A paraneoplastic syndrome misdiagnosed as ALS: What are the red flags? A case report and review of the literature

J Neuroimmunol. 2021 Jun 19;358:577635. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2021.577635. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Background Paraneoplastic motor neuron disease (PMND) is a rare, non-classical form of paraneoplastic neurological syndrome (PNS). Anti-Hu and anti-CV2/CRMP5 PNS are mostly associated with small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and consist of highly variable clinical syndromes, including sensory neuronopathy, cerebellar ataxia and/or limbic encephalitis. However, substantial motor impairment is uncommon, particularly when no sensory dysfunction co-exists. Case A 72-year-old man with a recent diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was referred to our department of neurology for evaluation. The patient sub-acutely developed progressive neurological dysfunction including erectile dysfunction, behavioral changes, limb weakness, dysphagia, anorexia, as well as worsening stridor that necessitated tracheostomy due to bilateral vocal cord paralysis (BVCP). Neurological examination revealed motor weakness of upper and lower motor neuron origin with autonomic and cognitive dysfunction. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis demonstrated pleocytosis, elevated protein, presence of oligoclonal bands (OCB), and neuronal antibody testing was positive for anti-Hu and anti-CV2/CRMP5. Based on these findings a diagnosis of a PNS was made. Evaluation for malignancy was negative, and immunosuppressive/immunomodulatory treatment was initiated but had little effect during fifteen months of follow-up. Conclusions Although PMND is very rare, in an atypical presentation, especially with features that are not usually present in ALS such as autonomic dysfunction, sensory disturbance or cognitive decline, this etiology should be in the differential diagnosis.

PMID:34217018 | DOI:10.1016/j.jneuroim.2021.577635