Acute confusion is a common symptom of physical illness in the older patient. In the majority, it is transient and resolves on treatment of precipitants. In a subset of patients, however, neurological decline is progressive, raising concern about a serious underlying cause. We describe the case of a 71-year-old woman who developed progressive cognitive impairment following insertion of a permanent pacemaker for sinoatrial arrests. An initial diagnosis of delirium secondary to a urinary tract infection was suspected; however, the patient became increasingly confused despite treatment. Laboratory tests revealed serum anti-Hu paraneoplastic antibodies, and CT chest identified an occult lung tumour. Cervical lymph node histopathology confirmed a diagnosis of small cell carcinoma of the lung. Although a rare cause of confusion, paraneoplastic encephalomyelitis should be recognised early to allow timely identification and treatment of the associated cancer.
- general surgery
- medical education
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Contributors CM and SM provided clinical care to the patient and prepared the case report manuscript.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Guardian consent obtained.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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