Progressive Weakness and Dyspnea in a 14-Year-Old Boy

Danielle D. DeCourcey, MD; Mark Wainwright, MD, PhD; Jason M. Kane, MD

Disclosures

April 02, 2018

Editorial Note: The Case Challenge series includes difficult-to-diagnose conditions, some of which are not frequently encountered by most clinicians but are nonetheless important to accurately recognize. Test your diagnostic and treatment skills using the following patient scenario and corresponding questions. If you have a case that you would like to suggest for a future Case Challenge, please contact us.

Background

A 14-year-old boy presents to the emergency department (ED) with a 10-day history of progressive weakness. The patient reports experiencing rhinorrhea, cough, and malaise approximately 3 weeks before admission. He developed lower-extremity weakness and difficulty walking 8 days after the onset of the upper respiratory tract infection symptoms. He was evaluated at a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with dehydration, treated with intravenous fluids, and discharged to home. Despite these measures, his lower-extremity weakness did not improve.

Over the following 7 days, he began experiencing diffuse muscle pain and progressive weakness that extended to his upper extremities. During the 3 days before this presentation, he developed a hoarse voice and shortness of breath. He also notes that he is now having difficulty urinating and has decreased oral intake. He currently denies having any fever, cough, vomiting, or diarrhea.

The patient's past medical history is significant only for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for which he takes methylphenidate. He has had no previous hospitalizations, has no known drug allergies, and has had all recommended childhood immunizations. His family history is noncontributory.

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