Acute intermittent porphyria presenting as progressive muscular atrophy in a young black man

Christine Herculine Albertyn, Mark Sonderup, Alan Bryer, Anne Corrigall, Peter Meissner, Jeannine M Heckmann
2014 South African Medical Journal  
Acute intermittent porphyria (AIP), the most common porphyria affecting the nervous system, typically presents with neurovisceral crises followed by a motor neuropathy. We describe an unusual presentation in a young man with molecularly confirmed AIP. Case presentation A 23-year-old university student was referred to Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa, with suspected motor neuron disease. Over the preceding year he had noticed insidious progressive weakness of both upper limbs.
more » ... th upper limbs. Initially, the weakness affected grip strength bilaterally, but within 9 months progressed to also involve proximal arm function. Ten months after onset, he developed profound leg weakness over a period of days, rendering him unable to walk without support. He had no bowel or bladder sphincter involvement and no bulbar symptoms, but complained of a weak cough. He had not experienced any neuropsychiatric symptoms or abdominal pain. Examination showed a thin and wasted man with marked amyotrophy involving all four limbs, both proximally and distally (Fig. 1) . He was bed-bound, and unable to turn in bed, feed or dress himself. He had mild symmetrical facial weakness and a weak cough with a reduced vital capacity (<80% of expected). He had truncal weakness and a flaccid quadriparesis, but no fasciculations were noted: upper limb strength Medical Research Council (MRC) grade 1/5 proximal, 2/5 distal; lower limb strength 2/5 proximal, 3/5 distal. He was areflexic in the legs with either hyporeflexia (biceps and supinator reflexes) or areflexia (triceps reflexes) in the arms. Findings on sensory examination were normal apart from a patch of reduced sensibility for pinprick and touch over the left anteromedial thigh region.
doi:10.7196/samj.7785 fatcat:5mlrhr27t5gnxjnvui7taydhle