One of the challenges in acute stroke management is accurately differentiating between actual ischemic events and other conditions that mimic stroke. In a cohort of 821 consecutive patients admitted to an acute stroke unit, 13% were incorrectly diagnosed as stroke . In another cohort of 411 patients, it was estimated that 19% of patients presenting to the emergency department with stroke-like symptoms ultimately have other diagnoses such as a postictal state, metabolic disturbances, and systemic infections . Regardless of the actual percentage, it is clear that not all cases of acute stroke-like symptoms are true strokes and other mimics should be considered. One such mimic is factitious disorder.
Factitious disorder is a psychiatric condition in which afflicted individuals exaggerate symptoms and even endorse medical illness, or psychological trauma in order to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. The DSM-IV criteria for this disorder are: 1) Intentional production or feigning of physical or psychological signs or symptoms; 2) The motivation for the behavior is to assume the sick role; and 3) External incentives for the behavior such as economic gain or avoiding legal responsibility as seen in malingering, are absent.
Here, we present a case of a patient who was diagnosed with factitious disorder after he presented to two different institutions with acute stroke-like symptoms and received tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) twice within the span of 3 weeks.