To describe a rare case of Burkitt lymphoma metastatic to the cavernous sinus that was initially diagnosed as Tolosa–Hunt syndrome.
A 31-year-old confirmed and treatment-compliant HIV-positive Hispanic male acutely developed diplopia, ptosis, numbness in the V1 distribution, and complete external ophthalmoplegia in the right eye over 1 week. Imaging showed a mass-like lesion within the right cavernous sinus without other intracranial abnormalities. He was started on broad-spectrum antibiotics and antifungals without improvement. Inflammatory and infectious workup was negative. A presumed diagnosis of Tolosa–Hunt syndrome was made based on clinical and radiographic findings, as well as the absence of another etiology to explain the patient’s presentation. He was then started on high-dose oral steroids with improvement of orbital pain only. Shortly after being discharged on steroids, the patient returned to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. Computed tomography of the abdomen showed perforated ileitis with aneurysmal dilation of the ileum and marked wall thickening concerning for a mass lesion. Positron emission tomography–computed tomography showed an uptake in the terminal ileum and right cavernous sinus consistent with metastatic Burkitt lymphoma, matching with pathology. After several cycles of chemotherapy, symptoms improved, and he regained full ocular motility in the affected eye. However, the patient ultimately died due to peritonitis and pyelonephritis.
Burkitt lymphoma metastatic to the cavernous sinus was diagnosed after an initial diagnosis of Tolosa–Hunt syndrome. Tolosa–Hunt syndrome is a diagnosis of exclusion and should only be made after ruling out other pathologies.