Subclinical Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy with pediatric acute spinal cord onset: more than meets the eye

BMC Neurol. 2018 Dec 27;18(1):220. doi: 10.1186/s12883-018-1227-9.


Background: Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) is a mitochondrial disease characterized by visual loss consequent to optic nerve atrophy. In some cases, LHON is associated with heterogeneous neurological extraocular manifestations and is referred to as "Leber plus disease"; rarely it is associated with a multiple sclerosis (MS)-like syndrome known as Harding disease, but no pediatric extraocular acute spinal onset is reported.

Case presentation: We describe the case of a 5-year-old girl carrying the G3460A mtDNA mutation who was referred to clinical examination for bilateral upper and lower limb weakness with no sign of optic neuropathy. Spinal cord MRI showed hyperintense signal alterations in T2-weighted and restricted diffusion in DWI sequences in the anterior portion of the cervical and dorsal spinal cord resembling a spinal cord vascular injury. No association between this mutation and pediatric spinal cord lesions has previously been reported. Alternative diagnostic hypotheses, including infective, ischemic and inflammatory disorders, were not substantiated by clinical and instrumental investigations.

Conclusions: Our case reports a novel pediatric clinical manifestation associated with the m.3460G > A mtDNA mutation, broadening the clinical spectrum of this disease. Early identification of new cases and monitoring of carriers beginning in childhood is important to prevent neurological deterioration and preserve long-term function.

Keywords: Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy; Mitochondrial pathology; Pediatric; Spinal cord.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mutation
  • Optic Atrophy, Hereditary, Leber / genetics*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*
  • Vision Disorders / etiology*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial