Suicidality is a common and serious feature of anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor encephalitis

J Neurol. 2017 Dec;264(12):2378-2386. doi: 10.1007/s00415-017-8626-5. Epub 2017 Oct 9.


We aimed to assess suicidality risk amongst people who had had anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis. All people with a definitive diagnosis of anti-NMDAR encephalitis in West China Hospital between June 2012 and February 2017 were identified and their notes were retrospectively reviewed. Demographic and clinical characteristics and risk predictors for suicidality were summarized; those with suicidality were compared to those without. 17 of 133 people (13%) presented with suicidality symptoms: 7 (5%) with suicidal ideation; 8 (6%) who attempted suicide; and 2 (1.5%) who completed suicide. Median age was 27 (16-78) years, most were female [13 (76%)]. Compared with those with no suicidality, psychiatric symptoms as the initial symptoms were more frequent in those who reported suicidality (p = 0.039); insomnia, aggression, mania, depression and delusion were also more common (p < 0.05). The use of antidepressants (p < 0.001) and recurrence of encephalitis (p = 0.020) were higher in people with suicidality than in those without. Other characteristics were not significantly different in those who had suicidality and those who did not. Suicidality is a common and potentially lethal risk for people with anti-NMDAR encephalitis. Those presenting with psychiatric symptoms as the initial symptom and with insomnia, aggression, mania, depression and delusion should be carefully screened for suicidality. Closely monitoring people who have been treated with antidepressants is necessary.

Keywords: Anti-NMDAR encephalitis; Predictors; Psychiatric symptom; Suicidal rate.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / complications
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / epidemiology
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / psychology*
  • Child
  • China
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult