Relapse risk factors in anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor encephalitis

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2019 Sep;61(9):1101-1107. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.14267. Epub 2019 Jun 7.


Aim: To identify factors that may predict and affect the risk of relapse in anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis.

Method: This was a retrospective study of an Italian cohort of patients with paediatric (≤18y) onset anti-NMDAR encephalitis.

Results: Of the 62 children included (39 females; median age at onset 9y 10mo, range 1y 2mo-18y; onset between 2005 and 2018), 21 per cent relapsed (median two total events per relapsing patient, range 2-4). Time to first relapse was median 31.5 months (range 7-89mo). Severity at first relapse was lower than onset (median modified Rankin Scale [mRS] 3, range 2-4, vs median mRS 5, range 3-5; admission to intensive care unit: 0/10 vs 3/10). At the survival analysis, the risk of relapsing was significantly lower in patients who received three or more different immune therapies at first disease event (hazard ratio 0.208, 95% confidence interval 0.046-0.941; p=0.042). Neurological outcome at follow-up did not differ significantly between patients with relapsing and monophasic disease (mRS 0-1 in 39/49 vs 12/13; p=0.431), although follow-up duration was significantly longer in relapsing (median 84mo, range 14-137mo) than in monophasic patients (median 32mo, range 4-108mo; p=0.002).

Interpretation: Relapses may occur in about one-fifth of children with anti-NMDAR encephalitis, are generally milder than at onset, and may span over a long period, although they do not seem to be associated with severity in the acute phase or with outcome at follow-up. Aggressive immune therapy at onset may reduce risk of relapse.

What this paper adds: Relapses of anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor encephalitis may span over a long period. Relapses were not associated with severity in the acute phase or outcome at follow-up. Aggressive immune therapy at onset appears to decrease risk of relapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors