Five cases of new onset refractory status epilepticus (NORSE) syndrome: outcomes with early immunotherapy

Seizure. 2013 Apr;22(3):217-20. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2012.12.016. Epub 2013 Jan 18.


Cryptogenic new onset refractory status epilepticus (NORSE) syndrome has been described in both adults and children, and is often associated with poor outcome. A variety of terms have been used in the literature to refer to this syndrome. The condition may be triggered by as yet unidentified infections or an immunological mechanism. We present a series of 5 patients with NORSE syndrome treated at 2 neuroscience centres in the North of England, in whom early use of immunotherapy appears to be associated with good neurological outcomes.

Methods: Case note review of the index case and four other patients was undertaken to obtain details of clinical presentation, imaging and CSF findings, infectious/inflammatory tests, management of seizures, immunotherapy and outcome.

Results: Case 1 was a 26 year old male with a prodrome of headache and vomiting. He developed refractory multifocal and generalised seizures, which required admission to intensive care unit and administration of general anaesthetic. Seizures recurred on withdrawal of barbiturate anaesthetic until day 29. MR imaging, CSF examination and serological tests for viral and autoimmune aetiologies were normal apart from positive anti-TPO antibodies: the patient had previously treated hyperthyroidism. He was initially treated with aciclovir and antibacterials. IV steroids were administered day 12 and IV immunoglobulin day 18. He made a good recovery being discharged home 2 months after admission. Seizures recurred on withdrawal of steroid therapy, and required longer term immunosuppressant treatment with azathioprine. Clinical features and investigations of the four other patients were similar. Two were given early immunotherapy with steroids and intravenous immunoglobulins and survived with few deficits. One patient who was not given immunotherapy died from complications associated with prolonged ICU stay. Outcome was not known for the fourth patient as she was repatriated to her home country in thiopentone coma.

Conclusion: In our experience, early immunotherapy has been associated with good outcomes in NORSE. Multicentre collaboration is required to establish the diagnostic criteria and appropriate management of patients presenting with NORSE.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use*
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Male
  • Retreatment
  • Status Epilepticus / drug therapy
  • Status Epilepticus / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous