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Encephalitis in Children

  • Children with encephalitis may benefit from the brain's plasticity during the childhood years. This means that often when one area of a child's brain is damaged, a different area of the brain can take on that function.

    Ariane Soldatos, MD, Boston Children's Hospital

    There’s a lot of information on the Internet about encephalitis—much of it misleading. People often hear "encephalitis" and think virus—particularly West Nile virus. But encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) actually has a wide range of causes, levels of severity, treatment options and outcomes.

    Encephalitis is a rare neurological condition that often comes on suddenly. Encephalitis means that brain tissues have become inflamed. When brain tissues are inflamed it can cause your child to have seizures, mental confusion or changes in behavior.

    • Cases of encephalitis can range from mild to severe, with a range of physical, behavioral and neurological outcomes.
    • It may take several months for the full effects of a child’s encephalitis to become clear.
    • Some children respond very well to treatment; others have epilepsy and long-term school or learning issues.
    • Although encephalitis can be life-threatening in its most severe form, this is rare.
    • Physical, speech, and occupational therapy can be very helpful in helping your child recover from encephalitis.

    How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches encephalitis

    Boston Children’s Pediatric Neuro-immunology Program is dedicated to the comprehensive care of children, adolescents and families who are affected by encephalitis. Our team includes pediatric neurologists and neuropsychologists, and we consult with pediatric specialists in rheumatology, infectious diseases and epilepsy when it’s beneficial.

    Here, your child benefits from the expertise of a main referral center for pediatric encephalitis in New England. We also have strong ties to the small network of physicians and researchers all over the country who are working to better understand, diagnose and treat this extremely rare condition.

    Our program is part of the Department of Neurology at Boston Children's, the oldest and largest program in pediatric neurology in the world.

    Spotlight: Top ranking
    Boston Children's Hospital has been ranked #1 in Neurology and Neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report in 2010.

    Encephalitis: Reviewed by Ariane Soldatos, MD and Mark Gorman, MD
    © Children’s Hospital Boston, 2010

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