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Papers of the Week

2021 Mar 20




Tabes Dorsalis in a Patient Presenting With Right Lower Extremity Paresthesia and Cervical Spine Pain.


Creech KT, Patel KM, Chaudhry U
Cureus. 2021 Mar 20; 13(3):e14011.
PMID: 33884252.


Syphilitic myelitis, also known as tabes dorsalis, is a disease affecting the posterior columns of the spinal cord and dorsal roots and presents as sensory ataxia and neuropathic pain and less commonly as paresthesia and gastrointestinal disturbance. Tabes dorsalis is the clinical manifestation of a previous infection with syphilis, and the average latency period from initial infection to presentation of symptoms is approximately 25 years. This is a rarely encountered manifestation of syphilis since the widespread usage of antibiotics. Penicillin G is the mainstay therapy of neurosyphilis and has been shown to improve and resolve spinal cord lesions associated with tertiary syphilis. We present a case of tabes dorsalis in a 56-year-old female with a history of extensive autoimmune disease who initially presented with neck pain and numbness of the right lower extremity. The unique nature of this case lies in the patient's clinical course, as her symptoms were initially attributed to her history of autoimmune disease. A reactive CSF-VDRL (cerebrospinal fluid Venereal Disease Research Laboratory) test and MRI findings led clinicians to suspect neurosyphilis and begin penicillin G. The patient began to show significant clinical improvement after penicillin G therapy was begun and was discharged to a rehabilitation facility to continue antibiotics and begin aggressive physical therapy.