Paediatric multiple sclerosis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis in Germany: results of a nationwide survey

Eur J Pediatr. 2007 May;166(5):405-12. doi: 10.1007/s00431-006-0249-2. Epub 2007 Jan 12.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the incidence of paediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) in Germany. In a prospective nationwide survey carried out between 1997 and 1999, all registered new cases of paediatric MS and ADEM with an onset before the age of 16 years were evaluated using a standardised questionnaire. A total of 132 patients with suspected or definite MS and 28 patients with an assumed diagnosis of ADEM were reported. Among these, 82% of the MS patients were 10 years of age or older, as opposed to 18% in the ADEM-cohort. The female-to-male ratio was 1.2:1 in the MS-cohort and 0.8:1 in the ADEM-cohort. Manifestation was polysymptomatic in 67% of the MS patients compared to 86% of the ADEM patients. The most frequent primary symptoms in the MS-cohort were cerebellar (44%), sensory (39%) or visual (36%), followed by brainstem (30%), pyramidal (29%) and cerebromental (22%) complaints.

Conclusion: The incidence of paediatric MS in Germany is more than fourfold higher than that of paediatric ADEM; in addition, it shows a strikingly different age-distribution. With an estimated minimum of 50 new cases per year, the incidence of paediatric MS in Germany is much more frequent than previously believed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Age of Onset
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Progression
  • Encephalomyelitis, Acute Disseminated / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires