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A conversion disorder or a stroke? A proximal basilar artery thrombosis induced ‘locked-in’ syndrome in a young Caucasian woman


The incidence of the basilar artery occlusion is relatively low among all strokes. Clinical presentation varies depending on the location of the occlusion. The symptoms include mild dysarthria to coma or sudden death. The initial subtle clinical presentation could lead to misdiagnosis. Psychogenic diagnosis in the differential could make the timely diagnosis more difficult. This case involves a 34-year-old woman presenting with a gradual onset of slurred speech. The initial CT scan of head did not indicate any intracranial pathology, and she was initially treated for an anxiety/conversion disorder. With progression of the pathology, the patient quickly developed a ‘locked-in’ syndrome, with preserved high cognitive function and vertical eye movement, but otherwise total loss of motor function. The diagnosis was confirmed with MRI/MR angiography studies, which indicated thrombosis of the proximal basilar artery. Serological studies did not disclose any relevant risk factors.

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