Journal of Neurology

, Volume 260, Issue 1, pp 138–143 | Cite as

The Melkersson–Rosenthal syndrome: a retrospective study of biopsied cases

  • Martha K. Elias
  • Farrah J. MateenEmail author
  • Catherine R. Weiler
Original Communication


Melkersson–Rosenthal syndrome (MRS) is a rare neuromucocutaneous syndrome marked by the triad of recurrent nonpitting orofacial edema, fissured dorsal tongue (lingua plicata), and lower motoneuron facial paralysis. Large case series including treatment are limited. A retrospective records review was performed for the diagnoses Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome, granulomatous cheilitis, and orofacial granulomatosis, confirmed by noncaseating granulomas on biopsy, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (1979–2009). There were 72 patients [51 women (71 %), mean age at presentation 39 years (range 8–79)] identified with facial edema with noncaseating granulomas on skin biopsy. Lingua plicata occurred in 34 cases (47 %, 95 % confidence interval 35.3–59.3 %). Unilateral or partial facial nerve palsy occurred in 14 cases (19.4, 95 % confidence interval 11.4–30.8 %). Comorbidities among those with facial edema included periodontal disease (n = 10, 14 %), history of allergic disease (n = 10, 14 %), Crohn’s Disease (n = 6, 8 %), migraine headaches (n = 5, 7 %), and systemic lupus erythematosus (n = 2, 3 %). There were no patients who had low C1q or C4 levels among those who were tested. Overall, the full triad canonical of Melkersson–Rosenthal syndrome was observed in nine patients (seven female, median age at symptomatic presentation 35 years (range 10–74 years), 13 %, (95 % confidence interval 6.2–22.9 %) with a median time from first symptoms to diagnosis of 4 years (range 1–35). The medication treatments attempted in the nine patients with the full triad of symptoms included non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, oral and intra-lesional steroids, metronidazole, dapsone, acyclovir, methotrexate, and thalidomide with no consistent treatment responses. The Melkersson–Rosenthal syndrome may present over the course of most of the lifespan and may require several years of observation to be diagnosed. Neurologists who observe a combination of facial edema and facial palsy in a patient should consider the diagnosis of MRS and proceed to a diagnostic skin biopsy and a trial of steroid treatment for their patient.


Facial nerve Facial nerve palsy Granulomatous cheilitis Orofacial granulomatosis Melkersson–Rosenthal syndrome Treatment 



We thank the anonymous reviewers who provided insightful comments that led to important revisions in this manuscript. Dr. Mateen receives salary support from a Practice Research Fellowship Grant from the American Brain Foundation.

Conflicts of interest


Ethical standard

All human studies have been approved by the appropriate ethics committee and have therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards and laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martha K. Elias
    • 1
  • Farrah J. Mateen
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Catherine R. Weiler
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Allergic Diseases, Department of MedicineMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyJohns Hopkins HospitalBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.The Bloomberg School of Public HealthThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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