An elderly patient with Bickerstaff brainstem encephalitis and transient episodes of brainstem dysfunction

Arch Neurol. 2008 Jun;65(6):821-4. doi: 10.1001/archneur.65.6.821.


Background: Bickerstaff brainstem encephalitis (BBE) is a rare inflammatory, demyelinating disease that generally has a good prognosis.

Objective: To describe the course of a patient with severe BBE and multiple medical complications.

Design: Case report.

Setting: Academic medical center.

Patient: An 81-year-old woman with BBE who fully recovered. The patient had transient and very frequent episodes of brainstem dysfunction during the recovery phase.

Main outcome measures: Clinical and biochemical evaluation with magnetic resonance imaging.

Conclusions: Bickerstaff brainstem encephalitis is a potentially reversible syndrome that needs early diagnosis (facilitated by magnetic resonance imaging) and prompt aggressive and supportive treatment. Frequent episodes of transient brainstem dysfunction occurred in our patient during recovery, possibly due to ephaptic transmission.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Stem / drug effects
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology*
  • Encephalitis / diagnosis
  • Encephalitis / drug therapy
  • Encephalitis / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Methylprednisolone Hemisuccinate / therapeutic use
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use
  • Syndrome


  • Methylprednisolone Hemisuccinate
  • Prednisone