Discriminating long myelitis of neuromyelitis optica from sarcoidosis

Ann Neurol. 2016 Mar;79(3):437-47. doi: 10.1002/ana.24582. Epub 2016 Feb 12.


Objective: To compare longitudinally extensive myelitis in neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD) and spinal cord sarcoidosis (SCS).

Methods: We identified adult patients evaluated between 1996 and 2015 with SCS or NMOSD whose first myelitis episode was accompanied by a spinal cord lesion spanning ≥3 vertebral segments. All NMOSD patients were positive for aquaporin-4-immunoglobulin G, and all sarcoidosis cases were pathologically confirmed. Clinical characteristics were evaluated. Spine magnetic resonance imaging was reviewed by 2 neuroradiologists.

Results: We studied 71 patients (NMOSD, 37; SCS, 34). Sixteen (47%) SCS cases were initially diagnosed as NMOSD or idiopathic transverse myelitis. Median delay to diagnosis was longer for SCS than NMOSD (5 vs 1.5 months, p < 0.01). NMOSD myelitis patients were more commonly women, had concurrent or prior optic neuritis or intractable vomiting episodes more frequently, had shorter time to maximum deficit, and had systemic autoimmunity more often than SCS (p < 0.05). SCS patients had constitutional symptoms, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pleocytosis, and hilar adenopathy more frequently than NMOSD (p < 0.05); CSF hypoglycorrhachia (11%, p = 0.25) and elevated angiotensin-converting enzyme (18%, p = 0.30) were exclusive to SCS. Dorsal cord subpial gadolinium enhancement extending ≥2 vertebral segments and persistent enhancement >2 months favored SCS, and ringlike enhancement favored NMOSD (p < 0.05). Maximum disability was similar in both disorders.

Interpretation: SCS is an under-recognized cause of longitudinally extensive myelitis that commonly mimics NMOSD. We identified clinical, laboratory, systemic, and radiologic features that, taken together, help discriminate SCS from NMOSD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / diagnosis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sarcoidosis / diagnosis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Symptom Assessment / methods
  • Young Adult