Maltese doctors treat patient with rare cocaine disorder affecting brain

Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

A timely intervention by the team of doctors at Mater Dei Hospital saved the life of a patient who had developed a rare disorder which can ‘eat away’ the brain. The disorder is related to the abuse of cocaine.

The 45-year-old patient was admitted to the Mater Dei Hospital because he was acting in a bizarre manner. After running various diagnostics on the patient, the doctors found that he was suffering cocaine-induced toxic leukoencephalopathy.

“It’s a rare disorder which can cause significant disability. This case study is intended to increase awareness of this condition. The prognosis is generally poor and can be rapidly fatal, however, some rare cases recover fully, as is seen in this case report,” said Dr Ylenia Abdilla who treated the patient.

According to the Malta Today report, the unnamed man was rushed to the hospital by his parents and was able to perform simple tasks or respond to commands. As per the doctors, the disorder can be fatal as it slowly ‘eats-away’ the brain of the patient.

The real problem was revealed after the patient was sent for an MRI scan and the doctors discovered damage to the white matter in his brain. “It may present itself in several different ways. These include an altered level of consciousness, confusion, impaired language, altered vision, fever or spasticity,” Abdilla was quoted by Malta Today.

The doctor also said that the condition often leads to death and in rare cases the patient is able to recover completely. In this case, like the others, the patient’s condition was rapidly deteriorating with the brain damage similar to the condition of dementia.

The patient was admitted to the hospital two or three days after he consumed the drug and the doctors found that he had a bacterial infection in the cut above his right eye. He was kept in intensive care and was later moved to a rehabilitation centre.

According to the Malta Today report, a year after this incident happened, the patient came to the hospital for a follow-up and he had stayed off drugs during this whole time. While the white matter in his brain showed persistent changes, his condition was normal.

Abuse of drugs like cocaine is known to have various negative effects on the body and brain of a person. In this case, the patient might have lost his life if the doctors at Mater Dei hospital did now respond quickly. It was because of the swift and smart response from the team that his life was saved.