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Neuroradiology. 2008 Apr;50(4):355-66. doi: 10.1007/s00234-007-0349-3. Epub 2008 Feb 2.

Imaging findings of neonatal herpes simplex virus type 2 encephalitis.

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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, 34th and Civic Center Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 119104, USA.



The CT, MR, and diffusion-weighted initial and follow-up imaging findings in neonatal herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) encephalitis were assessed.


The clinical, laboratory and imaging findings in 12 patients (eight girls and four boys) with proven neonatal HSV-2 encephalitis with follow-up were retrospectively reviewed. Patterns of brain involvement and distribution of lesions were studied and the contribution of diffusion-weighted imaging to the imaging diagnosis of this disease was explored. A total of 24 CT and 22 MRI studies were performed with a mean follow-up time of 38 months.


Neonatal HSV-2 encephalitis can be multifocal or limited to only the temporal lobes, brainstem, or cerebellum. The deep gray matter structures were involved in 57% of patients, and hemorrhage was seen in more than half of the patients. CT images were normal or showed mild abnormalities in the early stages of the disease. Conventional MR images may be normal in the early stages of the disease. Lesions were initially seen only by diffusion-weighted imaging in 20% of the patients and this modality showed a substantially more extensive disease distribution in an additional 50% of patients. In 40% of patients, watershed distribution ischemic changes were observed in addition to areas of presumed direct herpetic necrosis.


Neonatal HSV-2 encephalitis has a variable imaging appearance. Diffusion-weighted MRI is an important adjunct in the imaging evaluation of this disease. Watershed distribution ischemia in areas remote from the primary herpetic lesions may be seen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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