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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

Julian Choi, Perin Suthakar and Farbod Farmand

Summary

We describe the case of a young Hispanic female who presented with thyrotoxicosis with seizures and ischemic stroke. She was diagnosed with a rare vasculopathy – moyamoya syndrome. After starting antithyroid therapy, her neurologic symptoms did not improve. Acute neurosurgical intervention had relieved her symptoms in the immediate post-operative period after re-anastomosis surgery. However, 2 post-operative days later, she was found to be in status epilepticus and in hyperthyroid state. She quickly deteriorated clinically and had expired a few days afterward. This is the second case in literature of a fatality in a patient with moyamoya syndrome and Graves’ disease. However, unlike the other case report, our patient had undergone successful revascularization surgery. We believe her underlying non-euthyroid state had potentiated her clinical deterioration. Case studies have shown positive correlation between uncontrolled hyperthyroidism and stroke-like symptoms in moyamoya syndrome. Mostly all patients with these two disease processes become symptomatic in marked hyperthyroid states. Thus, it may be either fluctuations in baseline thyroid function or thyrotoxicosis that potentiate otherwise asymptomatic moyamoya vasculopathy.

Learning points:

  • Awareness of the association between Graves’ disease and moyamoya syndrome in younger patients presenting with stroke-like symptoms.

  • Obtaining euthyroid states before undergoing revascularization surgery may protect the patient from perioperative mortality and morbidity.

  • Although moyamoya disease is usually thought to be genetically associated, there are reports that thyroid antibodies may play a role in its pathogenesis and have an autoimmune link.

  • Fluctuations in baseline thyroid function for patients with known Graves’ disease may be a potentiating factor in exacerbating moyamoya vasculopathy.