Marchiafava-Bignami Disease: A Less Known Neurological Complication of Alcoholism

Samuel Fonseca, Arlindo Guimas, Diana Valadares, Graziela Carvalheiras, Pedro Vita


Marchiafava-Bignami disease (MBD) is a disorder associated with chronic alcohol consumption and characterized by demyelination and necrosis of the corpus callosum. Patients may have reduced consciousness, psychotic symptoms, apathy, hemiparesis, ataxia and coma. Although some cases of recovery have been reported, the outcome is poor, with disability or dead. We reported a case of a 56-year-old woman with chronic alcoholism admitted to our hospital with impaired consciousness and a history of gait disturbance. On examination, she was in a coma, with increased muscle tone and left arm paresis. Laboratory studies showed a folic acid deficiency and the CT scan was normal. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed lesions in periventricular white matter and the entire corpus callosum with restriction of water diffusion consistent with the diagnosis of MBD. Despite treatment with B vitamin complex, the patient died. Coma and radiological involvement of the entire corpus callosum are compatible with type A MBD and associated with poor prognosis. Although being a rare alcoholism complication, it should not be forgotten since an early diagnosis and prompt supportive therapy may enable a better outcome.

J Med Cases. 2016;7(5):171-173


Marchiafava-Bignami disease; Alcoholism; Corpus callosum; Magnetic resonance imaging

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