UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Paraneoplastic sensorimotor neuropathy and ventral cauda equina nerve root enhancement as initial presentation of small cell lung carcinoma: a case study Alsaeed, Meshari; Lim, Chloe A. R.; Plecash, Alyson; Chen, Tychicus


Background Paraneoplastic neurologic syndromes (PNS) are rare, however, are important to recognize as oftentimes they precede the detection of an occult malignancy. Our case highlights a rare circumstance of paraneoplastic radiculoneuropathy and the importance of recognizing PNS in antibody negative disease, as is the case in up to 16% of sensory neuronopathies, and the process of excluding other etiologies. Case presentation We discuss a 51-year-old man who presented with asymmetric subacute sensorimotor deficits in the lower limbs. Initial clinical examination showed weakness throughout the right lower limb and normal strength on the left with objective numbness in a mixed dermatomal and stocking-glove distribution. Electrophysiology was consistent with axonal sensorimotor neuropathy. Cerebrospinal fluid showed pleocytosis and elevated protein. Intravenous immunoglobulin treatment was given with some improvement in pain symptoms but no measurable motor improvement. Following clinical and electrophysiologic deterioration the patient was transferred to a tertiary centre. Magnetic resonance imaging of the spine showed smooth enhancement of the ventral caudal nerve roots. Chest computed tomography revealed left lower vascular scarring. Further positron emission tomography scan imaging identified fluorodeoxyglucose avid right lung lymphadenopathy. Bronchoscopy-guided biopsy revealed small cell lung carcinoma. Onconeural and antiganglioside antibodies were negative. The patient was then transferred to a medical oncology ward where he underwent chemoradiotherapy and subsequently experienced improvement in his motor function, supporting that his neurological condition was indeed secondary to a paraneoplastic process. Conclusions Onconeural negative paraneoplastic radiculoneuropathy can precede diagnosis of small cell lung carcinoma. If considered early and adequately investigated, it can allow earlier diagnosis and treatment of underlying malignancy, improving overall and neurological prognosis.

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