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Abnormal deposits of chromium in the pathological human brain.
  1. S Duckett


    Three patients presented with encephalopathies: an undiagnosed degenerative disease of the brain, a degenerative cerebral disease in a patient with a myeloma but without a myelomatous deposit in the CNS and a malignant astrocytoma. Perivascular pallidal deposits (vascular siderosis) containing chromium, phosphorus and calcium plus sometimes traces of other elements were present in the three cases. Such deposits were present in the pallidal parenchyma and around vessels in the cerebellum in one case. Calcium and phosphorus are always present in any CNS calcification but the presence of chromium has not been reported. Chromium and its compounds (ingested, injected or inhaled) are toxic to humans and animals in trace doses. Approximately 900 cases of chromium intoxication have been reported and usually have had dermatological or pulmonary lesions (including cancer) but there is no report of involvement of the CNS. Sublethal doses of chromium nitrate injected intraperitoneally in rats and rabbits results in the presence of chromium in the brain. A thorough investigation was made to find the source of the chromium in these patients. Chromium was found to be present in trace amounts in the radiological contrast agents administered to these patients and in the KCl replacement solution and in mylanta, an antacid, given to one case. The evidence that chromium induced pathological changes in these three brains is circumstantial but shows that chromium can penetrate the human brain. This study indicates that vascular siderosis found in the brains of the majority of middle-aged and elderly humans is not simply an anecdotal pathological curiosity, but that it can serve as a route of entry for toxic products into the brain.

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