Cysticercosis differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Ahmed Younes M.B.B.CH [2]


Cysticercosis must be differentiated from other diseases that cause brain cystic lesions (as brain abscess and brain tumors) or ocular lesions (as retinal detachment and coats disease).

Differentiating cysticercosis from other diseases

Differentiating neurocysticercosis from other brain cyst lesions
Disease Prominent clinical features Lab findings Radiological findings
Brain abscess
  • Lumbar puncture is contraindicated but when done, it was variable between patients.
  • Culture from the CT-guided aspirated lesion helps in identifying the causative agent.
Brain tumors
  • CT may be used in localizing the tumor and getting a rough estimate on the dimensions.
  • MRI: Gadolinium-enhanced MRI is the preferred imaging modality for assessing the extension of the tumor and its exact location.[3]
Brain tuberculoma
  • Presentations are usually due to the pressure effect, not the T.B. bacilli.
  • Presenting symptoms and signs in order of occurrence:[4]
  1. Episodes of focal seizures
  2. Signs of increased intracranial pressure
  3. Focal neurologic deficits.
  • CT: Contrast-enhanced CT scan shows a ring enhancing lesion surrounded by an area of hypodensity (cerebritis) and the resulting mass effect.
  • MRI: Better than CT scan in assessing the site and size of the tuberculoma. Gadolinium-enhanced MRI shows a ring enhancing lesion between 1-5 cm in size (In NCC, the wall is thicker, calcifications are eccentric and the diameter is less than 2 cm)
  • 70% of the patients present with the neurological symptoms rather than the presentation of systemic disease. Common presentations are:[5]
  1. Cranial nerve neuropathies: Facial palsy is the most common presentation.
  2. Meningeal involvement: diffuse meningeal inflammation can cause diffuse basilar polyneuropathy in 40% of the patients. with neurosarcoidosis.
  3. Inflammatory spinal cord disease: Inflammatory span usually more than 3 spinal cord segments which helps to differentiate it from Multiple Sclerosis.
  4. Peripheral neuropathy: Asymmetric polyneuropathy or mononeuritis multiplex. It may also manifest as Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) like presentation.
  5. HPO axis involvement: may present as diabetes insipidus. More than 50% of the cases have no radiological signs.
MRI brain showing brain abscess - Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, From the case"
MRI brain showing Glioblastoma multiforme - Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, <a href=""></a>. From the case <a href="">rID: 28272</a>
MRI brain showing tuberculoma - Case courtesy of Dr G Balachandran, From the case"
MRI brain showing Neurosarcoidosis - Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, From the case
Differentiating ocular cysticercosis from other ocular lesions
Disease Prominent clinical feature Radiological findings
Coats disease
Retinal detachment
Hyperthyroid Ophthalmopathy
MRI of the orbit showing Coats disease - Case courtesy of Dr Michael Sargent, From the case
MRI of the orbit showing retinal detachment - Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, From the case
MRI of the orbit showing retinoblastoma - Case courtesy of From the case
CT head showing hyperthyroid-induced orbitopathy - Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, From the case


  1. Brouwer MC, Tunkel AR, McKhann GM, van de Beek D (2014). "Brain abscess". N. Engl. J. Med. 371 (5): 447–56. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1301635. PMID 25075836.
  2. "Brain Abscess — NEJM".
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Primary Brain Tumors in Adults - American Family Physician".
  4. "The Journal of Association of Chest Physicians - Tuberculoma of the brain - A diagnostic dilemma: Magnetic resonance spectroscopy a new ray of hope : Download PDF".
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Neurosarcoidosis".
  6. 6.0 6.1 "How to Diagnose and Manage Coats' Disease".
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Management of retinal detachment: a guide for non-ophthalmologists".
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Thyroid Ophthalmopathy - EyeWiki".
  9. 9.0 9.1 "".