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A medical overview of encephalitis.

Encephalitis is uncommon but is a neurological emergency which must be considered in a patient presenting with altered consciousness. Encephalitis is a diffuse inflammatory process of the brain parenchyma associated with evidence of brain dysfunction. The presentation of encephalitis can be acute or chronic. The aetiology of encephalitis can be broadly divided into two major subtypes. (1) Infection-related encephalitis which is a direct consequence of pathogenic viral, bacterial or parasitic agents. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) and varicella-zoster virus (VZV) are the most common cause of acute infectious encephalitis. (2) Autoimmune-mediated encephalitis which is mediated by an aberrant immune response. This can be triggered by a recent viral infection or vaccination. An example of this would be acute disseminated encephalitis (ADEM). This article will focus on the medical management of acute encephalitis. This will involve an extensive overview of the literature reviewing the diagnosis, investigation and treatment of acute viral encephalitis, ADEM and acute haemorrhagic leukoencephalopathy (AHLE). Encephalitis can also present chronically, and some of the different types of chronic encephalitis will be discussed.

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