How is genetic olivopontocerebellar atrophy (OPCA) classified?

Updated: Dec 17, 2018
  • Author: Sombat Muengtaweepongsa, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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The genetic OPCAs are all more pure in the sense that they do not evolve to an MSA picture. Many of the genetic forms are considered SCAs. Some genetic forms have additional characteristics such as retinal involvement, extrapyramidal degeneration, spinal cord degeneration, dystonia, dementia, and other neurological abnormalities dependent mainly on the genetic subtype but even showing variability within the same subtype. The genetic OPCAs are generally not alpha-synucleinopathies.

Clinical distinction of these entities is based on the dominant feature, which may be cerebellar ataxia (observed in OPCAs, SCAs, and MSA), parkinsonism (observed in MSA, striatonigral degeneration, and Shy-Drager syndrome), or autonomic failure (observed in MSA and Shy-Drager syndrome). Whatever the subtype, the term OPCA indicates a form of progressive ataxia distinguished by pontine flattening and cerebellar atrophy on brain imaging studies and at autopsy.

When faced with an adult having progressive ataxia suggestive of OPCA, the role of the clinician includes (1) excluding readily treatable alternative diagnoses, (2) discussing the value of genetic testing with patients in whom such testing is informative, (3) managing symptoms, and (4) advising the patient and family regarding the natural history and the need to plan for the future. No definitive therapy exists for OPCA. [14]

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