Lateral medullary infarction with cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction: an unusual presentation with review of the literature

Clin Auton Res. 2018 Dec;28(6):569-576. doi: 10.1007/s10286-018-0502-6. Epub 2018 Jan 24.


Purpose: We report an unusual case of lateral medullary infarction presenting with orthostatic hypotension with pre-syncope without vertigo or Horner's syndrome.

Methods: Case report with review of the literature.

Results: A 67-year-old man presented with pre-syncope and ataxia without vertigo. Initial brain CT and MRI were normal. Neurological evaluation revealed right-beating nystagmus with left gaze, vertical binocular diplopia, right upper-extremity dysmetria, truncal ataxia with right axial lateropulsion, and right-facial and lower extremity hypoesthesia. Bedside blood pressure measurements disclosed orthostatic hypotension. He had normal sinus rhythm on telemetry and normal ejection fraction on echocardiogram. A repeat brain MRI disclosed an acute right dorsolateral medullary infarct. Autonomic testing showed reduced heart rate variability during paced deep breathing, attenuated late phase II and phase IV overshoot on Valsalva maneuver, and a fall of 25 mmHg of blood pressure at the end of a 10-min head-up tilt with no significant change in heart rate. These results were consistent with impaired sympathetic and parasympathetic cardiovascular reflexes. He was discharged to acute rehabilitation a week later with residual right dysmetria and ataxia.

Conclusion: Lateral medullary infarctions are usually reported as partial presentations of classical lateral medullary syndrome with accompanying unusual symptoms ranging from trigeminal neuralgias to hiccups. Pre-syncope from orthostatic hypotension is a rare presentation. In the first 3-4 days, absence of early DWI MRI findings is possible in small, dorsolateral medullary infarcts with sensory disturbances. Physicians should be aware of this presentation, as early diagnosis and optimal therapy are associated with good prognosis.

Keywords: Cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction; Dorsolateral medullary infarction; Lateral medullary infarction; Lateral medullary syndrome; Wallenberg syndrome.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / etiology*
  • Lateral Medullary Syndrome / complications*
  • Lateral Medullary Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Male