Treatment of Movement Disorder Emergencies in Autoimmune Encephalitis in the Neurosciences ICU

NCJ_cover.jpgBy Farwa Ali, Eelco F. Wijdicks

First Online: 15 November 2019

Immune response against neuronal and glial cell surface and cytosolic antigens is an important cause of encephalitis. It may be triggered by activation of the immune system in response to an infection (para-infectious), cancer (paraneoplastic), or due to a patient’s tendency toward autoimmunity. Antibodies directed toward neuronal cell surface antigens are directly pathogenic, whereas antibodies with intracellular targets may become pathogenic if the antigen is transiently exposed to the cell surface or via activation of cytotoxic T cells. Immune-mediated encephalitis is well recognized and may require intensive care due to status epilepticus, need for invasive ventilation, or dysautonomia. Patients with immune-mediated encephalitis may become critically ill and display clinically complex and challenging to treat movement disorders in over 80% of the cases (Zhang et al. in Neurocrit Care 29(2):264–272, 2018). Treatment options include immunotherapy and symptomatic agents affecting dopamine or acetylcholine neurotransmission. There has been no prior published guidance for management of these movement disorders for the intensivist. Herein, we discuss the immune-mediated encephalitis most likely to cause critical illness, clinical features and mechanisms of movement disorders and propose a management algorithm.

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