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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2010 Dec;81(12):1369-71. doi: 10.1136/jnnp.2009.178657. Epub 2010 Jun 28.

Vitamin B12-responsive severe leukoencephalopathy and autonomic dysfunction in a patient with "normal" serum B12 levels.

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  • 1Department of Neuro-oncology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA.


Leukoencephalopathy and autonomic dysfunction have been described in individuals with very low serum B(12) levels (<200 pg/ml), in addition to psychiatric changes, neuropathy, dementia and subacute combined degeneration. Elevated homocysteine and methylmalonic acid levels are considered more sensitive and specific for evaluating truly functional B(12) deficiency. A previously healthy 62-year-old woman developed depression and cognitive deficits with autonomic dysfunction that progressed over the course of 5 years. The patient had progressive, severe leukoencephalopathy on multiple MRI scans over 5 years. Serum B(12) levels ranged from 267 to 447 pg/ml. Homocysteine and methylmalonic acid levels were normal. Testing for antibody to intrinsic factor was positive, consistent with pernicious anaemia. After treatment with intramuscular B(12) injections (1000 μg daily for 1 week, weekly for 6 weeks, then monthly), she made a remarkable clinical recovery but remained amnesic for major events of the last 5 years. Repeat MRI showed partial resolution of white matter changes. Serum B(12), homocysteine and methylmalonic acid levels are unreliable predictors of B(12)-responsive neurologic disorders, and should be thoroughly investigated and presumptively treated in patients with unexplained leukoencephalopathy because even long-standing deficits may be reversible.

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