Movement and other neurodegenerative syndromes in patients with systemic rheumatic diseases: A case series of 8 patients and review of the literature

Rikitha Menezes, Alexander Pantelyat, Izlem Izbudak, Julius Birnbaum, Li Yong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Patients with rheumatic diseases can present with movement and other neurodegenerative disorders. It may be underappreciated that movement and other neurodegenerative disorders can encompass a wide variety of disease entities. Such disorders are strikingly heterogeneous and lead to a wider spectrum of clinical injury than seen in Parkinson's disease. Therefore, we sought to stringently phenotype movement and other neurodegenerative disorders presenting in a case series of rheumatic disease patients. We integrated our findings with a review of the literature to understand mechanisms which may account for such a ubiquitous pattern of clinical injury. Seven rheumatic disease patients (5 Sjogren's syndrome patients, 2 undifferentiated connective tissue disease patients) were referred and could be misdiagnosed as having Parkinson's disease. However, all of these patients were ultimately diagnosed as having other movement or neurodegenerative disorders. Findings inconsistent with and more expansive than Parkinson's disease included cerebellar degeneration, dystonia with an alien-limb phenomenon, and nonfluent aphasias. A notable finding was that individual patients could be affected by cooccurring movement and other neurodegenerative disorders, each of which could be exceptionally rare (ie, prevalence of ∼1: 1000), and therefore with the collective probability that such disorders were merely coincidental and causally unrelated being as low as ∼1-per-billion. Whereas our review of the literature revealed that ubiquitous patterns of clinical injury were frequently associated with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings suggestive of a widespread vasculopathy, our patients did not have such neuroimaging findings. Instead, our patients could have syndromes which phenotypically resembled paraneoplastic and other inflammatory disorders which are known to be associated with antineuronal antibodies. We similarly identified immune-mediated and inflammatory markers of injury in a psoriatic arthritis patient who developed an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-plus syndrome after tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-inhibitor therapy. We have described a diverse spectrum of movement and other neurodegenerative disorders in our rheumatic disease patients. The widespread pattern of clinical injury, the propensity of our patients to present with co-occurring movement disorders, and the lack of MRI neuroimaging findings suggestive of a vasculopathy collectively suggest unique patterns of immune-mediated injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere971
JournalMedicine (United States)
Issue number31
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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