Intracerebral Whipple's disease diagnosed by stereotactic biopsy: a case report and review of the literature

Neurosurgery. 1999 Jan;44(1):203-9. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199901000-00123.


Objective and importance: This case demonstrates the rare occurrence of intracerebral Whipple's disease in a patient lacking classic systemic manifestations of the disease. Because of the nonspecific presentation and the typically deep-seated location of cerebral lesions in these patients, definitive diagnosis is frequently problematic. We present the first reported use of stereotaxy-guided brain biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of isolated intracranial Whipple's disease.

Clinical presentation: The patient was a 36-year-old man who presented with a 4-month history of progressive lethargy, hypersomnia, behavioral changes, and weight gain. The results of the physical examination were remarkable only for findings of hypogonadism. Subsequent laboratory evaluation confirmed the diagnosis of hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism, with low levels of testosterone, luteinizing hormone, cortisol, and prolactin.

Intervention: A magnetic resonance image of the brain demonstrated hyperintense lesions on T2-weighted images in the regions of the right fornix, hypothalamus, and putamen that subsequently enhanced with intravenously administered contrast medium. A biopsy was then obtained from the right putaminal lesion under stereotactic guidance. Histopathological analysis of the tissue revealed findings consistent with intracerebral Whipple's disease that were subsequently confirmed using electron microscopy.

Conclusion: Intracerebral Whipple's disease should be included in the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with progressive dementia and cognitive decline. In these patients, lesions have typically been observed in the hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus, basal ganglia, insular cortex, and cerebellum. As evidenced by our case, stereotaxy affords clinicians the attractive option of a minimally invasive technique by which to obtain tissue from such deep-seated areas. A review of this rare neurosurgical entity is presented.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis
  • Brain Diseases / pathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Putamen / pathology*
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Whipple Disease / diagnosis
  • Whipple Disease / pathology*