a combination of medical management and multiple surgical interventions.
  • Treatment with DA may cause pituitary haemorrhage or infarction in patients with these tumours.
  • A sub occipital transtetorial approach may be considered the treatment of choice in invasive prolactinomas compressing the brainstem.
  • Multidisciplinary approach of such patients is fundamental for a better outcome.