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Seizure. 2013 Mar;22(2):136-40. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2012.12.013. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Diagnostic value of CSF findings in antibody-associated limbic and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis.

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University of Bonn Medical Centre, Department of Epileptology, Germany.



In people with suspected inflammatory CNS disease, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is commonly analyzed. Antibody-associated limbic encephalitis (ab-LE) and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis are recognized as two major syndromes of autoimmune epilepsies. Here, we investigated the diagnostic value of CSF findings in these two entities.


We reviewed patients from our tertiary epilepsy centre with ab-LE and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis in whom CSF examination including oligoclonal bands (OCB) was performed. Ab-LE patients were subdivided according to antibodies (voltage-gated potassium channels, VGKC; glutamic acid decarboxylase, GAD) or presence of onconeural antibodies/presence of tumour into three groups: VGKC-LE, GAD-LE or paraneoplastic LE (PLE). As controls, patients with CSF investigations in whom autoimmune origin was initially assumed but not confirmed later on were included. In addition, a review of published ab-LE and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis cases with reported CSF data was performed.


55 ab-LE (23 VGKC-LE, 25 GAD-LE, 7 PLE) and 14 anti-NMDAR-encephalitis patients were identified at our centre. OCB were significantly more frequent in ab-LE and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis than in controls. Literature review identified 150 ab-LE and 95 NMDAR cases. Analysis of pooled data confirmed that presence of OCB was significantly more frequent in ab-LE and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis (especially in people with GAD-LE and anti-NMDAR encephalitis) as compared to controls. Sensitivity and specificity of OCB in the pooled ab-LE and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis patients was 34% and 96%, respectively. In patients with ab-LE and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis, the likelihood of OCB in CSF was 8.5-fold higher as compared to controls. Furthermore, in the pooled ab-LE and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis patients, cell counts in CSF were more frequently elevated (especially in those with anti-NMDAR encephalitis) than in controls, whereas protein content of CSF was not different between the groups.


OCB, and to a lesser extent cell counts in CSF, appear to be helpful additional CSF markers in the diagnostic evaluation of people presenting with a constellation suggestive for GAD-LE, PLE and anti-NMDAR-encephalitis, prompting subsequent analysis of specific antibodies.

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