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01.12.2016 | Case report | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

Journal of Medical Case Reports 1/2016

Atypical facial pain in multiple sclerosis caused by spinal cord seizures: a case report and review of the literature

Journal of Medical Case Reports > Ausgabe 1/2016
Kunal Gupta, Kim J. Burchiel
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

KG and KJB evaluated the patient, and analyzed and interpreted the patient data regarding the neurological disease. KG and KJB wrote the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Pain is a very commonly reported symptom and often drives patients to seek medical attention; however, it can prove a very difficult diagnostic conundrum and even more challenging to treat effectively. Accurately determining the primary pain generator is key, as certain conditions have efficacious medical and surgical treatments. We present a rare case of a man with multiple sclerosis presenting with spinal cord seizures causing dermatomal pain. While pain has been reported in the context of motor symptoms attributed to spinal cord seizures in a small number of spinal cord conditions, this case represents the first report of pain exclusively associated with spinal cord demyelination in multiple sclerosis.

Case presentation

We present the case of a 60-year-old Caucasian male patient with multiple sclerosis who reported a 5-year history of progressive pain in his left retroauricular region and superior left shoulder. He described this pain as sharp, episodic, and unrelenting and he was referred for consideration for surgical treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. He had no evidence of trigeminal nerve root pathology on magnetic resonance imaging, but did show dorsolateral spinal cord demyelination at the C3–4 level. His symptoms therefore represent an unusual presentation of spinal cord seizures.


Spinal cord seizures are rarely reported in multiple sclerosis and typically present with focal motor seizures. These have been reported to present with cramping dysesthesia and pruritus, though rarely with primary pain. Knowledge of uncommon pain presentations is critical for the increasing number of primary care physicians caring for patients with such chronic neurological diseases as it will guide management and referral patterns. This knowledge is also important for the treating neurologists and neurosurgeons. Neurosurgical intervention for trigeminal neuralgia poses considerable surgical risk, and it should be avoided where possible. Identifying the primary pain generator is, therefore, critical for accurate diagnosis and management.

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