What is the significance of a physical finding of weakness in the evaluation 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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Weakness (roughly 75% of cases) is more commonly discerned than sensory defects. The combinations of these signs may suggest cortical, subcortical, brainstem, cranial nerve, or spinal cord localization. Long tract signs develop in more than half of all cases. Cranial nerve palsies (including vision loss) are found in a wide range of cases (23-89%) of childhood ADEM. [58, 54, 47, 63, 71, 85] Mental or psychiatric disturbances, seizures, and cranial nerve palsies are significantly less common in adolescents or adults with a first or second bout of MS and in many adults with an illness labeled ADEM. Sensory changes may be underappreciated in young children; however, posterior column deficits and hemisensory changes are possibly much less common than in adult cases of ADEM or in early bouts of adolescent or adult MS. Band or girdle dysesthesia or Lhermitte’s sign are seldom if ever found in cases of childhood ADEM.

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