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Open Access Review

Brown-Vialetto-Van Laere syndrome

Sivakumar Sathasivam

Author Affiliations

The Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Liverpool, UK

Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2008, 3:9  doi:10.1186/1750-1172-3-9

Published: 17 April 2008

Abstract

The Brown-Vialetto-Van Laere syndrome (BVVL) is a rare neurological disorder characterized by progressive pontobulbar palsy associated with sensorineural deafness. Fifty-eight cases have been reported in just over 100 years. The female to male ratio is approximately 3:1. The age of onset of the initial symptom varies from infancy to the third decade. The syndrome most frequently presents with sensorineural deafness, which is usually progressive and severe. Lower cranial nerve involvement and lower and upper motor neuron limb signs are common neurological features. Other features include respiratory compromise (the most frequent non-neurological finding), limb weakness, slurring of speech, facial weakness, and neck and shoulder weakness. Optic atrophy, retinitis pigmentosa, macular hyperpigmentation, autonomic dysfunction, epilepsy may occur. The etiopathogenesis of the condition remains elusive. Approximately 50% of cases are familial, of which autosomal recessive is suggested. The remaining cases are sporadic. The diagnosis is usually based on the clinical presentation. Investigations (neurophysiological studies, magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, muscle biopsy, cerebrospinal fluid examination) are done to exclude other causes or to confirm the clinical findings. The differential diagnoses include the Fazio-Londe syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Nathalie syndrome, Boltshauser syndrome and Madras motor neuron disease. Treatment with steroids or intravenous immunoglobulin may result in temporary stabilization of the syndrome. However, the mainstays of management are supportive and symptomatic treatment, in particular assisted ventilation and maintenance of nutrition via gastrostomy. The clinical course of BVVL is variable and includes gradual deterioration (almost half of cases), gradual deterioration with stable periods in between (a third of cases) and deterioration with abrupt periods of worsening (just under a fifth of cases). After the initial presentation, one third of patients survive for ten years or longer.