Assessment and Management of Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) in the Pediatric Patient

Paediatr Drugs. 2021 May;23(3):213-221. doi: 10.1007/s40272-021-00441-7. Epub 2021 Apr 8.


Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system that typically presents in childhood and is associated with encephalopathy and multifocal brain lesions. Although ADEM is thought to be a post-infectious disorder, the etiology is still poorly understood. ADEM is often a monophasic disorder, in contrast to other demyelinating disorders such as multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder. With increasing awareness, understanding, and testing for myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibodies, this disease is now known to be a cause of pediatric ADEM and also has the potential to be relapsing. Diagnostic evaluation for ADEM involves neuroimaging and laboratory studies to exclude potential infectious, inflammatory, neoplastic, and genetic mimics of ADEM. Acute treatment modalities include high-dose intravenous corticosteroids, therapeutic plasma exchange, and intravenous immunoglobulin. Long-term outcomes for ADEM are generally favorable, but some children have significant morbidity related to the severity of acute illness and/or manifest ongoing neurocognitive sequelae. Further research related to the optimal management of pediatric ADEM and its impact on prognosis is needed. This review summarizes the current knowledge of the pathogenesis, epidemiology, clinical features, diagnostic evaluation, treatment approaches, and outcomes in pediatric ADEM.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Encephalomyelitis, Acute Disseminated / diagnosis*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Acute Disseminated / pathology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Acute Disseminated / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Prognosis