OPEN Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry | 21 Sep 2012
D Martino, M Stamelou and KP Bhatia
A growing number of progressive heredodegenerative conditions mimic the presentation of Huntington’s disease (HD). Differentiating among these HD-like syndromes is necessary when a patient with a combination of movement disorders, cognitive decline, behavioural abnormalities and progressive disease course proves negative to the genetic testing for HD causative mutations, that is, IT15 gene trinucleotide-repeat expansion. The differential diagnosis of HD-like syndromes is complex and may lead to unnecessary and costly investigations. We propose here a guide to this differential diagnosis focusing on a limited number of clinical features (‘red flags’) that can be identified through accurate clinical examination, collection of historical data and a few routine ancillary investigations. These features include the ethnic background of the patient, the involvement of the facio-bucco-lingual and cervical district by the movement disorder, the co-occurrence of cerebellar features and seizures, the presence of peculiar gait patterns and eye movement abnormalities, and an atypical progression of illness. Additional help may derive from the cognitive-behavioural presentation of the patient, as well as by a restricted number of ancillary investigations, mainly MRI and routine blood tests. These red flags should be constantly updated as the phenotypic characterisation and identification of more reliable diagnostic markers for HD-like syndromes progress over the following years.
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