Bilateral facial nerve palsy has been associated with underlying Waldenstrom disease in only one other known published case report, which was published in 2014. In a more recent case report published in the, Gabriel Torrealba-Acosta, MD, and colleagues in the department of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, described a second case involving a 67-year-old Hispanic man with a history of Waldenstrom disease who presented with subacute onset of bilateral facial weakness.
The patient, who had longstanding painful neuropathy, had presented to urgent care with a new-onset left facial nerve palsy, was then diagnosed with left Bell’s palsy, and began treatment with valacyclovir and prednisone.
The left-sided facial weakness gradually progressed to total paralysis of the left lower face and inability to close the left eye, and 2 weeks later, he developed right facial weakness that ran a similar course. The patient had a complicated clinical course that included symptomatic acute-on-chronic subdural hematoma, among other complications; eventually the patient’s symptoms stabilized and cranial neuropathies gradually improved, according to the report.
Bilateral facial nerve palsy is an extremely rare condition, occurring in just 0.3%-2% of all facial nerve palsy cases, according to the authors. By contrast, unilateral facial nerve palsy (or Bell’s palsy) is far more common, but it still occurs in only 25 patients per 100,000 population, they said.
Most cases of bilateral facial nerve palsy are caused by underlying Guillain-Barré syndrome, though some are congenital, related to trauma, or caused by etiologies that are metabolic, immunologic, or neoplastic in nature. While various types of neurological disturbances – from ischemic and hemorrhagic events to meningoencephalitis – have been documented to occur in up to a quarter of patients with Waldenstrom disease.
“Given the large differential that comprises the assessment of a bilateral facial nerve palsy, it warrants for an extensive work-up, and Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia should be sought as an additional possible etiology,” the authors wrote.
Dr. Torrealba-Acosta and coauthors reported having no financial disclosures.
SOURCE: Torrealba-Acosta G et al. J Clin Neurosci. 2017. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2017.10.081.