Paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis, an uncommon presentation of a common cancer: Case report and discussion

Sarmad Said, Chad J. Cooper, Edgar Reyna, Haider Alkhateeb, Jesus Diaz, Zeina Nahleh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Challenging diferential diagnosis Background: Paraneoplastic neurological disorders (PND) are defned as remote efects on the nervous system that are not caused directly by the tumor, its metastases, or metabolic disruptions. This syndrome occurs in less than 1 per 10,000 patients diagnosed with a malignancy. Many antibodies are found in the central nervous system in PND, the most well known are Anti-Hu, Tr, CV2 Ta, Yo, Ri and amphiphysin. Paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis occurs due to involvement of the limbic system secondary to an autoimmune response to neurons of the brain provoked by the antibodies. Patients, thus, present with seizures, changes in mood, memory, and personality. Case Report: Fifty-nine years-old female patient presented with seizures, decreased concentration and memory changes. Laboratory workup was remarkable for hyponatremia. Further workup included brain computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which suggested a diagnosis of encephalitis for limbic encephalitis. Anti-Hu, anti-Ma and NMDA-receptor antibodies were requested of which Anti Hu antibodies were positive. Transbronchial biopsy was obtained which confrmed the diagnosis of small cell lung cancer. Conclusions: A very high index of suspicion should thus be present when patients present with paraneoplastic abnormalities. It must be emphasized that limbic encephalitis (LE) occurs at an early stage of the disease development and therefore the detection of paraneoplastic LE can lead to a quicker identifcation of the underlying malignancy and a better outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-394
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Case Reports
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Limbic system
  • Paraneoplastic disorder
  • Seizures and memory changes
  • Small cell lung cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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