Clinical approach to the diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis in the pediatric patient

Autoimmune encephalitis (AE) is an important and treatable cause of acute encephalitis. Diagnosis of AE in a developing child is challenging because of overlap in clinical presentations with other diseases and the complexity of normal behavior changes. Existing diagnostic criteria for adult AE require modification to be applied to children, who differ from adults in their clinical presentations, paraclinical findings, autoantibody profiles, treatment response, and long-term outcomes.

At the 2014 Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance conference in North Carolina, the Autoimmune Encephalitis International Working Group was formed and initiated discussions around developing diagnostic criteria for AE. A subcommittee of pediatric neurologists and rheumatologists identified that adult-focused criteria may not apply well to children. As a result, this subcommittee collaborated through conference calls and email correspondence to consider the pediatric-specific approach to AE.

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