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Hemisensory syndrome is associated with a low diagnostic yield and a nearly uniform benign prognosis

Abstract

Objective: To describe the diagnostic yield and prognosis for patients with hemisensory syndrome.

Background: The aetiology, utility of diagnostic procedures, and outcome of hemisensory syndrome in patients with exclusive hemibody complaints having only subjective sensory abnormalities on examination is unknown.

Methods: Patients were prospectively identified with hemisensory syndrome in a tertiary care institution from 1998–2002. Diagnostic procedures were analysed for sensitivity and clinical follow up was performed.

Results: Thirty four patients, 25 (74%) women, of age 35 (SD 11) years were identified. The hemisensory syndrome occurred on the left side in 23 (68%) cases. Neuroimaging of the brain demonstrated diagnostic abnormalities representing ischaemic aetiology in one case. Other diagnostic testing including cerebrospinal fluid examination, electrophysiological testing, carotid ultrasonography, echocardiography, and blood testing revealed no diagnostic abnormalities. Sixteen patients (47%) continued to complain of hemisensory difficulties after all investigations were completed at 9.6 (5.8) days. One patient with a history of systemic lupus erythematosus and positive antiphospholipid antibodies had a second event diagnosed as stroke seven months after presentation. Clinical follow up at 16 (7) months revealed persisting symptoms in 6 (20%) of 30 patients. Six (50%) of 12 patients agreeing to psychiatric assessment received diagnoses of personality or mood disorders.

Conclusions: Diagnostic yield in hemisensory syndrome is low, and prognosis is almost always uniformly benign. The author advocates careful assessment of medical history and consideration for neuroimaging in this group of patients.

  • hemisensory deficit
  • benign sensory changes
  • CT, computed tomography
  • MRI, magnetic resonance imaging
  • SLE, systemic lupus erythematosus
  • CRPS, complex regional pain syndrome

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