What do the pathophysiological similarities of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) and multiple sclerosis (MS) suggest?

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 pathophysiological similarities of these illnesses suggest that the immunologic constitution of susceptible individuals is in some fashion permissive of ADEM, MS, or both and that the degree of susceptibility may describe a gradient with regard to severity and risk for recurrence. The threshold for an initial bout of demyelinating illness may be determined by the combination of this immunologic constitution and the nature of a given antigenic stimulus; the likelihood of recurrence may be determined by the fertility of that constitution for persistence of immuno-dysregulation. Immuno-dysregulation in MS or ADEM may consist of responses that are inadequate, too exuberant, or the combination of both.

If a pathophysiological continuum between MS and ADEM exists, achieving better understanding of the manner in which susceptible individuals with ADEM are able to bring a monophasic or temporarily recurrent immuno-dysregulative response under permanent control is of obvious importance. Cases with characteristics that fall in the indeterminate area of this continuum, such as those that might be labeled multiphasic ADEM, represent an important challenge for accurate classification. In some of these cases, appropriately crediting the immune system with tardy but permanent compensation may be important, thus avoiding inappropriate diagnosis of MS, fraught as that is with psychosocial consequences.

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