Neurology India
menu-bar5 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus
  Users online: 4252  
 Home | Login 
About Editorial board Articlesmenu-bullet NSI Publicationsmenu-bullet Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Videos Etcetera Contact
  Navigate Here 
 Resource Links
  »  Similar in PUBMED
 »  Search Pubmed for
 »  Search in Google Scholar for
 »Related articles
  »  Article in PDF (955 KB)
  »  Citation Manager
  »  Access Statistics
  »  Reader Comments
  »  Email Alert *
  »  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this Article
 »  Abstract
 »  Introduction
 »  Case Report
 »  Discussion
 »  References
 »  Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded170    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 7    

Recommend this journal


Table of Contents    
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 59  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 273-275

Brainstem involvement in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis

1 Department of Neurology, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, India
2 Department of Radiodiagnosis, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, India

Date of Submission13-Dec-2010
Date of Decision13-Dec-2010
Date of Acceptance13-Dec-2010
Date of Web Publication7-Apr-2011

Correspondence Address:
Ravindra Kumar Garg
Department of Neurology, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow - 226 003
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.79146

Rights and Permissions

 » Abstract 

The parieto-occipital region of the brain is most frequently and severely affected in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). The basal ganglia, cerebellum and corpus callosum are less commonly involved. Brainstem involvement is rarely described in SSPE, and usually there is involvement of other regions of the brain. We describe a patient with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis with brain magnetic resonance imaging showing extensive brainstem involvement without significant involvement of other cortical structures. Though rarely described in SSPE, one should be aware of such brainstem and cerebellum involvement, and SSPE should be kept in mind when brainstem signal changes are seen in brain MRI with or without involvement of other regions of brain to avoid erroneous reporting.

Keywords: Encephalopathy, measles, pons

How to cite this article:
Sharma P, Singh D, Singh MK, Garg RK, Kohli N. Brainstem involvement in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Neurol India 2011;59:273-5

How to cite this URL:
Sharma P, Singh D, Singh MK, Garg RK, Kohli N. Brainstem involvement in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Neurol India [serial online] 2011 [cited 2023 Feb 3];59:273-5. Available from: https://www.neurologyindia.com/text.asp?2011/59/2/273/79146

 » Introduction Top

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a progressive, devastating brain disorder caused by persistent mutant measles virus infection. The diagnosis is based on characteristic clinical findings, abnormality in electroencephalography (EEG) abnormality and the elevated anti-measles antibodies titer in the cerebrospinal fluid. [1],[2]

The parieto-occipital region of the brain is most frequently and severely affected. [3] The basal ganglia, cerebellum, spinal cord and corpus callosum are less commonly affected. In later stages of the disease, cerebellum and brainstem are affected. Brainstem involvement is uncommon, and usually there is involvement of other regions of the brain. [4],[5] Here we describe an unusual patient of SSPE with dominant brainstem involvement.

 » Case Report Top

A 15-year-old boy was apparently normal 1 year ago, when he had 1 episode of tonic-clonic seizures. After the seizures, family members noticed that he started taking less interest in studies, and his school performance declined gradually over a period of 6 months. The relatives also noticed changes in his behavior in the form of decreased interest in playing games and taking more time in replying to simple questions. He also did not interact normally with friends and family members. He could independently perform his daily activities until 10 days back, when he had 3 episodes of generalized tonic-clonic seizures. He also developed fever of mild-to-moderate grade after episodes of seizures. He did not regain consciousness after the last episode of seizure and was brought to our hospital in an unconscious state. He had normal birth history and had normal motor and mental developments. He was not immunized against measles and had history of measles at 1½ years of age. The parents were nonconsanguineous, and his three siblings were in good health. On neurological examination, he was stuporous with a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 9/15. The pupils were normal in size and reacting to light. The deep tendon reflexes were brisk, and plantar response was extensor bilaterally. There were no signs of meningeal involvement. Other neurological and systemic examinations were unremarkable.

Routine blood investigations, including hemogram, and urinalysis were normal. The cerebrospinal fluid analysis revealed opening pressure of 10 cm of water with 8 lymphocytes, 50 mg/dL proteins and 68 mg/dL sugar (corresponding blood sugar was 90 mg/dL). Bacterial and Lowenstein-Jensen media cultures of cerebrospinal fluid were negative. In cerebrospinal fluid, Mycobacterium tuberculosis polymerase chain reaction, Herpes simplex 1 and 2 polymerase chain reaction and cryptococcal antigen were negative. Cerebrospinal fluid anti-measles antibody titers were elevated (1/512 titer by particle agglutination test; 1/128 titer, normal). EEG showed generalized periodic high-amplitude sharp and slow wave complexes [Figure 1]. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain revealed extensive involvement of the brainstem. There were T2 and FLAIR hyperintense signals involving pons and middle cerebellar peduncle [Figure 2]. Subtle asymmetrical T2 hyperintensities were also seen on left parieto-occipital cortex [Figure 3]. Marked atrophy of fronto-temporal region was also present [Figure 2]. The patient was treated with intrathecal interferon-alpha (IFN-α), sodium valproate and clonazepam. There was no significant change in his mental status at the 2-month follow-up.
Figure 1: EEG showing periodic generalized high-amplitude sharp and slow wave discharges lasting 1 to 2 seconds

Click here to view
Figure 2: Fluid-attenuated inversion recovery axial MRI at the level of pons showing diffuse involvement of pons and cerebellar peduncles

Click here to view
Figure 3: Fluid-attenuated inversion recovery axial MRI at the level of midbrain showing subtle asymmetrical hyperintensities in left parieto-occipital cortex and medial temporal lobes. Diffuse atrophy of frontal and temporal cortices is also seen

Click here to view

 » Discussion Top

Typical clinical picture of declining mental status, seizures, myoclonus with characteristic EEG pattern, raised anti-measles antibody titers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and presence of cortical atrophy with subtle signal changes in parieto-occipital region on MRI suggest a diagnosis of SSPE. However, prominent brainstem involvement on MRI, as described above, has not been commonly described in SSPE.

