Fatal encephalitis in a patient with chronic graft-versus-host disease

Marosi, C.; Budka, H.; Grimm, G.; Zeitlhofer, J.; Sluga, E.; Brunner, C.; Schneeweiss, B.; Volc, B.; Bettelheim, P.; Panzer, S.

Bone Marrow Transplantation 6(1): 53-57


ISSN/ISBN: 0268-3369
PMID: 2390633
Document Number: 366314
A 32-year-old male patient with chronic myelocytic leukemia in accelerated phase received a bone marrow allograft from his 42-year-old HLA/MLC-identical sister. He recovered from acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) grade III-IV of skin, liver and gut, but chronic GVHD of progressive onset developed. On day 556 post-graft severe thrombocytopenia was resistant to prednisolone, cyclophosphamide and high dose immunoglobulin. Splenectomy was followed by a normalization of platelet counts. The subsequent clinical course was characterized by progressive muscular atrophy and weight loss. Dysphagia, dysarthria, cachexia and ultimately recurrent pneumonic episodes ensued. The cachectic patient developed a highly abnormal breathing pattern with hypoventilation and intermittent apnea requiring mechanical ventilation. Auditory evoked potentials revealed a considerable dysfunction of the brainstem. The patient died on day 1120 post-graft from pneumonia, aggravated by thoracic muscular insufficiency. Postmortem examination revealed diffuse predominantly lymphoid perivascular infiltration in meninges and CNS tissue; proliferation of activated microglial cells expressing the HLA-DR antigen was prominent in the brainstem. These histologic changes are similar to those observed in the CNS in experimental GVHD. We suggest that this case represents the first documentation of CNS involvement in chronic GVHD.

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