Myelopathy due to copper deficiency following gastrointestinal surgery

Arch Neurol. 2003 Dec;60(12):1782-5. doi: 10.1001/archneur.60.12.1782.


Background: Ataxic myelopathy due to copper deficiency has been described in ruminant animals and is called swayback. Neurological manifestations due to inherited copper deficiency secondary to the failure of intestinal copper absorption is well recognized as Menkes disease. The neurological consequences of acquired copper deficiency in humans are not well described.

Objective: To report 2 cases where patients developed a myelopathy with copper deficiency after gastrointestinal surgery.Patients Two patients developed a myelopathy many years after gastrointestinal surgery. Both had severe copper deficiency, which was the likely cause of the myelopathy.

Conclusions: Acquired copper deficiency may present as a myelopathy. Gastrointestinal surgery and resulting decreased copper absorption may be causative.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Aged
  • Copper / deficiency*
  • Copper / pharmacokinetics
  • Deficiency Diseases / complications
  • Deficiency Diseases / etiology
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / etiology*
  • Time Factors


  • Copper