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A neurological rarity not to be missed: cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis
  1. M Rafiq1,2,
  2. N Sharrack3,
  3. P J Shaw1,2,
  4. M Hadjivassiliou1
  1. 1Department of Neurology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Academic Neurology Unit, Department of Neuroscience, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  3. 3Birmingham University Medical School, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr M Hadjivassiliou, Department of Neurology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JF, UK; m.hadjivassiliou{at}

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Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX) is a rare inborn error of bile acid metabolism that manifests as a triad of neurological dysfunction (usually ataxia), tendon xanthomata and early-onset cataracts. We describe three patients with CTX, two of whom presented to a specialist ataxia clinic without a diagnosis. The third patient presented to a neuromuscular clinic. We discuss the clinical features, pathophysiology and treatment of CTX. As the condition is treatable, this is a neurological rarity not to be missed.

The case histories

Patient 1

A 37-year-old woman presented to the ataxia clinic with 1 year of increasing unsteadiness and episodes of recent falls. She had behavioural problems from an early age and had Asperger's syndrome. She had undergone bilateral cataract extraction at the age of 10 years. She also had diarrhoea as a child. She had three older siblings all of whom were well with no other family history of neurological illness.

On examination, she had an ataxic gait, increased tone in all four limbs with brisk reflexes and bilaterally extensor plantars. Despite the absence of tendon xanthomata, the combination of ataxia and early-onset cataracts prompted testing for serum cholestanol. This was significantly raised, in keeping with the diagnosis of CTX. She also had significantly increased urinary bile acids.

MRI of the brain showed diffuse symmetrical high T2 signal changes affecting the deep cerebellar nuclei and extending into the white matter of both cerebellar hemispheres (figure 1). In addition, there were multiple white matter lesions in both cerebral hemispheres, which were largely peripheral. There was mild cerebellar atrophy. The patient was treated with chenodeoxycholic acid (CDA) and statins. On follow-up, she appeared to …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.