Nervous System Home > Rasmussen's Encephalitis

Rasmussen's encephalitis is a rare, chronic inflammatory disease that usually affects only one hemisphere of the brain. It occurs mainly in children under the age of 10. Most individuals with Rasmussen's encephalitis will experience frequent seizures and brain damage over the course of the first 8 to 12 months, and then enter a phase of permanent but stable neurological deficits.

An Overview of Rasmussen's Encephalitis

Rasmussen's encephalitis is a rare, chronic inflammatory disease that usually affects only one hemisphere of the brain.
 
Rasmussen's encephalitis occurs mainly in children under the age of 10 (and more rarely in adolescents and adults)
 

Symptoms of Rasmussen's Encephalitis

Rasmussen's encephalitis is characterized by:
 
  • Frequent and severe seizures
  • Loss of motor skills and speech
  • Paralysis on one side of the body (hemiparesis)
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
  • Mental deterioration.
     
Most individuals with Rasmussen's encephalitis will experience frequent seizures and brain damage over the course of the first 8 to 12 months, and then enter a phase of permanent, but stable, neurological deficits.
 

Cause of Rasmussen's Encephalitis

Scientists currently think that Rasmussen's encephalitis is an autoimmune disease in which immune system cells enter the brain and cause inflammation and damage.
 

Treating Rasmussen's Encephalitis

For people with Rasmussen's encephalitis, antiepileptic drugs are usually not effective in controlling seizures.
 
Recent studies have shown some success with treatments for Rasmussen's encephalitis that suppress or modulate the immune system, in particular those that use:
 
  • Corticosteroids
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin
  • Tacrolimus.
     
Surgery to control seizures may be performed in later stages of Rasmussen's encephalitis when neurological deficits stabilize. Surgical procedures -- such as functional hemispherectomy and hemispherotomy -- may reduce the frequency of seizures and also improve behavior and cognitive abilities in people with Rasmussen's encephalitis.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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