What is the onset of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM)?

Updated: Nov 08, 2018
  • Author: J Nicholas Brenton, MD; Chief Editor: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS  more...
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The onset of ADEM usually occurs in the wake of a clearly identifiable febrile prodromal illness or immunization and in association with prominent constitutional signs and encephalopathy of varied degrees. ADEM is typically a monophasic disease of pre-pubertal children; whereas, MS is typically a chronic relapsing and remitting disease of young adults. Abnormalities of findings on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) immunoglobulin studies are less common in ADEM. However, the division between these processes is indistinct, suggesting a clinical continuum. Moreover, other conditions along the suggested continuum include optic neuritis, transverse myelitis, and neuromyelitis optica - clinical entities that may occur as manifestations of either MS or ADEM. [2] Other boundaries of ADEM merge indistinctly with a wide variety of inflammatory encephalitic and vasculitic illnesses as well as monosymptomatic, postinfectious illnesses that should remain distinctfromADEM, such as acute cerebellar ataxia (ACA). A furtherindistinct boundary is shared by ADEM and Guillain-Barré syndrome as manifested in cases of Miller-Fisher syndrome and encephalomyeloradiculoneuropathy (EMRN).

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