HTLV-1-associated myelopathy

Discussion:

The findings are consistent with HTLV-1-associated myelopathy. The longitudinal involvement circumscribed to the lateral columns is specific to this entity.

This patient was a native of Lima (Peru) who had been living in Europe for four years. 

Despite the fact that this type of infection is very rare in Europe, as well as its impact on the CNS, the myelopathy pattern and the patient's epidemiological context led to suspect HTLV-1.

The immunological study confirmed the diagnosis.

There is currently no specific treatment for this disease. Treatment is usually based on immunomodulators (steroids, plasmapheresis, pentoxifylline and interferon).

Differential diagnosis

Given the infrequency of this entity, spinal cord infarction, NMO and transverse myelitis were considered as possible alternative diagnoses at first.

Key Learning Points

  • The MRI finding of extensive longitudinal myelopathy encompasses a broad differential diagnosis; if there is circumscribed involvement of the lateral columns of the medulla and cord, the diagnosis of HTLV-1 myelopathy should be considered
  • Radiological control is recommended to assess the possible residual atrophy
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