Depending on the causative agent, the differential diagnosis for acute nontraumatic weakness presentation can range from life threatening to trivial. Practitioners’ comfort and experience with the rapid identification and evaluation of presenting neurological deficits vary widely. Given this fact and the reality that neurological presentation of weakness is common, the potential for missed diagnosis increases. To enhance knowledge of potentially life-threatening or morbidity-inducing complications, this article provides a systematic framework for physical and diagnostic evaluation of the most common differentials for acute causes of nontraumatic weakness.

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