Multiple sclerosis with predominant, severe cognitive impairment

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60 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe the characteristics of multiple sclerosis (MS) presenting with severe cognitive impairment as its primary disabling manifestation. Design: Retrospective case series. Setting: Tertiary referral center. Patients: Patients were identified through the Mayo Clinic data retrieval system (1996-2008) with definite MS (McDonald criteria) and severe cognitive impairment as their primary neurological symptom without accompanying significant MS-related impairment or alternative diagnosis for cognitive dysfunction. Twenty-three patients meeting inclusion criteria were compared regarding demographics, clinical course, and radiological features. Main Outcome Measures: Demographic, clinical, and radiological characteristics of the disease. Results: Twelve patients were men. The median age of the first clinical symptom suggestive of central nervous system demyelination was 33 years, and severe MS-related cognitive impairment developed at a median age of 39 years. Cognitive impairment could be dichotomized as subacute fulminant (n = 9) or chronic progressive (n=14) in presentation, which corresponded to subsequent relapsing or progressive MS courses. Study patients commonly exhibited psychiatric (65%), mild cerebellar (57%), and cortical symptoms and signs (eg, seizure, aphasia, apraxia) (39%). Fourteen of 21 (67%), where documented, smoked cigarettes. Brain magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated diffuse cerebral atrophy in 16 and gadolinium-enhancing lesions in 11. A symptomatic spinal cord magnetic resonance imaging lesions were present in 12 of 16 patients (75%). Immunomodulatory therapies were generally ineffective in improving these patients. Conclusions: We describe patients with MS whose clinical phenotype is characterized by severe cognitive dysfunction and prominent cortical and psychiatric signs presenting as a subacute fulminant or chronic progressive clinical course. Cigarette smokers may be overrepresented in this phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1139-1143
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of neurology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology

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