Tick Paralysis Case Series: An 11-Year Institutional Case Series

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Pediatric Emergency Care


Objectives: The aims of the study were to identify and to describe cases of pediatric tick paralysis presenting to an emergency department in southern Louisiana during an 11-year period. Methods:We conducted a retrospective chart reviewof patients aged 0 to 18 years with a diagnostic code of toxic effect of venom, tick-borne viral encephalitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, acute infective polyneuritis, or abnormality of gait from July 2005 to June 2016. Datawere collected on visit month, patient age, race and sex, tick's attachment site, location of tick removal, symptoms and length of symptoms, initial diagnosis, time to appropriate diagnosis, and hospital length of stay. Results: Nine patients aged 2 to 10 years presented with lower limbweakness and varying degrees of upper extremity ataxia or paralysis, areflexia, dysarthria, diplopia, or petechia. Five cases were accurately and rapidly diagnosed; 4 cases involved a delay in accurate diagnosis. Treatment of the misdiagnosed cases ranged from septic workup to neurologic workup, including magnetic resonance imaging. The tick was discovered by the patients' relative in 4 cases, by a primary care or emergency care physician at another facility in 3 cases, and by 1 of our emergency care physicians in 2 patients. Conclusions: The incidence of tick paralysis in southern Louisiana is unknown. However, our case series indicates that it is likely higher than expected. Although most cases in our facility were quickly diagnosed and treated through tick removal, delayed diagnosis results in unnecessary tests, procedures, and medical costs. All of our cases fully recovered after tick removal.

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Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins