Vitamin B12 deficiency neurological syndromes: a clinical, MRI and electrodiagnostic study.

BACKGROUND: Vegetarianism is an important cause of vitamin B12 deficiency, especially in countries like India. We managed 17 patients with neurological syndrome due to vitamin B12 deficiency in a tertiary care referral teaching hospital which caters to relatively affluent population. AIM: To evaluate neurophysiological and MRI changes in patients presenting with vitamin B12 deficiency neurological syndrome and interpret these is the light of reported autopsy findings. SETTING: Tertiary care referral teaching hospital.

METHODS: Patients with vitamin B12 deficiency neurological syndrome diagnosed by low serum vitamin B12 and/or megaloblastic bone marrow were subjected to clinical evaluation and spinal MRI. The neurophysiological tests included nerve conduction studies, tibial somatosensory evoked potential (SEP), motor evoked potential (MEP) and visual evoked potential (VEP) studies. The recovery was defined on the basis of 6 months Barthel Index score into complete, partial or poor. RESULTS: There were 17 patients with vitamin B12 deficiency neurological syndrome, 3 were females and 12 lactovegetarian. The clinical syndrome was that of myelopathy in 8, myeloneuropathy in 5, dementia myelopathy in 3 and neuropathy in 1 patient. All the patients had impaired joint position and vibration sensation in the lower limbs and 4 had in upper limbs as well.

 Lower limbs were spastic in 13 and upper limbs in 2 patients. Spinal MRI revealed T2 hyperintensity in cervicodorsal region in 6 and cord atrophy in 3 patients. Sural nerve conduction was abnormal in 8 and peroneal conduction in 5 patients. In one patient all sensory nerve conductions were unrecordable but motor conductions were normal. Tibial SEP was abnormal in 12 out of 15 and lower limb MEP in 8 out of 12 patients. P100 latency of VEP was prolonged in 7 out of 13 patients. Right to left asymmetry was present in tibial SEP in 4 and VEP in 2 patients. At 6 months followup 2 patients improved completely, 7 partially and 3 had poor recovery. Clinical recovery correlated with MEP but not with SEP or MRI changes.

CONCLUSION: The evoked potential and MRI changes in vitamin B12 deficiency neurological syndrome are consistent with focal demyelination of white matter in spinal cord and optic nerve. Myelopathic presentation is commoner and SEP is more frequently abnormal. The outcome at 6 months correlated with MEP changes.

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