BACKGROUND: Factors associated with poor outcomes of children with encephalitis are not well known. We sought to determine whether electroencephalography (EEG) findings, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities, or the presence of seizures at presentation were associated with poor outcomes.
METHODS: A retrospective review of patients aged 0 to 21 years who met criteria for a diagnosis of encephalitis admitted between 2000 and 2010 was conducted. Parents of eligible children were contacted and completed 2 questionnaires that assessed current physical and emotional quality of life and neurological deficits at least 1 year after discharge.
RESULTS: During the study period, we identified 142 patients with an International Classification of Diseases 9th Revision diagnosis of meningitis, meningoencephalitis, or encephalitis. Of these patients, 114 met criteria for a diagnosis of encephalitis, and 76 of these patients (representing 77 hospitalizations) had complete data available. Forty-nine (64%) patients were available for follow-up. Patients admitted to the intensive care unit were more likely to have abnormal EEG results (P = .001). The presence of seizures on admission was associated with ongoing seizure disorder at follow-up. One or more years after hospitalization, 78% of the patients had persistent symptoms, including 35% with seizures. Four (5%) of the patients died. Abnormal MRI findings and the number of abnormal findings on initial presentation were associated with lower quality-of-life scores.
CONCLUSIONS: Encephalitis leads to significant morbidity and death, and incomplete recovery is achieved in the majority of hospitalized patients. Abnormal EEG results were found more frequently in critically ill children, patients with abnormal MRI results had lower quality-of-life scores on follow-up, and the presence of seizures on admission was associated with ongoing seizure disorder and lower physical quality-of-life scores.
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