Brainstem encephalopathy with stimulus-sensitive myoclonus leading to respiratory arrest, but with recovery: a description of two cases and review of the literature

Mov Disord. 1996 Nov;11(6):715-8. doi: 10.1002/mds.870110618.


Two unrelated patients developed bulbar symptoms, followed within several weeks by spontaneous myoclonus and painful, generalized, stimulus-sensitive jerks triggered by unexpected noises and cutaneous stimuli. They progressed to respiratory arrest and required mechanical ventilation, but both patients subsequently made an almost full recovery. These cases stress the importance of persevering with supportive treatment despite rapid progression of this severe generalized movement disorder. The relationship of brainstem reflex myoclonus to hyperekplexia, progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity, and the stiff-man syndrome is discussed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology*
  • Encephalomyelitis / physiopathology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Myoclonus / physiopathology*
  • Reflex, Abnormal / physiology
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology*