Wallenberg's Syndrome

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What is Wallenberg's syndrome?

Wallenberg's syndrome is a neurological condition caused by a stroke in the brain stem, specifically in one of the arteries that provides blood to the cerebellum. The cerebellum coordinates and regulates muscular activity in the body. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid involuntary (automatic) movements of the eyes (known as nystagmus)
  • Problems with balance and walking
  • Lack of pain and temperature sensation on only one side of the face
  • Uncontrollable hiccups
  • A pattern of symptoms on opposite sides of the body—for example:
    • Feeling paralyzed or numb on the right side of the face while having weak or numb arms and legs on the left side of the body
    • Losing the sense of taste on one side of the tongue, while keeping it on the other side

Some people with Wallenberg's syndrome say that the world seems to be tilted in a disturbing way. This makes it difficult for them to keep their balance when they walk.

The outlook for people with Wallenberg's symptoms depends on the area of the brain stem that is damaged by the stroke. Some people's symptoms may decrease within weeks or months. Others may have significant neurological disabilities (such as epilepsy, learning disabilities, autism, attention deficit disorder, brain tumors, or cerebral palsy, among others) for years after the first symptoms appear.

Treatment for Wallenberg's syndrome focuses on easing the symptoms of the disorder. If swallowing is very difficult, a feeding tube may be necessary. Speech/swallowing therapy may help. In some cases, drugs may help reduce or eliminate pain. Some doctors report that the anti-epileptic drug gabapentin appears to help people with chronic (long-term) pain.

Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with Wallenberg's syndrome?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about Wallenberg's syndrome and related disorders.  Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with Wallenberg's syndrome at Clinicaltrials.gov.

Where can I find more information about Wallenberg's syndrome?

The following organizations and resources may offer information on Wallenberg's syndrome:

American Heart Association
Phone: 800-242-8721 or 214-373-6300

National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
Phone: 800-346-2742

Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.