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Evaluation of seizure treatment in anti-LGI1, anti-NMDAR, and anti-GABA B R encephalitis

Marienke A A M de Bruijn, Agnes van Sonderen, Marleen H van Coevorden-Hameete, Anna E M Bastiaansen, Marco W J Schreurs, Rob P W Rouhl, Cees A van Donselaar, Marian H J M Majoie, Rinze F Neuteboom, Peter A E Sillevis Smitt, Roland D Thijs, Maarten J Titulaer
Neurology 2019 May 7, 92 (19): e2185-e2196

OBJECTIVE: This nationwide cohort study evaluates seizure responses to immunotherapy and antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in patients with anti-leucine-rich glioma-inactivated 1 (LGI1), anti-NMDA receptor (NMDAR), and anti-gamma-aminobutyric-acid B receptor (GABAB R) encephalitis.

METHODS: Anti-LGI1, anti-NMDAR, and anti-GABAB R encephalitis patients with new-onset seizures were included. Medical information about disease course, AEDs and immunotherapies used, effects, and side effects were collected. Outcome measures were (1) seizure freedom while using AEDs or immunotherapy, (2) days to seizure freedom from start of AEDs or immunotherapy, and (3) side effects.

RESULTS: Of 153 patients with autoimmune encephalitis (AIE) (53 LGI1, 75 NMDAR, 25 GABAB R), 72% (n = 110) had epileptic seizures, and 89% reached seizure freedom. At least 53% achieved seizure freedom shortly after immunotherapy, and 14% achieved seizure freedom while using only AEDs ( p < 0.0001). This effect was similar in all types ( p = 0.0001; p = 0.0005; p = 0.013, respectively). Median time to seizure freedom from AEDs start was 59 days (interquartile range [IQR] 27-160), and 28 days from start of immunotherapy (IQR 9-71, p < 0.0001). Side effects were psychotic behavior and suicidal thoughts by the use of levetiracetam, and rash by the use of carbamazepine. Carbamazepine was more effective than levetiracetam in reducing seizures in anti-LGI1 encephalitis ( p = 0.031). Only 1 patient, of 86 surviving patients, developed epilepsy after resolved encephalitis.

CONCLUSION: Epilepsy after resolved encephalitis was rare in our cohort of patients with AIE treated with immunotherapy. In addition, seizure freedom is achieved faster and more frequently after immunotherapy. Therefore, AEDs should be considered as add-on treatment, and similar to treatment of other encephalitis symptoms, immunotherapy is crucial.


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