Atypical idiopathic intracranial hypertension presenting as
Idiopathic intracranial hypertension is a disorder of increased intracranial pressure in the absence of cerebrospinal outflow obstruction, mass lesion, or other underlying cause. It is a rare phenomenon in prepubertal children and is most typically found in women of childbearing age. The classic presentation consists of headaches, nausea, vomiting, and visual changes; however, children present more atypically. Authors report a case of idiopathic intracranial hypertension in an otherwise healthy, 4-year-old child with atypical symptoms resembling those of cyclic vomiting syndrome.

A 4-year-old Caucasian, otherwise healthy, male child presented to our emergency department with episodic intermittent early-morning vomiting occurring once every 1–3 weeks without interepisodic symptoms, starting 10 months prior. With outpatient metabolic, autoimmune, endocrine, allergy, and gastroenterology work-up all unremarkable, he was initially diagnosed with cyclic vomiting syndrome. Discovery of mild optic nerve sheath distension on magnetic resonance imaging of the brain 10 months after symptom onset led to inpatient admission and a lumbar puncture notable for an opening pressure of 47 mmHg, with normal cell count and protein levels. He had no changes in visual acuity or optic disc edema on dilated fundoscopic examination. The patient was started on acetazolamide, with resolution of episodic emesis at his last follow-up visit 12 weeks after discharge.

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension presents atypically in prepubescent children, with about one-fourth presenting asymptomatically, and only 13–52% presenting with “classic” symptoms. With a prevalence of only 0.6–0.7 per 100,000, much remains unknown regarding the underlying pathophysiology in this demographic. Cyclic vomiting syndrome, however, has a much higher prevalence in this age group, with a prevalence of 0.4–1.9 per 100. It is thought to be an idiopathic, periodic disorder of childhood, often linked to neurological conditions such as abdominal migraines, epilepsy, mitochondrial disorders, and structural lesions such as chiari malformation and posterior fossa tumors.

While cyclic vomiting syndrome is thought to have a benign course, untreated idiopathic intracranial hypertension can have long-term detrimental effects, such as visual loss or even blindness. We present a case of idiopathic intracranial hypertension presenting with symptoms resembling cyclic vomiting syndrome in a 4-year-old child, diagnosed 10 months after initial onset of symptoms. Authors aim to demonstrate the need for a high level of clinical suspicion and the need for further investigation into underlying pathophysiology in this vulnerable population.