What is the role of surgery in the treatment 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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Surgical treatment for severely elevated intracranial pressure has been undertaken for cases of AHLE, hemorrhagic brain purpura, and non-Reye syndrome, examples of what have been termed obscure encephalopathies of infancy. Some of these cases were likely examples of hyperacute ADEM. Surgical interventions have ranged from placement of pressure bolts to decompression of the intracranial fossae by unroofing of the cranium. Outcome of such interventions was mixed.

Although such severe cases were regularly noted in the medical literature from the 1920s until the mid 1970s, few examples have been noted since that time. Prevalence clearly has dramatically decreased. Because these severe cases often followed measles, mumps, and other diseases for which effective vaccines have been developed and because the disappearance of such cases has followed the availability and use of such vaccines (earlier disappearance in the United States and Western Europe, subsequent disappearance in Asia and the Middle East), this change in prevalence likely reflects the removal of pathogens that are provocative of such severe forms of ADEM.

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