Lateral Medullary Syndrome
Lateral Medullary Syndrome is a neurological condition caused by a stroke in the
vertebral or posterior inferior cerebellar artery of the brain stem. Symptoms include
difficulties with swallowing, hoarseness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, rapid
involuntary movements of the eyes (nystagmus), and problems with balance and gait
coordination. Some individuals will experience a lack of pain and temperature sensation on
only one side of the face, or a pattern of symptoms on opposite sides of the body
such as paralysis or numbness in the right side of the face, with weak or numb limbs on
the left side. Uncontrollable hiccups may also occur, and some individuals will lose their
sense of taste on one side of the tongue, while preserving taste sensations on the other
side. Some people with Lateral Medullary Syndrome report that the world seems to be tilted
in an unsettling way, which makes it difficult to keep their balance when they walk.
Is there any treatment for Lateral Medullary Syndrome?
Treatment for Lateral Medullary Syndrome is symptomatic. A feeding tube may be
necessary if swallowing is very difficult. Speech/swallowing therapy may be beneficial. In
some cases, medication may be used to reduce or eliminate pain. Some doctors report that
the anti-epileptic drug gabapentin appears to be an effective medication for individuals
with chronic pain.
What is the prognosis for Lateral Medullary Syndrome?
The outlook for someone with Lateral Medullary Syndrome depends upon the size and
location of the area of the brain stem damaged by the stroke. Some individuals may see a
decrease in their symptoms within weeks or months. Others may be left with significant
neurological disabilities for years after the initial symptoms appeared.
What research is being done concerning Lateral Medullary Syndrome?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research
related to Lateral Medullary Syndrome in its laboratories at the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), and also supports additional research through grants to major medical
institutions across the country. Much of this research focuses on finding better ways to
prevent, treat, and ultimately cure disorders such as Lateral Medullary Syndrome.
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892