Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease with focal findings: caveats to current diagnostic criteria

Neurol Int. 2013 Feb 15;5(1):e1. doi: 10.4081/ni.2013.e1. Print 2013 Feb 11.


The clinical diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is largely based on the 1998 World Health Organization diagnostic criteria. Unfortunately, rigid compliance with these criteria may result in failure to recognize sporadic CJD (sCJD), especially early in its course when focal findings predominate and traditional red flags are not yet present. A 61-year-old man presented with a 3-week history of epilepsia partialis continua (jerking of the left upper extremity) and a 2-week history of forgetfulness and left hemiparesis; left hemisensory neglect was also detected on admission. Repeated brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed areas of restricted diffusion in the cerebral cortex, initially on the right but later spreading to the left. Electroence-phalography (EEG) on hospital days 7, 10, and 14 showed right-sided periodic lateralized epileptiform discharges. On day 20, the EEG showed periodic sharp wave complexes leading to a diagnosis of probable sCJD and subsequently to definite sCJD with brain biopsy. Neurological decline was relatively fast with generalized myoclonus and akinetic mutism developing within 7 weeks from the onset of illness. CJD was not immediately recognized because of the patient's focal/lateralized manifestations. Focal/lateralized clinical, EEG, and MRI findings are not uncommon in sCJD and EEG/MRI results may not be diagnostic in the early stages of sCJD. Familiarity with these caveats and with the most current criteria for diagnosing probable sCJD (University of California San Francisco 2007, MRI-CJD Consortium 2009) will enhance the ability to recognize sCJD and implement early safety measures.

Keywords: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; EEG; MRI.; epilepsia partialis continua; periodic lateralized epileptiform discharges; periodic sharp wave complexes; sporadic CJD.

Publication types

  • Case Reports