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Acta Neurol Scand. 2012 Dec;126(6):365-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.2012.01691.x. Epub 2012 Jun 19.

The diagnosis and treatment of limbic encephalitis.

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Section of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden.


The term limbic encephalitis (LE) was first introduced in 1968. While this disease was initially considered rare and is often fatal with very few treatment options, several reports published in the last decade provide a better description of this condition as well as possible causes and some cases of successful treatment. The clinical manifestation of LE is primarily defined by the subacute onset of short-term memory loss, seizures, confusion and psychiatric symptoms suggesting the involvement of the limbic system. In addition, EEG often shows focal or generalized slow wave or epileptiform activity, and MRI findings reveal hyperintense signals of the medial temporal lobes in T2-weighted or FLAIR images. The current literature suggests that LE is not a single disorder but is comprised of a group of autoimmune disorders predominantly affecting the limbic system. Before the diagnosis of LE can be determined, other causes of subacute encephalopathy must be excluded, especially those resulting from infectious aetiologies. LE has previously been regarded as a paraneoplastic phenomenon associated with the classical onconeuronal antibodies that are primarily directed against intracellular antigens. However, recent literature suggests that LE is also associated with antibodies that are directed against cell surface antigens, and these cases of LE display a much weaker association to the neoplasm. The treatment options for LE largely depend on the aetiology of the disease and involve the removal of the primary neoplasm. Therefore, a search for the underlying tumour is mandatory. In addition, immunotherapy has been successful in a significant number of patients where LE is not associated with cancer.

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