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Agitation Management in Pediatric Males with Anti-N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Encephalitis

Lauren T Schumacher, Andrea P Mann, James G MacKenzie
Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology 2016, 26 (10): 939-943

OBJECTIVES: Severe agitation is a common symptom in pediatric cases of anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (anti-NMDAR) encephalitis-an autoimmune encephalitis with prominent neuropsychiatric symptoms. Agitation is a major barrier to treatment of the underlying disease process and increases patients' risk of harming themselves and others. Furthermore, male patients often have undetectable tumors and are especially at risk for extended hospitalization, but have been infrequently studied. This report presents a case series of four pediatric male patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis complicated by agitation, the strategies used to address treatment challenges, and a review of the current literature.

METHODS: A chart review of four agitated pediatric male patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis and a PubMed search of the current literature were conducted.

RESULTS: A number of first-generation and second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) have been reported for use in child and adult patients; however, treatment with these antipsychotics often has been complicated by movement disorders and autonomic instability caused by the underlying encephalitis that appears similar to and can be exacerbated by adverse effects of antipsychotics, including neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS), and tardive dyskinesia. The literature shows SGAs to be less likely to cause NMS and quetiapine to be one of the least likely SGAs to cause EPS. However, quetiapine has rarely been reported for use in patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis. In the four pediatric male patients, quetiapine was generally effective, well tolerated, and not associated with NMS or significant EPS.

CONCLUSION: These cases and review of the literature suggest that quetiapine may be particularly beneficial for treating agitation secondary to anti-NMDAR encephalitis in pediatric patients and have fewer adverse effects.


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