False localizing sign means that the lesion, which is the cause of the symptom, is remote or distant from the anatomical site predicted by neurological examination. This concept contradicts the classical clinicoanatomical correlation paradigm underlying neurological examinations.Patient concerns:
A 54-year-old man consulted for the right sciatica-like leg pain that had aggravated 1 year ago. Radiological examinations revealed degenerative spondylolisthesis with instability and right-sided recess stenosis at the L4–5 level. After initial improvement following 3 transforaminal epidural steroid injections with gabapentin and antidepressant medication, there was a recurrence of the symptoms a year later, along with wasting of the right leg for several months. Physical examination revealed difficulty in heel-walking and a weakness of extension of the right big toe; tendon reflexes were normal. Lumbar spine radiographs revealed no new findings. The initial course of treatment was repeated, but was ineffective.Diagnoses:
Further cervicothoracic spine evaluations revealed a right-sided intradural-extramedullary mass and myelopathy at the C1–2 level.Interventions:
The cervical mass was surgically resected and identified histopathologically as a schwannoma.Outcomes:
Immediately after surgery, sciatica-like pain and weakness of right leg were completely resolved.Lessons:
It is difficult to make an accurate diagnosis if there are symptoms caused by false localizing sign. Additionally, it is even more difficult to diagnose false localizing sign accurately when there is a co-existing lumbar lesion that can cause the similar symptoms.