Bickerstaff Brainstem Encephalitis and overlapping Guillain-Barré syndrome in children: Report of two cases and review of the literature

A Michev, P Musso, T Foiadelli, C Trabatti, A Lozza, D Franciotta, A M Simoncelli, S Savasta

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Bickerstaff Brainstem Encephalitis (BBE) is a rare autoimmune encephalitis, characterized by acute ophthalmoplegia, ataxia and altered state of consciousness. Together with Guillan-Barrè Syndrome (GBS) and Miller-Fisher Syndrome, it forms a spectrum of post-infectious demyelinating diseases. Overlapping forms between BBE and GBS (BBE/GBS) are described in patients with lower limbs weakness and typical signs of BBE, suggesting a combined involvement of Central and Peripheral Nervous System (PNS), but only few reported cases are focused on pediatric population. We reviewed all cases of pediatric BBE in the literature, to determine if any patient showed features suggestive for BBE/GBS. Data analysis focused on the diagnostic tests performed (e.g. anti-GQ1b antibodies), neuroimaging and nerve conduction studies (NCS). Further attention was given to the therapeutic management and to patients' outcome. We additionally present two previously unreported pediatric cases. Our review retrieved 19 cases of BBE/GBS, only 2 of which were originally and correctly diagnosed by the authors. The prevalence was higher in male subjects (ratio 3:1) and median age at diagnosis was 8 years. Anti-GQ1b were positive in 46% of the patients, while NCS were altered in 64%. Only 25% of the patients that underwent brain MRI showed abnormal findings. The incidence of BBE/GBS has been underrated in the past, mostly due to an underestimation of the PNS involvement. We therefore suggest to investigate all patients with a clinical picture suggestive of BBE/GBS through electroencephalogram, NCS, brain and spine MRI in order to promptly achieve the correct diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Paediatric Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


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