Background: Chronic lymphocytic inflammation with pontine perivascular enhancement responsive to steroids (CLIPPERS) is a central nervous system inflammatory disease.
Objective: To describe the disease course of CLIPPERS.
Design: A nationwide study was implemented to collect clinical, magnetic resonance imaging, cerebrospinal fluid, and brain biopsy specimen characteristics of patients with CLIPPERS.
Setting: Academic research.
Patients: Twelve patients with CLIPPERS.
Main outcome measures: The therapeutic management of CLIPPERS was evaluated.
Results: Among 12 patients, 42 relapses were analyzed. Relapses lasted a mean duration of 2.5 months, manifested frequent cerebellar ataxia and diplopia, and were associated with a mean Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score of 4. Besides typical findings of CLIPPERS, magnetic resonance imaging showed brainstem mass effect in 5 patients, extensive myelitis in 3 patients, and closed ring enhancement in 1 patient. Inconstant oligoclonal bands were found on cerebrospinal fluid investigation in 4 patients, with an increased T-cell ratio of CD4 to CD8. Among 7 available brain biopsy specimens, staining was positive for perivascular CD4 T lymphocytes in 5 samples. Thirty-eight of 42 relapses were treated with pulse corticosteroid therapy, which led to improvement, with a mean residual EDSS score of 1.9 (range, 0-7). In 1 patient with untreated relapses, scores on the EDSS progressively increased to a score of 10 at death. Among 5 patients without long-term corticosteroid therapy, the mean annualized relapse rate was 0.5 (range, 0.25-2.8). Among 7 patients taking oral corticosteroids, no relapses occurred in those whose daily dose was 20 mg or higher. No progressive course of CLIPPERS was observed. Four patients with a final EDSS score of 4 or higher had experienced previous severe relapses (EDSS score, ≥5) and brainstem and spinal cord atrophy.
Conclusions: CLIPPERS is a relapsing-remitting disorder without progressive forms. Long-term disability is correlated with the severity of previous relapses. Further studies are needed to confirm that prolonged corticosteroid therapy prevents further relapses.