PURPOSE: Seizures are common in autoimmune encephalitis (AE), and an extensive work-up is required to exclude alternative etiologies. The aim of our study was to identify possible clinical/EEG peculiarities suggesting the immune-mediated origin of late-onset seizures.
METHODS: Thirty patients diagnosed with AE (19 men, median age 68 years, 18 seronegative) were included. Overall 212 video-electroencephalographic (EEG) and 31 24-h ambulatory EEG (AEEG) recordings were retrospectively reviewed. Posterior dominant rhythm, interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs), clinical (CSs) and subclinical seizures (SCSs) were analyzed.
RESULTS: Six-hundred-nineteen ictal events were recorded in 19/30 subjects, mostly (568/619) during AE acute stage. Among ten patients with CSs other than faciobrachial dystonic seizures, 7 showed prominent autonomic and emotional manifestations. SCSs were detected in 11 subjects, mainly via AEEG (260/287 SCSs vs 150/332 CSs, p < 0.001). Eight patients presented seizures during hyperventilation. IEDs, documented in 21 cases, were bilateral in 14 and focal temporal in 13. Multiple ictal EEG patterns were detected in 9/19 patients, 6 of whom had both CSs and SCSs, bilateral asynchronous seizures and ictal activities arising from temporal and extra-temporal regions. No correlation was found between the lateralization of MRI alterations and that of EEG findings.
CONCLUSION: Our study confirms that adult-onset, high frequency focal seizures with prominent autonomic and emotional manifestations should be investigated for AE. Multiple ictal EEG patterns could represent a 'red flag', reflecting a widespread neuronal excitability related to the underlying immune-mediated process. Finally, our work enhances the crucial role of long-lasting EEG monitoring in revealing subclinical and relapsing seizures.