IMR Press / JIN / Volume 20 / Issue 2 / DOI: 10.31083/j.jin2002054
Open Access Commentary
On clinical findings of Bickerstaff’s brainstem encephalitis in childhood
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1 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Catania, 95100 Catania, Italy
2 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University Hospital “Policlinico-San Marco”, 95123 Catania, Italy
3 Rheumatology Operative Unit, University Hospital “Policlinico-San Marco”, 95123 Catania, Italy
*Correspondence: (Piero Pavone)
J. Integr. Neurosci. 2021, 20(2), 509–513;
Submitted: 26 January 2021 | Revised: 9 March 2021 | Accepted: 12 April 2021 | Published: 30 June 2021
Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by IMR Press.
This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license (

A short review on the clinical presentation of pediatrics cases of Bickerstaff brain encephalitis emphasizing the broad clinical spectrum of the disease. Cases of pediatric Bickerstaff’s brainstem encephalitis collected on three electronic medical databases (PubMed, Cochrane Library and Scopus Web of Science) are reviewed. The inclusion criteria of the cases were based on the clinical characteristics of the disorder in the pediatric age. We reviewed 20 articles on Bickerstaff’s brainstem encephalitis, identifying 40 pediatric cases focused on the clinical symptoms. We saw that the prevalence was higher in male subjects, and the median age at diagnosis was 8 years. The phenotype of pediatrics patients was similar to previously published literature. We identify three cases of overlapping forms between Bickerstaff brain encephalitis and Guillain-Barré Syndrome in patients with lower limbs weakness and typical signs of Bickerstaff brain encephalitis, suggesting a combined involvement of the central and peripheral nervous system. Although there is no defined data on incidence and prevalence in the literature, Bickerstaff’s brainstem encephalitis appears to be a rare disorder, especially in children. The incidence of Bickerstaff brain encephalitis and Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and Miller Fisher Syndrome has been underrated in the past, primarily due to an underestimation of the forms with a Peripheral Nervous System involvement. Bickerstaff brain encephalitis usually has a rapid and acute onset within 2–4 weeks, characterized by a typical picture of ophthalmoplegia, hyperreflexia, cerebellar symptoms as ataxia. The subsequent manifestations of hyperreflexia or consciousness disturbances as drowsiness, sleepiness, or coma, indicative of central involvement, suggest a Bickerstaff brain encephalitis clinical diagnosis.

Fig. 1.
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