The Cerebellum

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 178–183 | Cite as

Leukoencephalopathy due to Oral Methotrexate

  • I. González-Suárez
  • M. J. Aguilar-Amat
  • M. Trigueros
  • A. M. Borobia
  • A. Cruz
  • J. Arpa


Methotrexate (MTX) is considered the main agent for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Neurotoxicity is often mild, but severe encephalopathy can develop, especially with intrathecal or intravenous administration. In rare cases, this syndrome has been observed in patients on long-term low-dose oral administration. A 68-year-old male was diagnosed with RA and on treatment with oral MTX 25 mg weekly for 4 years. The patient started with progressive dysarthria, ataxia and cognitive dysfunction. Complementary tests were normal. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed hyperintense lesions in both cerebellar hemispheres on T2-weighted and FLAIR images with a diffusion restriction on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and on the apparent diffusion coefficient map (ADC). On postgadolinium T1-weighted images, there were mild enhancements. Spectroscopy showed a demyelinating pattern. A pharmacogenetics determination was made, showing a heterozygous genotype in the MTHFR and ABCB1 genes. Medication with antirheumatic drug was stopped immediately on admission, and the patient gradually improved. MTX-induced leukoencephalopathy can occur even with low-dose administration. The exact pathogenic mechanism is still unknown, but it is hypothesised that it could be the result of a cumulative toxic effect on the blood–brain barrier. The nature of the relationship between the polymorphism and CNS toxicity is still unclear, and thus, further studies are warranted. Often located in the occipital lobes, the involvement of the cerebellum is quite rare. Early recognition of the condition and withdrawal of the drug lead to a better prognosis.


MTX leukoencephalopathy MTX polymorphisms Toxic cerebellopathy MTHFR C677T toxicity 


Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest in this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. González-Suárez
    • 1
  • M. J. Aguilar-Amat
    • 1
  • M. Trigueros
    • 2
  • A. M. Borobia
    • 3
  • A. Cruz
    • 1
  • J. Arpa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurology, IdiPAZHealth Research InstituteLa Paz University Hospital, School of Medicine, Universidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Department of Internal MedicineLa Paz University Hospital, School of Medicine, Universidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  3. 3.Clinical Pharmacology ServiceLa Paz University Hospital, School of Medicine, Universidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

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