J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 81:e55 doi:10.1136/jnnp.2010.226340.154
  • ABN Abstracts

POI13 Acute respiratory failure in a multiple sclerosis relapse: successful treatment with plasma exchange

  1. J Fuller
  1. Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle, UK
  1. Correspondence to maguirem{at}


Introduction Respiratory failure is an uncommon association with multiple sclerosis. We report on a patient with multiple sclerosis who developed bilateral diaphragmatic weakness and type II respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation, who was successfully treated with plasma exchange.

Case Report A 38-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis presented in May 2009 with horizontal diplopia, lower limb stiffness and unsteady gait. Examination revealed a left sixth nerve palsy, bulbar dysarthria, lower limb hypertonia and global hyperreflexia. MRI FLAIR imaging revealed new and extensive increased signal in the pons/medulla compatible with a brainstem relapse. She received 3 days of methylprednisolone. Following completion of steroids her condition deteriorated. She became agitated, tachyapnoeic, tachycardic with paradoxical abdominal wall movements and type II respiratory failure. She had sluggish pupillary responses and vestibulo-ocular reflex, bilateral facial weakness, bulbar dysfunction and spastic tetraparesis. She was intubated and taken to ITU continuing methylprednisolone. Two failed extubations on day 2 and 5 necessitated tracheostomy. On day 6 she commenced plasma exchange in view of ongoing ventilatory support. By day 18 she had returned to the ward. In August, brainstem signs had fully resolved and repeat MRI imaging showed impressive resolution.

Conclusions Respiratory failure is a rare complication of brainstem relapses and may respond to plasma exchange.

Visit the full archive of podcasts for JNNP here >>

Free sample
This recent issue is free to all users to allow everyone the opportunity to see the full scope and typical content of JNNP.
View free sample issue >>

Don't forget to sign up for content alerts so you keep up to date with all the articles as they are published.

Navigate This Article