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Orthopedics. 2011 Dec 6;34(12):e965-8. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20111021-26.

Herpes zoster virus: an unusual but potentially treatable cause of sciatica and foot drop.

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Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham, UK.


The herpes zoster virus is a rare but potential cause of acute motor weakness. This article describes 2 patients with drop foot secondary to an infection of varicella zoster who were incorrectly referred to an orthopedic clinic from their general practitioners. The first patient was a 74-year-old man who presented with weakness in the right foot and a vesicular rash. The pattern of disease supported the clinical diagnosis of shingles affecting the L5 motor and sensory division. No investigation was required, and the patient was treated with a foot drop splint. The second patient was a 71-year-old man who presented with right leg and foot weakness and a vesicular rash affecting his right buttock and posterior right thigh. Lumbar magnetic resonance excluded a stenotic lesion; electrophysiological studies supported the diagnosis of a lower motor neuron lesion. The patient was treated with a 1-week course of acyclovir and a foot drop splint. The correct diagnosis will aid in correct referral and will prompt management, which will potentially provide a faster and better outcome for the patient.

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