BACKGROUND: Acute flaccid myelitis is a serious condition of the spinal cord. More than 80% of patients experience a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection prior to acute flaccid myelitis development. Enterovirus A71 is known to circulate in Denmark, and has previously been associated with severe neurological symptoms. In this case report we describe acute flaccid rhombencephalomyelitis with radiculitis in an infant with an enterovirus infection.
CASE PRESENTATION: The 8-month-old male of Asian origin presented with fever and gastrointestinal symptoms, followed by severe neurological deficits such as flaccid paralysis of the neck and upper extremities. An initial magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain was normal, and the boy was treated for encephalitis. A follow-up magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain and spinal cord 1 week later showed the development of pathological symmetrical gray matter hyperintensity lesions on T2-weighted images in the brainstem and upper medulla spinalis, and nerve enhancement in the terminal thread of the spinal cord and the cervical roots; findings consistent with rhombencephalomyelitis with radiculitis causing flaccid paralysis. Enterovirus A71 was detected in both nasopharyngeal and fecal specimens. Other differential diagnostic etiologies of viral and bacterial encephalitis, including poliovirus, were excluded.
CONCLUSIONS: This is the first case in Denmark of a patient diagnosed with acute flaccid rhombencephalomyelitis strongly linked to an enterovirus A71 infection. This case emphasizes the diagnostic importance of combining a history of respiratory and/or gastrointestinal illness, fever, and delayed onset of varying degrees of paralysis with progressive characteristic spinal and brain lesions. Analysis of respiratory, fecal, and cerebrospinal samples for the presence of enterovirus, and eliminating other differential pathogens, is essential to confirm the diagnosis.