Objective: To assess the utility and safety of rituximab in pediatric autoimmune and inflammatory disorders of the CNS.
Methods: Multicenter retrospective study.
Results: A total of 144 children and adolescents (median age 8 years, range 0.7-17; 103 female) with NMDA receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis (n = 39), opsoclonus myoclonus ataxia syndrome (n = 32), neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (n = 20), neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus (n = 18), and other neuroinflammatory disorders (n = 35) were studied. Rituximab was given after a median duration of disease of 0.5 years (range 0.05-9.5 years). Infusion adverse events were recorded in 18/144 (12.5%), including grade 4 (anaphylaxis) in 3. Eleven patients (7.6%) had an infectious adverse event (AE), including 2 with grade 5 (death) and 2 with grade 4 (disabling) infectious AE (median follow-up of 1.65 years [range 0.1-8.5]). No patients developed progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. A definite, probable, or possible benefit was reported in 125 of 144 (87%) patients. A total of 17.4% of patients had a modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score of 0-2 at rituximab initiation, compared to 73.9% at outcome. The change in mRS 0-2 was greater in patients given rituximab early in their disease course compared to those treated later.
Conclusion: While limited by the retrospective nature of this analysis, our data support an off-label use of rituximab, although the significant risk of infectious complications suggests rituximab should be restricted to disorders with significant morbidity and mortality.
Classification of evidence: This study provides Class IV evidence that in pediatric autoimmune and inflammatory CNS disorders, rituximab improves neurologic outcomes with a 7.6% risk of adverse infections.
© 2014 American Academy of Neurology.