Altered mental status and low anion gap in a patient with sickle cell anemia: a case report

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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INTRODUCTION: It is challenging to diagnose two coexisting medical conditions if the symptoms are overlapping. This is further confounded if the patient presents with an unexplained deterioration in mental status. A low anion gap or a zero anion gap is an uncommon clinical finding and has few differential diagnoses. This test therefore has important implications in correctly identifying underlying medical conditions. CASE PRESENTATION: A 50-year-old African American male patient with sickle cell disease presented with refractory anemia, recurrent bone pains and encephalopathy. Routine testing failed to explain his mental deterioration. A laboratory finding of a low anion gap pointed in the direction of multiple myeloma as the underlying cause. This in turn led to an appropriate and timely course of treatment and clinical improvement. CONCLUSION: We present a very rare case of sickle cell anemia with coexisting multiple myeloma. This case sparks an interesting discussion on the anion gap, of which a clinician should be aware. It highlights the importance of the use of a verifiable anion gap in diagnosing medical conditions beyond the routine diagnosis of acid base disorders.

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