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01.12.2018 | Case report | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Journal of Medical Case Reports 1/2018

Low mood, visual hallucinations, and falls – heralding the onset of rapidly progressive probable sporadic Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in a 73-year old: a case report

Journal of Medical Case Reports > Ausgabe 1/2018
Daniel Martin Klotz, Rose Sarah Penfold



Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease is a rare and rapidly fatal neurodegenerative disease. Since clinicians may see only very few cases during their professional career, it is important to be familiar with the clinical presentation and progression, to perform appropriate investigations, and allow for quick diagnosis.

Case presentation

A 73-year-old British Caucasian woman presented with acute confusion of 2 weeks’ duration on a background of low mood following a recent bereavement. Her symptoms included behavioral change, visual hallucinations, vertigo, and recent falls. She was mildly confused, with left-sided hyperreflexia, a wide-based gait, and intention tremor in her left upper limb. Initial blood tests, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging of her brain showed no significant abnormality. Following admission, she had rapid cognitive decline and developed florid and progressive neurological signs; a diagnosis of prion disease was suspected. A lumbar puncture was performed; cerebrospinal fluid was positive for 14–3-3 protein, real-time quaking-induced conversion, and raised levels of s-100b proteins were detected. An electroencephalogram showed bilateral periodic triphasic waves on a slow background. The diagnosis of probable Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease was made.


This case report highlights key features in the initial presentation and clinical development of a rare but invariably rapidly progressive and fatal disease. It emphasizes the importance of considering a unifying diagnosis for multifaceted clinical presentations. Although it is very rare, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease should be considered a diagnosis for a mixed neuropsychiatric presentation, particularly with rapid progressive cognitive decline and development of neurological signs. However, to avoid overlooking early signal change on magnetic resonance imaging, it is important to take diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging for all patients with neuropsychological symptoms. Importantly, early diagnosis also ensures the arrangement of suitable contamination control measures to minimize the risk of infection to health care professionals and other patients.

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