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Rheumatoid Meningitis: Clinical Characteristics, Diagnostic Evaluation, and Treatment

Author

Neurohospitalist. 2020 Apr;10(2):88-94.doi: 10.1177/1941874419859769. Epub 2019 Jun 30.

Angela M Parsons 1, Fawad Aslam 2, Marie F Grill 1, Allen J Aksamit 3, Brent P Goodman 1

Author Information

1 Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ, USA.

2 Division of Rheumatology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ, USA.

3 Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA.

Abstract

Background and purpose: Due to the potential for high mortality and neurologic complications of rheumatoid meningitis (RM), awaiting biopsy confirmation may delay vital treatment intervention. Our aim was to describe the clinical presentations of RM in our population and determine whether meningeal biopsy impacted diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was completed for patients at Mayo Clinic with a diagnosis of RM within the last 28 years. Those with identified alternative inflammatory, infectious, or neoplastic causes of pachymeningitis or leptomeningitis were excluded.

Results: Fourteen patients meeting inclusion/exclusion criteria were identified. All patients were positive for rheumatoid factor or cyclic citrullinated peptide. All patients had magnetic resonance imaging abnormalities characterized by pachymeningeal and/or leptomeningeal enhancement. Of the 10 patients who underwent biopsy, nonspecific findings were seen in 74%. All patients except one were treated with corticosteroids with subsequent symptomatic improvement. Radiographic improvement or resolution was seen in 10 (83%) of 12. Patients improved with corticosteroid treatment, including those who were diagnosed with RM on clinical basis without undergoing a biopsy as well.

Conclusions: This retrospective review displays the myriad of clinical presentations of RM. It also suggests that with appropriate exclusion of infectious, neoplastic, and other autoimmune etiologies, biopsy may not be necessary to initiate treatment.