Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) | Treatments

What are the treatment options for acute disseminated encephalomyelitis?

Medications are used to reduce the inflammation (swelling) in your child's brain and spinal cord. The main medication that is used for acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is called methylprednisolone (Solu-medrol®), which is a corticosteroid given by IV once a day for three to five days. This medication is completely different from the illegal steroids that some athletes use.

Most children with ADEM improve with high doses of methylprednisolone. If methylprednisolone does not work, there are other treatments we use, such as plasmapheresis or intravenous immunoglobulin therapy.

Most children tolerate the steroids (the medication) very well. But in some children there are side effects such as:

  • temporary moodiness or other behavioral changes
  • increases in blood pressure and blood sugar, which your child's doctor or nurse will be monitoring and can treat if necessary
  • irritated stomach lining

Some children will be placed on a steroid called prednisone for a short period of time. Your child may also be prescribed a medication to prevent stomach irritation.

What is the long-term outlook for a child with ADEM?

Steroid treatment can reduce some symptoms and stop new symptoms from developing. Although the long-term prognosis for children with ADEM varies, most children make a complete or nearly complete recovery, including those children with initially severe symptoms.

For most children, recovery begins within days and continues for up to one year. Some children can have residual symptoms such as blurred vision, weakness or numbness.