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BMC Psychiatry





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Background: Frontal variant frontotemporal dementia is a common cause of presenile dementia. A hexanucleotide expansion on chromosome 9 has recently been recognized as the most common genetic mutation cause of this illness. This sub-type tends to present psychiatrically with psychosis being a common presenting symptom before the onset of cognitive changes or brain atrophy. A few case series have been published describing the prominence of early psychotic symptoms, and lack of clear brain atrophy on clinical brain imaging imposing a challenge in reaching early accurate diagnosis. In this report, we present a case whereby the diagnosis of Schizophrenia syndrome was made and the patient was treated for years with multiple interventions for that syndrome before reaching the accurate diagnosis of Frontal variant frontotemporal dementia due to hexanucleotide expansion on chromosome 9. This diagnosis was confirmed after genetic testing and findings on a hybrid Positron Emission Tomography/Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanning. Case summary: A 60-year-old female diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 50 after presenting with delusions and hallucinations, which proved to be refractor to several lines of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions including electroconvulsive therapy. Patient had a history of post-partum psychosis in her 20s. She was referred to cognitive neurology due to progressive decline in function. While clinical structural brain imaging data were not adequate to support an alternative neurological diagnosis, careful inquiry elicited a history of psychotic illness followed by progressive decline in a sister. Genetic testing confirmed hexanucleotide expansion on chromosome 9 mutation. The patient was offered a state-of-the-art FD-Glucose Positron Emission Tomography/Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan available at our centre. While volumetric Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan did not show volume loss in frontotemporal areas, the hybrid scan showed regionally specific deficit in FD-Glucose Positron Emission Tomography affecting medial superior frontal, insula, inferior temporal, thalamus, and anterior cingulate cortex consistent with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia. Conclusions: This case highlights the importance of considering Frontal variant frontotemporal dementia due to hexanucleotide expansion on chromosome 9 when facing relatively late-onset, refractory schizophrenia-like syndrome. Careful history from all available sources to elicit family history of similar presentation is very important. Genetic testing and functional brain imaging can aid in confirming the diagnosis and potentially streamlining the management of these cases.