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September 1984

Herpes Simplex Encephalitis Without CSF Leukocytosis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, and the Division of Neurology, The Evanston (Ill) Hospital.

Arch Neurol. 1984;41(9):1007-1008. doi:10.1001/archneur.1984.04050200117033

Herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) is the most common cause of sporadic acute necrotizing encephalitis in temperate climates.1-3 Untreated, its mortality ranges from 51% to 80% and there is often significant neurologic morbidity among survivors.4,5 Early treatment with vidarabine may reduce mortality to approximately 25%6,7 Herpes simplex encephalitis is diagnosed with a combination of clinical findings, laboratory data such as CSF examination, computed tomographic (CT) scan and EEG, and, now, in a majority of cases, brain biopsy.8 Typical symptoms include acute febrile encephalopathy with headache, alteration of consciousness, behavioral changes, convulsive seizures, dysphasia, and hemiparesis. While no combination of clinical findings definitely distinguishes HSE from other viral encephalitides,9 the occurrence of focal neurologic signs in patients with encephalitis immediately suggests the diagnosis. Focal disruption of the blood-brain barrier as demonstrated by CT or radionuclide brain scanning has been reported to occur early in HSE,10,11

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