Rarity of encephalopathy associated with autoimmune thyroiditis: A case series from Mayo Clinic from 1950 to 1996

Anna M. Sawka, Vahab Fatourechi, Bradley F. Boeve, Bahram Mokri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Corticosteroid-responsive encephalopathy associated with autoimmune thyroiditis (also called Hashimoto's encephalopathy) is a rare, life-threatening, treatable, and possibly autoimmune condition. We identified nine patients (with the diagnosis made after 1979) who had relapsing encephalopathy compatible with previous reports of Hashimoto's encephalopathy and no other identifiable cause of encephalopathy at Mayo Clinic Rochester. Of these nine patients, three were clinically hypothyroid, four were subclinically hypothyroid, and two were euthyroid. Thyroid antibodies were positive in eight of eight patients in whom these measurements were made. Electroencephalographic abnormalities were identified in eight of the nine patients (89%). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities considered etiologically related to encephalopathy were present in three patients (33%). An increased protein concentration was noted on cerebrospinal fluid examination in seven patients (78%). Of the six patients who received high-dose glucocorticoid therapy, 5 (83%) had improvement of neurologic symptoms. In conclusion, encephalopathy associated with autoimmune thyroiditis is rare but important to recognize because it may be responsive to high-dose glucocorticoid therapy. We believe that this condition is not caused by thyroid dysfunction or antithyroid antibodies but represents an association of an uncommon autoimmune encephalopathy with a common autoimmune thyroid disease. The term Hashimoto's encephalopathy is a misnomer and should not be used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-398
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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