Asymptomatic central pontine myelinolysis: a case report

Case Rep Neurol. 2012 Sep;4(3):167-72. doi: 10.1159/000345225. Epub 2012 Nov 3.


Introduction: Central pontine myelinolysis (CPM) is an acquired demyelinating lesion of the basis pontis that typically occurs after rapid correction of hyponatremia. There are only a few reported cases of patients without symptoms that have demonstrated CPM on imaging.

Case presentation: We report the case of a 26-year-old Hispanic male with history of alcohol abuse who was transferred to our medical center for acute onset diffuse abdominal pain. During his work up, a computed tomography scan demonstrated a large pancreatic mass. He underwent an endoscopic guided biopsy which demonstrated a rare and aggressive natural killer T cell lymphoma. His laboratory values were consistent with hyponatremia, which the medical team gently corrected. An MRI was performed for staging purposes which revealed findings consistent with CPM. A full neurological exam demonstrated no deficits.

Materials and methods: WE CONDUCTED A PUBMED SEARCH USING THE FOLLOWING KEYWORDS: asymptomatic, central, pontine, and myelinolysis in order to find other case reports of asymptomatic CPM.

Results: Of the 29 results, only 6 previous case reports with English language abstracts of asymptomatic CPM were present since 1995.

Conclusion: Despite slow correction of hyponatremia, CPM can be an important consequence, especially in patients with chronic alcoholism. Although this patient did not demonstrate any neurological deficits, the fact that there were changes seen on MRI should caution physicians in aggressively treating hyponatremia. Furthermore, if there is a decision to treat, then fluid restriction and reversal of precipitating factors (i.e. diuretics) should be used initially, unless there is concern for hypovolemia.

Keywords: Alcoholism; Central pontine myelinolysis; Hyponatremia; Malnutrition.

Publication types

  • Case Reports