Herpes zoster-associated encephalitis: clinicopathologic report of 12 cases and review of the literature

Medicine (Baltimore). 1983 Mar;62(2):81-97.


Herpes-zoster associated encephalitis (HZAE) is an uncommon complication of herpes zoster. Over 8 years, we evaluated 12 patients with this clinical diagnosis. The majority of our patients were elderly, immunosuppressed, and found to have disseminated skin lesions prior to the onset of CNS symptoms. All patients had abnormal EEGs, and CSF pleocytosis was found in most. In the seven patients who were tested, specific antibody to the varicella-zoster membrane antigen (FAMA) was detected in spinal fluid during the course of the illness. Although three patients died during the period of active infection, the virus could not be definitively implicated as the cause of death. These HZAE patients could not be distinguished from our other herpes zoster patients on the basis of age, initially involved dermatome, or mortality rate. However, among herpes zoster patients who survived, duration of hospitalization was significantly longer in those with a diagnosis of HZAE. All surviving HZAE patients had a slow but eventual return to their prior cognitive status.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, Surface / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Antigens, Viral / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cerebral Ventricles / pathology
  • Encephalitis / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Encephalitis / etiology*
  • Encephalitis / pathology
  • Female
  • Herpes Zoster*
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / immunology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Manifestations
  • Spinal Cord / pathology


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Antigens, Viral