C Durand, S Mary, P Brazo, S Dollfus
L’Encéphale 2003, 29 (6): 560-5
Psychiatric manifestations are frequently associated with pernicious anemia including depression, mania, psychosis, dementia. We report a case of a patient with vitamin B12 deficiency, who has presented severe depression with delusion and Capgras’ syndrome, delusion with lability of mood and hypomania successively, during a period of two Months.
Case report – Mme V., a 64-Year-old woman, was admitted to the hospital because of confusion. She had no history of psychiatric problems. She had history of diabetes, hypertension and femoral prosthesis. The red blood count revealed a normocytosis with anemia (hemoglobin=11,4 g/dl). At admission she was uncooperative, disoriented in time and presented memory and attention impairment and sleep disorders. She seemed sad and older than her real age. Facial expression and spontaneous movements were reduced, her speech and movements were very slow. She had depressed mood, guilt complex, incurability and devaluation impressions. She had a Capgras’ syndrome and delusion of persecution. Her neurologic examination, cerebral scanner and EEG were postponed because of uncooperation. Further investigations confirmed anemia (hemoglobin=11,4 g/dl) and revealed vitamin B12 deficiency (52 pmol/l) and normal folate level. Antibodies to parietal cells were positive in the serum and antibodies to intrinsic factor were negative. An iron deficiency was associated (serum iron=7 micromol/l; serum ferritin concentration=24 mg/l; serum transferrin concentration=3,16 g/l). This association explained normocytocis anemia. Thyroid function, hepatic and renal tests, glycemia, TP, TCA, VS, VDRL-TPHA were normal.
Vitamin B12 replacement therapy was started with hydroxycobalamin 1 000 ng/day im for 10 days and iron replacement therapy. Her mental state improved dramatically within a few days. After one week of treatment the only remaining symptoms were lability of mood, delusion of persecution, Capgras’ syndrome but disappeared totally 9 days after the beginning of the treatment. A neurologic examination was possible because of cooperation. All the tendon reflexes of inferior members were absent. The plantars were in flexion and there was a left inferior member hypoesthesia. The cerebral scan and EEG were normal. Fundic biopsy, realized by fibroscopy, revealed fundic atrophia and intestinal metaplasia compatible with Biermers’ disease. The iron deficiency exploration concluded diet deficiency. Mme V. appeared euphoric, her speech was very rapid with play on words and overactivity. This hypomania state totally disappeared 3 days after.
Six Months after her hospitalisation, she presented an hypothyroidism (TSH=3,780; T3=1,35; T4=1,08). A thyroid hormones replacement was started and she continued to receive Monthly B12 replacement. Discussion – This case report illustrates psychiatric manifestations of Biermers’ disease. The clinical arguments in favour are: white woman, more than 60 Years old, no history of psychiatric problems, atypical symptoms (confusional state with psychiatric symptoms), fluctuation of symptoms (severe depression with confusional state, delusion of persecution and Capgras’ syndrome; delusion with lability of mood and hypomania), dramatic improvement after 9 days of vitamin B12 replacement therapy. The biological arguments are: anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, normal folate level, atrophia and fundic metaplasia, positive antibodies to parietal cells in the serum, association between Biermers’ disease and autoimmune disease (Haschimoto thyroidite).
Psychiatric manifestations can occur in the presence of low serum B12 levels but in the absence of the other well recognized neurological and haematological abnormalities of pernicious anemia. Mental or psychological changes may precede haematological signs by Months or Years. They can be the initial symptoms or the only ones. Verbank et al. described the case of a patient with vitamin B12 deficiency in whom hypomania, paranoia and depression had been successively presented during a period of 5 Years before anemia have been developed. The case of Mme V. is similar in the succession of severe depression with delusion of persecution and Capgras’ syndrome, delusion with lability of mood and hypomania, during a period of two Months. This report seems to be the first one of a sequence of several psychiatric states with pernicious anemia during a period of two Months with normocytosis anemia.
To illustrate this illness we reviewed the literature regarding psychopathology associated with B12 deficiency. The most common psychiatric symptoms were depression, mania, psychotic symptoms, cognitive impairment and obsessive compulsive disorder. The neuropsychiatric severity by vitamin B12 deficiency and the therapeutic efficacy depends on the duration of signs and symptoms. Conclusion – We recommend consideration of B12 deficiency and serum B12 determinations in all the patients with organic mental disorders, atypical psychiatric symptoms and fluctuation of symptomatology.
B12 levels should be evaluated with treatment resistant depressive disorders, dementia, psychosis or risk factors for malnutrition such as alcoholism or advancing age associated with neurological symptoms, anemia, malabsorption, gastrointestinal surgery, parasite infestation or strict vegetarian diet. In first intention, B12 deficiency should be researched by serum B12 determination (normal 200-950 pg/ml). Studies of methylmalonic acid and homocysteine showed that they are very sensitive functional indicators of cobalamin status especially when other evidence of cobalamin (B12) deficiency was equivocal. Measurement of methylmalonic acid (normal 73-271 nmol/l) and homocysteine (normal 5,4-13,9 micromol/l) should not replace the measurement of serum cobalamin