Anti-NMDA-R encephalitis: Should we consider extreme delta brush as electrical status epilepticus?

Neurophysiol Clin. 2016 Feb;46(1):17-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2015.12.009. Epub 2016 Feb 26.


Seizures are common clinical manifestations in anti-N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (anti-NMDA-R) encephalitis, among other neurological and psychiatric symptoms. During the course of the disease, some specific EEG patterns have been described: generalized rhythmic delta activity (GRDA) and extreme delta brush (EDB). In comatose patients, the association of these EEG abnormalities with subtle motor manifestations can suggest ongoing non-convulsive status epilepticus (NCSE). We report the case of a 28-year-old woman admitted for a clinical presentation typical of anti-NMDA-R encephalitis, which was confirmed by CSF analysis. She was rapidly intubated because of severe dysautonomia and disturbed consciousness. Clinical examination revealed subtle paroxysmal and intermittent myoclonic and tonic movements, correlated on video-EEG with GRDA and/or EDB. NCSE was then suspected, but electroclinical manifestations persisted despite many anti-epileptic drugs combinations, or reappeared when barbiturate anesthesia was decreased. In order to confirm or dismiss the diagnosis, intracranial pressure (ICP) and surface video-EEG monitoring were performed simultaneously and revealed no ICP increase, thus being strongly against a diagnosis of seizures. Sedation was progressively weaned, and clinical condition as well as EEG appearance progressively improved. Literature review revealed 11 similar cases, including 2 with focal NCSE. Of the nine other cases, NCSE diagnosis was finally excluded in 5 cases. NCSE diagnosis in association with anti-NMDA-R encephalitis is sometimes very difficult and its occurrence might be overestimated. Video-EEG is highly recommended and more invasive techniques may sometimes be necessary.

Keywords: Activité delta; Autoimmune encephalitis; Delta activity; Encéphalite auto-immune; N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor; Récepteur N-méthyl-d-aspartate; Status epilepticus; État de mal épileptique.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / diagnosis*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Delta Rhythm
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Status Epilepticus / diagnosis*