The various MRI abnormalities described in SSPE include asymmetric, focal regions of signal changes (hyperintense on T2-weighted/ FLAIR image and hypointense or isointense on T1-weighted image) involving cerebral cortex, subcortical predominantly periventricular white matter, basal ganglia, thalamus and corpus callosum. The cerebellum and brainstem may be involved in late stages. [2],[4],[6],[7] The correlation between MRI findings and clinical severity is not exactly known. [8] Tuncay et al. described that asymmetric cortical and subcortical involvements were initial neuroimaging manifestations. Later on, cortical atrophy and the involvement of multifocal deep white matter became the most prominent findings. [2] Lesions in SSPE usually start appearing in the occipital region and then progress to involve frontal cortex; and subsequently subcortical white matter, brainstem and spinal cord get involved. [7]

Brainstem neuroimaging changes in SSPE are very uncommon. [5],[9] In our case, signal changes were predominantly seen in pons and middle cerebellar peduncles. Yilmaz et al. have reported brainstem involvement in 2 cases of typical SSPE. [10] They demonstrated a substantially large focal lesion about in the pons in a 9-year-old girl with typical symptoms of SSPE; and a hyperintense lesion in the pons and peduncle of cerebellum on T2-weighted image in other patients of SSPE. Kalane et al. reported brainstem changes in a child with SSPE, with brain MRI showing extensive brainstem and cerebellum involvement with additional lesion in the basal ganglia. [11]

Brainstem involvement is rarely described in SSPE, leading to unfamiliarity and sometimes to erroneously reporting of neuroimaging by a radiologist unaware of the clinical history, as in the case described by Kalane et al., where low-grade glioma was initially reported. [11] On of the basis of these cases, we would like to stress that brainstem involvement may be seen in patients with SSPE; sometimes, without the involvement of other areas of the brain. Therefore, one should be aware of such extensive brainstem and cerebellum neuroimaging involvement in SSPE. SSPE should be kept in mind when dominant brainstem abnormalities are seen on neuroimaging.

 » References Top

1.Garg RK. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. J Neurol 2008;255:1861-71.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Tuncay R, Akman-Demir G, Gökyigit A, Eraksoy M, Barlas M, Tolun R, et al. MRI in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Neuroradiology 1996;38:636-40.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Ozturk A, Gurses C, Baykan B, Gokyigit A, Eraksoy M. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis: Clinical and magnetic resonance imaging evaluation of 36 patients. J Child Neurol 2002;17:25-9.   Back to cited text no. 3
4.Anlar B, Saatçi I, Köse G, Yalaz K. MRI findings in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Neurology 1996;47:1278-83.   Back to cited text no. 4
5.Dyken PR. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis: Current status. Neurol Clin 1985;3:179-96.   Back to cited text no. 5
6.Brismar J, Gascon GG, Steyern KV, Bohlega S. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis: Evaluation with CT and MR. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 1996;17:761-72.   Back to cited text no. 6
7.Tsuchiya K, Yamauchi T, Furui S, Suda Y, Takenaka E. MR imaging vs CT in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 1988;9:943-6.   Back to cited text no. 7
8.Haddad FS, Risk WS, Jabbour JT. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis in the Middle East: Report of 99 cases. Ann Neurol 1977;1:211-7.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Sener RN. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis with pontine involvement. J Comput Assist Tomogr 2004;28:101-2.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Yilmaz C, Caksen H, Yilmaz N, Güven AS, Bayram I. Two cases of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis associated with brainstem involvement. J Trop Pediatr 2007;53:280-3.   Back to cited text no. 10
11.Kalane U, Kulkarni S. Atypical neuroimaging findings with involvement of brainstem and cerebellum as well as basal ganglia in a case of SSPE misinterpreted as glioma. J Pediatr Neurol 2009;4:397-400.  Back to cited text no. 11


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

This article has been cited by
1 Atypical imaging and clinical presentation of fulminant subacute sclerosing panencephalitis
Hirva Manek, Foram Gala, Shilpa Kulkarni
Case Reports in Clinical Radiology. 2023; 1: 21
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and brain stem involvement: a rare combination
Heena Kathuria, Nandita Prabhat, Ritu Shree, Rajveer Singh
BMJ Case Reports. 2021; 14(2): e236538
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Neurological Complications of Measles (Rubeola)
Marc C. Patterson
Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. 2020; 20(2)
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 MR imaging of adult acute infectious encephalitis
A. Bertrand,D. Leclercq,L. Martinez-Almoyna,N. Girard,J.-P. Stahl,T. De-Broucker
Médecine et Maladies Infectieuses. 2017; 47(3): 195
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis of the Brainstem as a Clinical Entity
Pavan Upadhyayula,Jason Yang,John Yue,Joseph Ciacci
Medical Sciences. 2017; 5(4): 26
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
6 Blindness, Dancing Extremities, and Corpus Callosum and Brain Stem Involvement
Pratibha Singhi,Arushi Gahlot Saini,Naveen Sankhyan,Pankaj Gupta,Sameer Vyas
Journal of Child Neurology. 2015; 30(1): 87
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
7 Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis with bilateral inferior collicular hyperintensity on magnetic resonance imaging brain
Thomas, M. and Sivadasan, A. and Alexander, M. and Patil, A.K.B.
Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology. 2012; 15(4): 329-331


Print this article  Email this article
Online since 20th March '04
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow