Kantonsspital St.Gallen

De novo status epilepticus with isolated aphasia

Dominique Flügel, Olaf Chan-Hi Kim, Ansgar Felbecker & Barbara Tettenborn


Sudden onset of aphasia is usually due to stroke. Rapid diagnostic workup is necessary if reperfusion therapy is considered. Ictal aphasia is a rare condition but has to be excluded. Perfusion imaging may differentiate acute ischemia from other causes. In dubious cases, EEG is required but is time-consuming and laborious. We report a case where we considered de novo status epilepticus as a cause of aphasia without any lesion even at follow-up. A 62-year-old right-handed woman presented to the emergency department after nurses found her aphasic. She had undergone operative treatment of varicosis 3 days earlier. Apart from hypertension and obesity, no cardiovascular risk factors and no intake of medication other than paracetamol were reported. Neurological examination revealed global aphasia and right pronation in the upper extremity position test. Computed tomography with angiography and perfusion showed no abnormalities. Electroencephalogram performed after the CT scan showed left-sided slowing with high-voltage rhythmic 2/s delta waves but no clear ictal pattern. Intravenous lorazepam did improve EEG slightly, while aphasia did not change. Lumbar puncture was performed which likely excluded encephalitis. Magnetic resonance imaging showed cortical pathological diffusion imaging (restriction) and cortical hyperperfusion in the left parietal region. Intravenous anticonvulsant therapy under continuous EEG resolved neurological symptoms. The patient was kept on anticonvulsant therapy. Magnetic resonance imaging after 6 months showed no abnormalities along with no clinical abnormalities.

Magnetic resonance imaging findings were only subtle, and EEG was without clear ictal pattern, so the diagnosis of aphasic status remains with some uncertainty. However, status epilepticus can mimic stroke symptoms and has to be considered in patients with aphasia even when no previous stroke or structural lesions are detectable and EEG shows no epileptic discharges. Epileptic origin is favored when CT or MR imaging reveal no hypoperfusion. In this case, MRI was superior to CT in detecting hyperperfusion. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "Status Epilepticus".
citation Flügel D, Kim O C H, Felbecker A, Tettenborn B. De novo status epilepticus with isolated aphasia. Epilepsy Behav 2015; 49:198-202.
type journal paper/review (English)
date of publishing 01-06-2015
journal title Epilepsy Behav (49)
ISSN electronic 1525-5069
pages 198-202
PubMed 26044094
DOI 10.1016/j.yebeh.2015.05.009