Rasmussens Encephalitis

What Is It?

Rasmussens Encephalitis, also known as Chronic Focal Encephalitis, is a rare condition that affects the brain and generally presents with recurrent seizures along with general neurologic dysfunction on one side of the brain. Although it is called Rasmussen's encephalitis, it is not thought to be caused by a virus as are most other forms of encephalitis. In fact, the underlying cause of this disease are unknown and there are no known risk factors which predispose any one individual to development of the condition.

Rasmussen's causes a chronic inflammation in the disease which usually affects only one hemisphere (side) of the brain. Most frequently, it occurs in young children but rarely can first present in older individuals. Currently, most scientists believe that Rasmussens encephalitis is caused by autoimmune disease. In other words, the patient's own immune system causes the inflammation and damage to the brain.

What Types of Symptoms Are Typical?

The most common manifestation of Rasmussen's is frequent seizures. The inflammation in one hemisphere also causes damage which can lead to loss of motor function and speech (if it involves the dominant hemisphere), paralysis on the opposite side of the body (called hemiparesis) and general mental deterioration. Generally, these symptoms tend to advance quickly over the first year or so of disease and then become more stable, but permanent.

What Are Some Common Treatments?

There is no cure for Rasmussens encephalitis. Most patients are started on anti-epileptic drugs but in this disease most patients do not respond well and continue to have seizures. Immunosuppressant medications may also be used to attempt to slow the inflammation and damage in the brain. Because medications are generally ineffective in controlling seizures, surgical procedures may be considered to help control the epilepsy. While dramatic, a hemispherectomy, which disconnects the entire hemisphere from the rest of the brain, may be recommended in some patients to control seizures and protect the nervous system function in the other, healthy hemisphere. Although the long-term impact of Rasmussen's can vary considerably from patient to patient, most are left with some paralysis, language dysfunction and cognitive deficits.

The treatment of patients with Rasmussen's varies depending on the specifics of each case. Each patient and their family should consult their own treating physicians regarding the most appropriate diagnostic and treatment options in their case.

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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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